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Alan Pergament: 'Hard Knocks' episode dealing with Colts-Bills game has some terrific Frank Reich moments

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Familiar face

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich walks on the field before the game at Highmark Stadium.

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If the NFL playoffs started today, the fourth-seeded Buffalo Bills in the AFC would host the fifth-seeded Indianapolis Colts team that ran all over them in a 41-15 victory at Highmark Stadium on Nov. 21.

That seeding is expected to change, with the most likely scenario after the final two weeks of the season being the Bills hosting the New England Patriots, according to analytics.

But the present situation forecasting a Buffalo-Indy rematch gives Bills fans more reason to tune into HBO’s “Hard Knocks in Season: The Indianapolis Colts” – if you have the pay-cable channel.

It is much more interesting to go inside the locker room, in meeting rooms, at practice and inside player’s homes during the regular season when the games count, than it is in for the preseason edition of the program.

A new episode of the weekly series premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday.

If you watch this series and get to know the players better, I would be surprised if you didn’t become a fan of the Colts – except, of course, when they play the Bills.

They are a good team composed of what appears to be good guys led by a coach to admire in former Bills quarterback Frank Reich.

Reich’s motivational speeches enhance the series, and his participation certainly should be a draw for Bills fans.

The one must-see episode is the second one that premiered weeks ago. It focuses on the Colts preparation for the Bills game and the locker room celebration that showed how focused the players were in giving “some payback” to the Bills, who ended the Colts season last season in a playoff loss.

Another episode that undoubtedly will be must-see for Bills fans is episode six, which focuses on the Colts preparation for a game with the New England Patriots that ended with a win the week before the Bills reclaimed first place in the AFC East.

All the episodes are available on HBO On Demand if you subscribe to the pay-channel.

The episode dealing with the Bills game features Reich having a meal with two of his former teammates, Steve Tasker and Bruce Smith. There also is a surprise appearance by former strength and conditioning coach Rusty Jones, who worked for the Bills from 1985 through 2004 and now is director of sports performance for the Colts.

They are having a meal from Chef’s, though it appears to be at the Colts team hotel and not at the Seneca Street restaurant.

The three former Bills reminisce about their “special bond,” with Reich telling Tasker and Smith he plans to use their experiences of having special moments together to motivate the Colts.

“This is an opportunity to create a moment,” said Reich.

Reich speaks of his love of Buffalo, noting two of his daughters were born in Western New York.

“It is a special place for me,” said Reich.

Of course, there is footage of Reich leading the Bills to the greatest comeback in NFL history, the 41-38 overtime victory over the Houston Oilers in a 1993 wild-card playoff game that features an audio cameo from Van Miller, the late voice of the Bills.

“Frank Reich becomes the miracle worker,” said Miller after the victory.

But perhaps the most interesting moments concern the 2021 Bills.

“This guy, we’re about to play, this dude is different,” Reich says of quarterback Josh Allen.

Another Colts coach adds, “he’s as big as a (expletive deleted) tree.”

The Colts strategy is to keep Allen “in the well” and stop him from scrambling.

Colts special teams coach Bubba Ventrone sounds prophetic when he shows footage of Bills returner Isaiah McKenzie.

“This guy puts the ball on the ground a lot,” said Ventrone.

McKenzie had a key fumble that led to a Colts touchdown in the game. Ventrone's remark makes why Bills coach Sean McDermott took McKenzie off the return team understandable. As Bills fans know, McKenzie made amends Sunday with a spectacular performance as a receiver in the Bills’ 33-21 win over the Patriots.

Jones added some humor when asked about the weather conditions in Orchard Park. He noted that he saw “a punt one time went back over a punter’s head” because of the wind.

The highlights of the Colts mauling of the Bills and the locker room scene afterward may be tough for Bills fans to watch because of Indy’s dominance behind running back Jonathan Taylor’s five touchdowns.

“We owed those dudes something out there,” said Taylor, receiving a game ball.

A second game ball was presented to Reich from receiver T.Y. Hilton.

It was quite “a moment.”

If the Bills ever play the Colts in the playoffs, McDermott might consider showing the episode to his players to motivate them in much the same way that Reich motivated the Colts in November.

Kevin Kugler is on play-by-play and Mark Sanchez is the analyst for the Bills game Sunday with Atlanta carried at 1 p.m. on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate. When I tweeted that Monday, many of my followers weren’t too happy to hear that they will have to hear Sanchez.


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TV Critic

Alan Pergament has had a variety of roles at The News since 1970, including as a news and sports reporter. He has been the TV columnist since 1982, with more than year off for good behavior. He is a member of the national Television Critics Association.

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