In case you didn't hear, Khalil Mack was back in town for his first game since graduating from the University at Buffalo. In case you attended the game Sunday and didn't notice him, he was, in fact, on the field for the Raiders.
Mack returned to Western New York with much fanfare but barely made a peep on the field in the Bills' 34-14 blowout over the Raiders at New Era Field. The reigning NFL defensive player of the year was neutralized all afternoon and made little impact against the team that overlooked him in the draft in 2011.
It wasn't that Mack didn't play well Sunday. He didn't really have much chance while recording one tackle and one hit on quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Jordan Mills and Cordy Glenn did a great job blocking him, with help from their friends, and the Bills' effectively ran short passes to his side while trying to run away from him.
Mack, the only player in NFL history to be voted into the Pro Bowl at two positions in the same season, is an elite player. The Bills were intent on using his athleticism against him. Taylor adhered to the quick-hitting passing game while LeSean McCoy had 173 yards from scrimmage, including 151 yards rushing.
It allowed the Bills to control the clock. Strange but true, the Bills wanted Mack on the field as much as possible. The Bills had the ball for more than 34 minutes Sunday.
The biggest plays on defense Sunday didn't come from Mack but Bills rookie Matt Milano, who was in the right place when Leonard Johnson popped the ball away from DeAndre Washington. Milano picked up the loose ball and raced 40 yards into the end zone to give the Bills a 14-7 lead.
Milano forced another fumble when he ripped the ball from Jalen Richard after the Bills were forced to punt on their first drive of the second half. It led to Stephen Hauschka's first of two field goals in the third quarter. Hauschka converted from 35 and 44 yards to give Buffalo a 20-7 lead.
The Bills put together a long drive, picking up chunks of yardage while Mack rested on the sidelines, before taking a 27-7 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter when Taylor reached over from inside the 1-yard line.
Mack could have expected a warm welcome if he returned to the Bulls, but he wasn't getting one Sunday when playing against the Bills. Buffalo fans barely acknowledged him in college even though he was the best player in UB history. He lived in relative obscurity during his four years in Buffalo.
And that's where the Bills wanted to keep him.
Mack is a fantastic player in all situations, but he's at his best when the Raiders build a lead and turn him loose. Oakland scored on the opening drive after methodically marching 81 yards on 13 plays, ending in Jamize Olawale's 1-yard TD run. But the Bills turned the game on him, and the Raiders, when they took the big lead.
The Raiders have their share of fans in Buffalo, along with every other city, leading to several in the crowd wearing No. 52. One fan in the parking lot donned an old Bills jersey with the No. 46 – back from the glory days with Leonard Smith, perhaps? – with Mack's name written in black marker across white tape on the back.
Mack was given opportunity to shine light on UB last week but refused to answer questions about Buffalo for reasons not entirely clear. The snub was out of character for him. He carried himself as a humble and respectful player during his college days and felt indebted to the only BSC program to offer him a scholarship.
Regardless, he showed up for the team charter wearing a UB shirt and paid a visit to Elmo's Bar & Restaurant. It was a hint he had softened his stance toward the school or was misunderstood in the first place. He had claimed a few days ago that he didn't want to field questions about Buffalo because they had become repetitive.
He didn't have any answers on the field, either.