Sean McDermott planned to be up late Monday night, but his top priority was not going to be the result of the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, even if the outcome had a significant impact on the Buffalo Bills.
A loss by the Ravens would clinch the Bills’ third playoff spot in the last four seasons.
“I mean, I'm sure I'll be up. I don't know if I'll be watching it as much,” McDermott said Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his team’s 26-15 win over the Steelers. “Trying to again, focus on Denver, and our team here. That's kind of how I see it right now. So you know, we'll see.”
The reality is, no matter the outcome of the Ravens’ game, the Bills are all but guaranteed a spot in the playoffs – whether that’s clinched this week or next.
“Listen, it's always nice to make the playoffs and give yourself a chance to win the world championship,” McDermott said. “That said, we've got other goals, and No. 1 is to win this week. That's what we're focused on right now.”
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A win over Denver in Week 15 would clinch the Bills’ first AFC East title since 1995.
“That was goal No. 1 going into the season – to win our division because of what it assures us,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “It’s a big deal. We’re working as hard as we can to achieve that goal because that’s the first step toward our ultimate goal. Our players are well aware. Sean has made it very clear what our goals are and how we need to work to achieve those goals. If we can win the AFC East, what a big deal for our organization and our fan base. That’s priority No 1. We have another game coming up that’s very important.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll wasn’t too far removed from St. Francis High School the last time the Bills did that. Daboll also spent several years on the Patriots’ coaching staff, but as is usual in press conferences, he tried to downplay the significance of where the Bills stand in the postseason picture at the moment.
“For us, we're kind of in this bubble right here and just trying to do what you need to do each week,” Daboll said. “You're focused on that thing, the task at hand. Certainly, we have a long way to go here. We've put ourselves in good position to play some meaningful games in December. The only thing we can really focus on and try to control is us and our abilities and how we perform.”
Here are four more observations from Monday’s media availabilities with McDermott, Daboll and Frazier.
1. John Brown will return to practice this week. The veteran receiver, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, is eligible to come off injured reserve. McDermott said Brown will practice, but it remains to be seen if he’ll play this week. Center Mitch Morse, who briefly left Sunday’s win with an elbow injury, came out of the game fairly well.
“I thought he did a good job of working through it during the game,” McDermott said.
2. The Bills won’t alter their travel plans despite the altitude in Denver. As usual, the Bills will depart the day before the game, as they do for every road game – whether it’s a trip to New York, Miami, New England or – as in this case – somewhere out west.
“We do our research and I really rely on our sports science department, Joe Collins, Jo Clubb, that we have here,” McDermott said. “Our trainers and medical staff, strength and conditioning staff, they feel comfortable with what we're doing and our plan and we're going to stay with our routine and go out the day before.”
3. It had been a long time coming for the Buffalo defense. Taron Johnson’s 51-yard interception return for a touchdown was the Bills’ first defensive score since Jordan Poyer had a pick-six against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Week 16 of the 2017 season. In Week 13 against San Francisco, safety Micah Hyde nearly reached the end zone, but was stopped inside the 49ers’ 5-yard line.
“We didn’t speak specifically regarding the drought. We talked about scoring on defense, and I talked to the guys the night before the game and really felt like this game that somebody was going to be able to get one and put it in,” Frazier said. “Any time you score on defense, it energizes the entire team. We really believe that and that’s exactly what happened on that occasion. So, you can see the jubilation on the sideline, the way the guys acted after Taron scored, I mean it just lifted our entire team. So, it was much needed, it was a perfect time, and then we came out the second half and, really, as a team, we played really, really well.”
4. The Bills made an addition to their practice squad. Cornerback Lafayette Pitts, who was with the team earlier in the season, and has spent time in previous years on the 53-man roster, was again added to the practice squad.