Bills draw inspiration from Kobe-led Olympic ‘Redeem Team’
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Sticking with his yearlong message of “Find A Way,” Bills coach Sean McDermott had his players view the recently released documentary chronicling the U.S. men’s basketball team’s journey to win the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games.
The film’s title, “The Redeem Team,” and story arc involving the Americans’ successful bid of overcoming settling for bronze four years earlier in Athens are fitting.
The Bills, after all, have been on the hunt for redemption ever since they remarkably collapsed by blowing a three-point lead in the final 13 seconds of an eventual 42-36 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC divisional playoff game in January.
What’s made the outcome even more notable is McDermott consistently refusing to discuss what went wrong beyond citing “execution” and saying the blame lies with him.
That McDermott chose to show the documentary on the eve of the Bills routing the Steelers on Sunday had less to do about Pittsburgh than it did of the challenges Buffalo still faces over the course of the season. And that includes Sunday, when Buffalo (4-1) travels to Kansas City for yet another showdown against the Chiefs.
While numerous Bills players, starting with Josh Allen, dismissed looking ahead to Kansas City in the aftermath of a 38-3 beatdown of the Steelers, don’t think for a second the rematch wasn’t on their minds, as was the message received from watching the documentary.
Allen, pass rusher Von Miller, receiver Stefon Diggs and left tackle Dion Dawkins were among those who referenced a critical clip from the film in which Kobe Bryant bowls over former Lakers teammate Pau Gasol in the opening moments of a 119-82 preliminary-round win over Spain.
“We talk about domination. We watched Kobe. And we saw his mindset about domination and starting games off,” Miller said. “And that’s all we try to do.”
It certainly worked against an injury-depleted Steelers opponent, with Allen setting the tone by hitting Gabe Davis for a 98-yard touchdown pass on the third snap from scrimmage. And the Bills — despite missing three receivers and tight end Dawson Knox to injuries — didn’t let up in a first half which ended with them leading 31-3.
It’s the type of mindset Diggs believes can carry over.
“It was more like we translate it as a plan for your team and for your brother,” Diggs told The Associated Press when asked what he got out of watching the film. “We’ll enjoy this one and kind of start flipping the page on the next one. Just stay motivated. Coaches do a great job of keeping us forward-thinking, and we’re trying to keep it that way.”
To be clear, nothing that happens at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday will erase what occurred in January in leaving the Bills second-guessed. The decisions include having Tyler Bass kick the ball through the end zone, rather than short, in allowing the Chiefs to start at their 25, from which they gained 44 yards on two plays to set up Harrison Butker’s game-tying 49-yard field goal as time expired.
And yet, a win over the Chiefs will provide the Bills an early season edge on finishing first in the AFC and home-field advantage through the conference playoffs. Such a scenario would mean Buffalo avoiding yet another January trip to Arrowhead where the Bills postseason has ended in each of the past two years.
“That’s what we took away from that video, is don’t be the hunted, be on the hunt,” Dawkins said.
Plug and play. The Bills’ offense didn’t miss a step despite missing slot receivers Isaiah McKenzie (concussion) and Jamison Crowder (broken ankle). Rookie Khalil Shakir had three catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in his first career start, and Isaiah Hodges added four catches for 41 yards after being promoted from the practice squad.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Cleaning up turnovers. Allen’s pass intended for Davis in the end zone was intercepted, and tight end Quintin Morris lost a fumble at the goal line.
LB Tyrel Dodson had a team-leading 11 tackles and one sack starting in place of Tremaine Edmunds (hamstring).
Rookie CB Kaiir Elam had his first interception, but it came after he was burned on several occasions, with Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett often throwing in his direction.
Starting S Jordan Poyer’s status will be monitored after missing the Steelers game with a rib injury. ... Starting CB Christian Benford is expected to miss at least one more game with a broken hand. ... DT Jordan Phillips aggravated a hamstring injury against Pittsburgh before returning to play.
0 — Points allowed in the third quarter. Buffalo is the first team since Minnesota in 2016 to not allow a point in the third quarter through its first five games of a season.
This marks the fifth meeting between Buffalo and Kansas City since 2020, with the Chiefs winning three of four, including both playoff matchups.
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