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Sean McDermott says 'tank' talk inspired team's 'underdog mentality'

Never mind that they've been the favorite in two of their six games.

The Buffalo Bills are all in on embracing the role of underdog in 2017. Coach Sean McDermott was asked Monday how that can be for a team that is a half game out of the division lead and currently in a playoff position.

"I don't know if I have exactly the right answer on that. I just think that it's probably just more of what's been said about these guys outside this building," he said. "What was said in preseason? We're tanking. All along, we said we're building a team, we're not tanking.

"Guys, they embrace that. They embrace that underdog mentality, that underdog role, and honestly I think that's how they approach every week. Like I've said, you heard me say in the locker room yesterday, there's guys that have been told they're not good enough by other teams. I know this – I'll take them on my team any day of the week."

The "T" word was in vogue during training camp, never more so than the day General Manager Brandon Beane traded away wide receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby. A few days after that, receiver Anquan Boldin announced his retirement after a two-week stint with the team, and the Week One matchup against the New York Jets was labeled the "Tank Bowl" by a Gotham writer.

That all looks rather silly now. The Bills wouldn't have brought Lorenzo Alexander, Kyle Williams and Tyrod Taylor back if they were tanking. They also wouldn't have signed Boldin. The trades also don't look like they're helping the team "tank." Beane appears to have sold high on Watkins, who has 18 catches for 264 yards with the L.A. Rams. The return of cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round pick is more than fair, while wide receiver Jordan Matthews – acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles along with a third-round draft pick for Darby – is the Bills' No. 1 receiver and a leader in the locker room.

"They don't really put too much stock into what is said about them outside of this building," McDermott said. "I love that. The greatest part about is they're unified on everything that they do. We went through adversity all the way back to when we first got here. Multiple things, you look back at the history, and say, 'hey, that could have taken this team apart or pulled them apart,' and they continue to persevere. ... The biggest thing, I think, is the four-letter word of 'team.' "

Watch: Our Team's Takeaway from Monday's Buffalo Bills practice

It might not be entirely accurate to say the Bills don't put much stock in outside expectations.

"I think we were supposed to only win four games all season, right?" safety Micah Hyde said Sunday. "As I can recall, early in the preseason someone had us going what, like, 4-12?"

Truth be told, there were plenty of those predictions (full disclosure: my projection was 6-10). That's partially because of how many new pieces the team has this year.

"We’ve got a lot of work in in a small amount of time," McDermott said. "What I saw, really the first couple of games, what I wanted to see was: 'Can we win close games, or can we win the first game?' That was, ‘hey, check the box,’ and we were able to do that. You continue to go through the season and can you win back-to-back games? We were able to do that. Can you come from behind? And we did that yesterday. So, a lot of heart, the guys continue to play extremely hard, and coaches are making really, really good adjustments throughout games, so it’s a total team effort."

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