BY: CHRIS BROWN
It’s only Week 5 of the 2019 season and though the 4-1 Bills still have about 70 percent of their regular season still on the docket, Lee Smith had tears in his eyes in Buffalo’s locker room after their 14-7 win over the Titans.
Was he misty because as a born and raised Tennessee native, catching the game’s first touchdown pass brought his nine-year career full circle?
Was it because he saw a practice squad upstart named Duke Williams help John Brown carry the team’s passing game in the first half and then score what proved to be the game-winning touchdown?
That was memorable for him, but again, not why Smith was smiling as he wiped tears out of his eyes with a towel.
Smith was emotional because with all that he’s seen in this league and the teams he’s been a part of, he’s convinced even at this early stage, that this group of Bills is special.
“It’s just this group of men,” said Smith. “I’ve played football for a lot of years. The most important thing to me is my beautiful wife and my four kids. But if I’m going to keep coming to work and working my a– off and playing this game that I love I’m glad it’s around good men.”
“We’ve got guys who are wired the right way and do things the right way and those are guys you don’t want to let down.”Tight end Lee Smith
Buffalo’s front office has held steadfast to bringing in players with the right kind of DNA, as McDermott often states. Players who are willing to grind every day of every week in practice. To sweat the details and to never give in no matter the circumstances, be it the weather, the time left on the clock or the score on the board.
“We’ve got guys who are wired the right way and do things the right way and those are guys you don’t want to let down,” said Smith.
It’s that collective mindset that pulled out Sunday’s game at Tennessee.
The momentum of that game had clearly swung in favor of the Titans after Buffalo’s only turnover led to a game-tying touchdown by Tennessee. And things looked even worse as the Titans moved into the red zone to take the lead after a 57-yard catch and run by Jonnu Smith.
But the Bills didn’t buckle in a game where so many Bills teams of the past would. They were steadfast. This despite the fact that they were down four starters.
“A lot of guys stepped up,” said McDermott. “We had some guys go down. A lot of guys were prepared, stepped in and did a good job. We expected this type of game. We executed at a high level when we needed to.”
Too many times in years past Bills teams when dealt a bad hand would fold quickly. The mental toughness just wasn’t embodied in enough of the men lining up. That’s not the case with this group.
“We knew it was going to be a 60-minute fight. We just kind of stuck with it. Our defense gave us a bunch of chances and luckily we made some plays when it counted. It just shows how resilient we are as a team.”
“We’re built for this,” said Jordan Phillips. “This is (what we do) week in and week out. You see the same thing every week and it’s time for the world to see it.”
Lorenzo Alexander sat on a folding chair in the locker room after the victory and didn’t want to move. All he could do was let out a big exhale. Between defense and special teams he likely logged upwards of 80 snaps. He was spent, but leaving it all on the field is the only way he knows how to operate.
“Anytime you can win on the road against a good team, it’s hard to do,” he said. “We’re 3-0 right now on the road. That’s what you have to do if you want to be a good team is find ways to win on the road and then defend your home dirt. We just showed the way we can grind. It was grown-man football. We just want to continue to climb and get better each and every week.”
That’s why the 286-pound tight end, who’s about as manly as they come in Buffalo’s locker room with his deep voice, square jaw and giant red beard, had the glassy eyes.
He sees men around him who play the game the way he does. It’s a universal approach, and that means that Buffalo’s effort and grit won’t be a some of the time thing. It’ll be an every day, all the time thing. And that’s something that Lee Smith genuinely appreciates.
“I’ve been on a lot of teams and this group of men and the way they’re wired and the way they’ve been put together is really special. It’s just an honor to go to work with them. It’s going to be a group of men that I not only play football games with, but they’re at my house for dinner. They’re playing with my kids. There’s more to this than just football games. We’re human beings. We’re not robots out there. To win with this team is special.”