Before he answered a single question from reporters, Kyle Williams wanted to recognize those he thought showed the real toughness at New Era Field Sunday.
Sure, Williams, his Buffalo Bills teammates and members of the Indianapolis Colts had spent more than three hours simply trying to stay on their feet, let alone make football plays, in what long-time observers considered the worst snowstorm in which an NFL game has ever been played in Orchard Park. Sure, the Bills overcame Mother Nature's wrath and the fact they were forced to play third-string quarterback Joe Webb after starter Nathan Peterman (replacing injured Tyrod Taylor) suffered a head injury late in the second half to score a 13-7 win in overtime and kept their playoff hopes alive.
But a fairly large number of spectators sat through a game the Bills came close to losing at the end of regulation and nearly blew in OT before LeSean McCoy's decisive 21-yard touchdown with 1:33 remaining in below-freezing temperatures as the flakes accumulated on their hats, hoods and parkas.
"I want to say that our fans and the people here are the toughest damn people in the world," Williams, a 12-year veteran defensive tackle, said. "They deserve as much credit as anybody, and I love being here, I love playing for those guys."
Although there was no information on actual attendance, the lower bowl looked mostly full and even Bills officials were surprised by the turnout, as many fans were forced to sit with snow that fell overnight covering their seats and piled under their feet. But the biggest surprise was timing of the storm's arrival about 30 minutes before the 1 o'clock kickoff.
"All the forecast models basically were saying snow maybe between 2 and 3 o'clock and up to an inch an hour," said Andy Major, the Bills' vice president of operations and guest experience. "Obviously, that changed quickly and even surprised some meteorologists."
Roughly eight inches of snow fell during the game, according to Major. The Bills, taking their cues from the NFL and the officiating crew, assembled a team of 20 men with gas-powered blowers to clear the yard lines and hash marks before the game and during each break in the action. The Bills have two tractors with brushes that could have cleared the entire field, but, Major said, "there was too much snow and nowhere to put it all."
That meant punts sticking right where they landed, small snow drifts forming as players slid on the ground, and players resorting to using their feet to clear a spot from where kicks were attempted.
"I've never played in the snow in my life, let alone those conditions out there," Bills defensive end Ryan Davis said. "When we came out for warmups, I immediately did a snow angel."
The snow increased in intensity when the game started, causing challenges to mount for players.
"We kept saying it was like were at the beach, because the snow was so high," said Bills wide receiver Deonte Thompson. "Every time we were stepping, we were sinking."
The Bills caught a break late in regulation when an offensive pass-interference penalty nullified a two-point conversion that would have given the Colts an 8-7 lead. Instead, they settled for an extra point. The Bills nearly cost themselves a chance for a victory when coach Sean McDermott chose to punt from the Indianapolis 41 in overtime, but they got the ball back and drove for the winning points.