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In sideline celebration, Bills coaches see players are buying in

After Sean McDermott finally got home from the stadium Sunday night, his phone buzzed with a text from another Bills coach. There was a play on film that he absolutely had to see, the coach said.

First thing Monday morning, another coach walked into McDermott's office and shared the exact same sentiment.

They weren't mad. Bills coaches saw their sideline erupt with pure enthusiasm after a big play and thought of it as a microcosm of the family mindset they want to instill in their team. They made a point to show it to players at meetings.

"You don't see that every day in the NFL," McDermott said, flashing a rare smile. "You go to one of my son's games on the weekend and you see some of that. It's just so authentic and pure and raw, just guys loving to play the game. It's what's right about sports. There's still heart, there's still soul, there's still spirit involved. And I love that part.

"It gives me chills just going back and thinking about that," he added. "In 20 years or so around the NFL, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that type of deal on the sideline."

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The play took place in the third quarter of Sunday's 34-14 win over the Raiders. The Bills were leading 20-7 but faced second and 20 after a holding penalty.

With the ball on the left hashmark, Tyrod Taylor lined up in shotgun with one receiver left, three right and tight end Nick O'Leary on the left side of the line. The Raiders rushed only three as defensive tackle Justin Ellis dropped to spy on Taylor. All-pro edge rusher Khalil Mack was on the bench.

Taylor couldn't find a target in his first progression through the blanket coverage but had time to reset the pocket as the Bills' five linemen dominated the Raiders' three rushers. Reserve receiver Brandon Tate found a hole in the zone and caught the ball 12 yards downfield, surrounded by three defenders. He spun out of the first tackle, which evaded two defenders, and then outran the third. He put a juke on T.J. Carrie that sent the cornerback to the turf and picked up the first down before being caught from behind.

The Bills' sideline went wild. Teammates and staffers alike swarmed Tate.

"To be honest, it was so natural, so organic, I didn't really realize how big of a deal it was until Coach brought it up later to us," receiver Jordan Matthews said. "He showed us, hey, this is the identity that we want, these are the type of guys we want in this locker room – guys that are excited by everybody's big plays, not just the guys who are the starters or the guys who are expected to [make big plays]."

Matthews said the Bills usually have a "development period" at the end of practice, where players on the scout teams go against each other. Teammates go nuts for the player who wins, which is why he initially didn't think twice about getting hyped during a game.

"You don't see a lot of guys – like, starters – get that excited for guys who are on the scout team," Matthews said. "We do. Even for that to happen, it kind of went over my head because that's what I'm used to with these guys. Nothing really surprises me with the camaraderie that we have. So when I really thought about it, I was like, man, that's kind of unique. It just shows how different of a team we are."

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Tate wanted to deflect most of the attention – "It was definitely nice, we just got to build on it," he said – but his teammates made sure to give him credit.

"Brandon Tate's known for making big plays; he's been doing that for a while in this league," Jerel Worthy said. "But it's exciting to see a guy pull out a Madden move in the middle of a play and be able to pick up the first down. ... At the end of the day, this is a family. We're trying to build something special, trying to build something that everyone feels a part of. Coach McDermott has the right message for us and we're just trying to deliver it on Sundays.

"When you look around and see other teams playing on the field and see the tape, you don't see the same continuity," Worthy added. "[McDermott] treats us as if we have starters and then we got starters, like a 1A, 1B-team type of deal. That gets guys excited. Then going out there playing on Sundays, he's rotated a lot of guys through the lineup. So everyone feels a part of it."

The only dissenting voice in the facility Monday belonged to offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. But even his method of pumping the brakes still sounded like a compliment.

"No," he said, when asked if the sideline eruption was unusual. "Not in the right attitude, in the right locker room, it's not. It's a sign of a really good team. I've seen it before, and certainly this team has really responded well to being a part of a team."

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