Brian Moorman noticed the difference the other day after leaving his home in Orchard Park. His friend and neighbor, Pat Andrews, a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan, erected a new lawn ornament near his mailbox, a "Go Bills" sign. Moorman couldn't help but smile while driving past the house.
The community has reacted much the same. Placards that had been collecting dust for years are popping up everywhere. Moorman has been here for eight seasons, but only recently has he understood the intense passion that comes from winning on Sundays.
Ah, so this is what it's like.
"It's a great feeling," Moorman said. "It's a great feeling in the locker room, a great feeling to drive around town. You go to dinner, and people are coming up to you and congratulating you. It's been a long time coming. We've just got to keep it going."
The Bills are 4-0, their best start since the 1992 season. Quarterback Trent Edwards suggested Monday that the last two victories, both fourth-quarter comebacks after sloppy starts, felt like losses because the Bills didn't perform particularly well.
Yes, the Bills believe they can play better. Much better.
The same can't be said of Moorman. He certainly has done his part, which includes throwing a touchdown pass in the season opener. He's on pace for his best season with a 46.5 average and a 39.5 net average. He's on pace for 40 punts inside the 20-yard line. All would be career highs.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection dropped five of his six punts inside the 20-yard line, tying a team record and matching a personal best, in a 31-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. It marked the 25th straight game he placed at least one punt inside the 20, which is the longest current streak in the NFL. He had a 62-yard punt for the second straight game.
"That's a remarkable day," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "What we had was outstanding hang time and terrific coverage to get down there and force him to make the fair catch. That was tremendous."
Moorman is one of the few NFL punters who can consistently pooch his kicks or direct them out of bounds, depending on the situation. He and the punt-coverage unit limited dangerous Dante Hall to one return for 8 yards. Hall called a fair catch on another punt at the 8-yard line in the second quarter. Justin Jenkins downed one at the 6 on the following possession. Moorman kicked two others out of bounds at the 15 or better.
"At the end of the day, the guys covered great and did a good job against them and contained them well," Moorman said. "Any time you can have guys covering the way we do, and you get a decent kick off, it's a pretty good combination."
Moorman has averaged 43.2 yards per punt, more than a yard better than franchise record holder Paul Maguire, during his career. He's 194 punts away from catching Chris Mohr for most punts in a career with 769. The thing is, the less the Bills see of Moorman, the better their offense. At least they know he's back there.
This season, his play has been largely overlooked because so much attention has been placed on the success of his teammates. You might say that's a good sign.
"We've always had very talented guys," he said. "It was just a matter of finding a way to put it all together on the field. Over the last couple years, you could see we're getting there, we're getting there, we're getting there. Finally, as the offseason progressed, there was a sense in the locker room and the community that it's here. It's time."
Moorman has never experienced a time in Western New York quite like he has in the past month. The closest he came was in 2004, during former coach Mike Mularkey's first season, when the Bills rattled off six straight victories down the stretch to get into playoff contention.
But that was nothing.
If you remember, the Bills were playoff outsiders almost the entire season. They needed to beat the Steelers in the season finale at Ralph Wilson Stadium and get help elsewhere to make the playoffs. Pittsburgh rested its star players and still won, 29-24. Buffalo missed the postseason with a 9-7 record, its only winning season since 1999.
"I caught a little glimpse of it," Moorman said. "All of a sudden, businesses had signs out there saying, 'Go Bills' and 'Beat Pittsburgh.' It starts to feel like a college town. I've been waiting ever since to get that feeling again. Every week now, we're 2-0, 3-0, 4-0. It's just building. The town is getting excited. I'm just waiting for it to bubble over."