JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sunday's playoff game was there to be won, but the Buffalo Bills demonstrated they're not quite ready to challenge for anything more than our hearts just yet.
Rookie head coach Sean McDermott and first-year General Manager Brandon Beane made progress in establishing a new Bills era. Now we get to watch them try to turn a plucky club into a true contender.
We'll have seven months to monitor their progress. So let's take a look back on an entertaining and encouraging 2017 with the "unofficialest" of year-end awards, mine.
MVP: LeSean McCoy was Buffalo's most irreplaceable player. Without him, the Bills didn't stand a chance. McCoy ranked fourth with 1,138 rushing yards and eighth with 1,586 all-purpose yards. He scored eight touchdowns. In Sunday's playoff loss he gained 75 yards rushing and 44 yards receiving on a bad ankle.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jordan Poyer finished second on the Bills with 95 tackles. He recorded five interceptions, 13 pass breakups, two sacks, four tackles for losses and one fumble recovery. He should've been voted to the Pro Bowl. And, by the way, he suffered a season-ending lacerated kidney six games into last season with the Cleveland Browns.
Yay Analytics Award: Pro Football Focus graded rookie Tre'Davious White the NFL's second-best cornerback. He finished third in coverage and had a positive rating against the run. PFF's analysis showed opposing quarterbacks had three touchdowns and four interceptions with a 68.2 passer rating when throwing into White's coverage.
Boo Analytics Award: Each Bills receiver and tight end rated negatively in Pro Football Focus' grades for receiving. As a team, the Bills ranked worst in the league.
Best Newcomer: Micah Hyde? White? Poyer? All worthy of discussion. But I'm going with Stephen Hauschka, who had an all-time Bills season. He brought peace of mind Buffalo hasn't had since Steve Christie, and Hauschka delivered from longer range. He set an NFL record with 13 straight makes from at least 50 yards. He became the first kicker in league history with consecutive games of multiple field goals from at least 53 yards.
Play of the Year: If not Andy Dalton's touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd, then I choose Deonte Thompson's incredible 34-yard overtime grab in the pillowy snow against Indianapolis. A tie would've obliterated Buffalo's playoff chances, but third-string quarterback Joe Webb's improbable completion – inside the two-minute warning and from his own 39-yard line – set up McCoy to finish the job.
Top Surprise: You had to think McDermott was awarding a potential retirement gift when Kyle Williams scored on a 1-yard touchdown run – the eventual winner – against Miami in the regular-season finale.
Boom Move(s) of the Year: McDermott targeted two free-agent safeties who made Buffalo feared at the position and turned out to be sensational values. Poyer and Hyde ranked second and fourth in PFF's coverage grades. They combined for 177 tackles, 10 interceptions and only 6.8 percent of the salary cap.
Bust Move of the Year: Bills fans were pumped when Beane traded a third-round draft pick to the Carolina Panthers for Kelvin Benjamin on Halloween. But the receiver was on the injury report from Week 12 on, caught 16 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown and committed a pass interference that helped turn a first-and-goal from Jacksonville's 1-yard line into a field goal Sunday.
Backfire Award: McDermott benched a healthy Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman, who threw five first-half interceptions against the Los Angeles Chargers in his first NFL start.
Fan-Favorite Reward Award: Fifth-round draft choice Matt Milano supplanted Ramon Humber at linebacker in Week 14. Milano, unable to play Sunday because of a hamstring injury, recorded 44 tackles, three for losses, with one interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Biggest Disappointment: Buffalo gave left tackle Cordy Glenn the franchise tag in 2016 and signed him to a five-year, $60 million contract with $36 million in guarantees. He played six games with foot and ankle problems before landing on injured reserve in December.
Worst Letdown: Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was sent home early from a preseason game for missing the team bus. Then he recorded three tackles through his first five games. The Bills, who could've used a determined run-stopper, traded their highest-paid player to the Jaguars for a fifth-round draft choice.
Best Name: Bills defensive end Nordly "Cap" Capi.
Peak Hero: Dalton forever will reside in Bills fans' hearts.
Peak Villain: The NFL suspended Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski for his cheap shot on White at the end of their Week 13 game in Orchard Park. Even without turning heel, Gronk continued to dominate his hometown team with 14 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Bills.
Sweetest Win: The overtime victory over Indianapolis in Week 14 will be remembered generations from now as an iconic Western New York event. Eight inches of snow fell between noon and 4 p.m., creating a spectacular landscape the Bills had to conquer along with the Colts to keep postseason dreams alive.
Bitterest Loss: Any time you hold an opponent to 10 points, you should win. The Bills lost Sunday's playoff game, 10-3, but it didn't feel like they really had a chance against the Jaguars after halftime.
And any time you hold an opponent to nine points, you should win. That didn't happen in Week 2 against Carolina, where Taylor and a wide-open Zay Jones failed to connect on what should've been the winning touchdown.
Story topics: Andy Dalton/ Brandon Beane/ Cap Capi/ Cordy Glenn/ Deonte Thompson/ Joe Webb/ Jordan Poyer/ Kelvin Benjamin/ Kyle Williams/ LeSean McCoy/ Marcell Dareus/ Matt Milano/ Micah Hyde/ Nathan Peterman/ Ramon Humber/ Rob Gronkowski/ Sean McDermott/ Stephen Hauschka/ Steve Christie/ Tre'davious White/ Tyler Boyd/ Tyrod Taylor/ Zay Jones