We all have too much going on in life.
You see a lie? Between taking care of loved ones, working, running errands, and then the million “other” parts of life that keep us all busy, it’s fair to say, our schedules are all swollen with things that we need to get done.
However, do you ever wonder how joyless life would be without sports? Without the NFL?
On Saturday morning in Orchard Park, New York, while I was standing in 3-degree weather getting ready to go live on ESPN with members of the Bills Mafia who arrived 10 hours before kickoff, I just kept thinking, “I don’t HAVE to do this job, I get to do this job.” It’s a slight change in wording but it had a gigantic impact on my mindset. I get it. Most people don’t want to spend a Saturday morning in western New York talking about the Patriots’ defensive game plan to slow down Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs, but I like finding out game plans. It's the biggest challenge every week. If you are lucky enough to pick a career that brings you happiness and stimulation, then why not savor the joy? From the moment I woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday all the way until I checked my phone one final time at 2 a.m. Sunday, I never once wanted to be anywhere else. That in itself blows my mind as someone who is always looking at what’s next and comparing my life to others. OK, enough of my sappy reflection!
It also doesn’t hurt a mood that I watched up close the Buffalo Bills put on one of the greatest performances in the history of the NFL. Not just quarterback Josh Allen, who was perfect on Saturday night, but the Bills top to bottom absolutely stomped the New England Patriots, almost uncomfortably. Bill Belichick’s team looked as if it had quit. The Patriots surrendered.
There are so many details of the day and the game I want to share with you but there is so much to get to on Super Wild-Card Weekend. Because I was able to get home on Sunday, I am writing my weekly Sunday Sauce while cleaning up after I just made my Sunday sauce for my family, who spent the day with us watching games.
A couple of things:
*This won’t shock you but some NFL fans are unbearable lately. My friend Mina Kimes and I have been discussing this over text the past few weeks. When I say awful, I mean in the comments section. Enthusiasm is always the best part of fandom but when it gets overall nasty, it sucks the fun right out. Maybe because the stakes are higher, the anger is raging on social media. Life is good. Be happy.
*Chris “Boomer” Berman messaged me over the weekend to talk Bills. That wasn’t to name drop, it’s just to remind fans this guy IS the NFL. He’s one of those contacts in my phone I can’t believe I have.
*Bills QB Josh Allen told me last week he wasn’t wearing sleeves. I said it on TV over a dozen times. I said it so much my producer Chad, texted me: “Are you sure? Double check.” I did on Friday, and the answer was “no sleeves.”
Well, well, well. Saturday night the man of the night walked out wearing sleeves in the freezing cold. Here’s a clip of his genuine apology for the change and an explanation!
*Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said before the Sunday night game against the Chiefs: “Don’t blink. “If you’re a blinker, cut your eyelids off.” WHATTTT! Why are coaches willing to cut off their body parts so often? (Remember Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel once declared he would cut off his man parts for a Super Bowl ring.) Where does Tomlin find these sayings? I once did a TV piece about it and ESPN’s Brooke Pryor wrote about it here:
Let’s get to it!
Garlic bread: A little something that tastes so good.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor had a few players deliver game balls around the Cincinnati area to celebrate the team’s first playoff win in 31 years. Taylor also joined in on the fun.
Watching the Bengals on television and on social media feels like they won a Super Bowl and it’s only Jan. 17. Normally this would feel a little premature, but the city of Cincinnati deserves all the celebration. The good news for them? They have the best thing going for them … they hit on their quarterback for years to come.
Pasta: We cook ours al dente (Al dente literally translates to “to the tooth.”). So, let’s take this literally.
The 49ers-Cowboys game was filled with self-inflicted wounds but in the third quarter, the first interception of the day was thrown by Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, and the 49ers’ offense took full advantage. San Francisco wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who plays a hybrid role, lined up in the backfield and took a pitch from Jimmy Garoppolo. This man is a playmaker anywhere you put him. Mr. Do It went to the right, waited a beat, saw the opening, and hit it. He scored on the 26-yard run to give the 49ers a 23-7 lead midway through the third quarter. Samuel’s incredible roll as a multi-faceted offensive weapon continued. On the day, he gained 72 yards rushing on 10 attempts, while catching three passes for 38 yards. It seems Samuel has given the 49ers life and success every game this month and seems to just be getting better.
The Sauce: The most important part of the meal. All the ingredients have to come together at the right time. Some people like it spicy, some people like it sweet, but either way the sauce is the star of the show.
Bills QB Josh Allen ran around the stadium with the speed of a racehorse, waving and pumping up the crowd after the Bills destroyed the Patriots in a home playoff game. Although the Bills had played two playoff games in front of limited-capacity crowds of 6,700 last year, this was the first playoff game in front of a full house in Orchard Park since … 1996, and you could hear them!
Now rewind 3 hours 20 minutes earlier, on the Bills’ first possession. It was second down and Allen sailed the ball into the back of the endzone, hoping to get another down and keep the drive alive.
What Allen didn’t think was going to happen was that his tight end would catch it. Allen was jogging to huddle up for third down when he saw the rest of his teammates were running around celebrating. Allen never saw that Dawson Knox had leaped into the air in the back of the endzone and scored the touchdown. The QB was so confused. "Nobody could tell me an explanation," he said after the game. "I hadn't seen the video on the screen yet. It took about 3½, 4 minutes for them to finally put it up on the screen after we kicked the PAT. It was like, 'Holy crap, I did not mean for that to happen.' But Dawson was in the right place at the right time and made an unbelievable play."
The magical night was just beginning.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Bills became the first team in NFL history to go an entire game without punting, turning the ball over, or kicking a field goal in a playoff game. On offense they were the first team in the Super Bowl era to score touchdowns on their first five drives of a playoff game – let alone seven.
All of this against a Belichick defense that ranked second in points allowed during the regular season. Think about that….
It would be hyperbole to call it the most incredible performance in the history of the NFL, but it did come pretty darn close.
What a meatball! Most of us really like meatballs and they are essential on our Sundays, but if you are called a “meatball” by one of my uncles, you probably did something really stupid, so this could be a play, a team, or a coach.
The Eagles, unable to score a single point against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a playoff game until the fourth quarter, was first my choice, but as I started to think about what was at stake this weekend and who didn’t show up, I changed my mind. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. The defense simply quit against the Bills. They had no answers. Buffalo’s 47 points was the most allowed by a Belichick-led team in his playoff career per ESPN. This is a team that rose to the top of the AFC standings in early December, somehow limped into the playoffs, and never really showed any fight. It’s almost shocking to criticize a Belichick-led team for lack of competitive spirit, but despite all those high-priced free-agent signings, this team just didn’t have it.