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[BN] Blitz newsletter: Big improvement for Bills' special teams

Boring? That’s a compliment for Danny Crossman, the Buffalo Bills’ fifth-year special teams coordinator, who has helmed a turnaround this season for the most unheralded of the team’s three units.

Buffalo’s special teams were ranked 10th overall this season by Football Outsiders, a significant improvement over last year’s No. 22 rating, Jay Skurski reported for BNblitz. And the Bills received important contributions from players who joined the roster in the middle of the season, such as safety Shamarko Thomas and cornerback Lafayette Pitts.

A long wait: John Murphy took over as the Bills’ play-by-play announcer from the legendary Van Miller in 2004. On Sunday, he will call his first playoff game in that role. And Buffalo’s three network affiliates, along with Spectrum News Buffalo, are headed to Jacksonville to provide extra Bills coverage this week.

Progress for McCoy: LeSean McCoy took part in stretches before Thursday’s Bills practice and said his ankle injury “felt OK.”

Relevant experience: The Bills didn’t play Jacksonville this season, but offensive coordinator Rick Dennison faced the Jaguars last year as offensive coordinator for Denver, and head coach Sean McDermott played them in 2015 as defensive coordinator for Carolina. Both were victorious.

Tyrod Watch: The Bills’ quarterback had his best performance of the season outside the pocket in the finale against Miami. Overall in 2017, he improved on third down compared to the previous season. And speaking of Tyrod Taylor, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone’s wife is apparently worried about her husband’s team facing him.

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Poyer wins award: Buffalo safety Jordan Poyer was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for December. He and Micah Hyde, who won in October, became the first safety tandem in league history to win the award in the same seaon.

Ready for an earful: The Bills’ receiving corps is preparing to face some of the biggest trash talkers in the league in Jacksonville’s secondary Sunday.

Dareus on the drought dying: “The timing? Hey, it is what it is,” said Marcell Dareus, the Bills defensive tackle who was traded to Jacksonville this season. “It’s a business. That’s how it goes.” The Bills, meanwhile, are bracing to face their old teammate on Sunday. They can expect a handful, writes Bucky Gleason.

Postseason debut: Many on the Bills’ roster will be making their first playoff appearance on Sunday. It will be a similar arrangement for John Hussey, who has worked the postseason before but has drawn his first playoff assignment as the referee.

Buffalo pride: The Western New York band 10,000 Maniacs said they were “talking proud on stage” the night the Bills clinched their first playoff berth since the 1999 season.

Raising awareness: Former Bill Aaron Maybin, now a teacher in Baltimore, has helped bring attention to heating issues in that city’s public schools this week.

Extra tickets: A limited number of unused tickets for the Bills-Jags game went on sale Thursday.

Watch: The already-legendary fourth-and-12 touchdown pass from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton that helped Buffalo qualify for the playoffs was documented by NFL Films.

Listen: The News’ Vic Carucci and Jay Skurski talk playoffs in the latest BNblitz Podcast. In the Daily Drive Podcast, Paul Peck and Kevin Sylvester from Buffalo Sports Page talked with Western New York native Brian Chojnacki of WTLV in Jacksonville.

Trivia: Pins and Needles, one final time.

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