There hasn’t been a chip this big on the shoulders of the Buffalo Bills since the days of the “Bickering Bills” during the late 1980s. That boulder rolled over the Oakland Raiders and destroyed their will to win at New Era Field in an epic 34-14 victory for Buffalo on Sunday. The game featured four turnovers by a Bills defense that refused to give QB Derek Carr or anyone on the Raiders offense a chance to retaliate.
Those who remember the Bills of the late 80s probably recall the attitude of players who hissed at the national media for ignoring their rising status in the NFL. Those Bills teams were grumpy, even with each other at times. I believe it might have been Thurman Thomas who stood up to the media back then and basically called them out for disrespecting the team. The “us against he world” mantra was thus created and the end result was the four Super Bowl appearances that followed.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon in the Bills’ locker room and Jordan Matthews gets asked by reporters about how it felt for the team to be 5-2. He immediately launches into a lecture about how the national media ignores them. It clearly strikes a nerve with this team and Sean McDermott is playing on that irritation like a violin.
A few weeks back after beating Denver and then Atlanta, safety Micah Hyde had some choice words to share on the subject.
“Were just a bunch of misfits that came here to Buffalo. We’re trying to have one common goal, and that’s win,” Hyde said. “Win throughout the week, and then come Sunday, find anyway we can to get a win.”
So this Bills team just keeps rolling along stacking more wins and getting angrier by the week.
Oh… and by the way, what in the world is happening with all these turnovers?
While it’s tempting to simply claim good luck (long overdue for the Bills), there’s something far more important going on that I believe explains the reason for the +14 turnover statistic. Sean McDermott is teaching a strategy that has proven benefit to millions of people seeking better quality of life… mindfulness.
Mindfulness is more than just a state of mind, it’s a strategy for working through anxiety, depression and helps to improve performance. The focus is on being in the moment, totally and completely. When you become skilled at the strategy, you become instinctively able to focus completely on the task at hand and block out all distractions.
This skill is achieved most effectively through exercises in meditation that train your mind to control your thoughts. For all its “hocus-pocus”, football players can definitely benefit from this extremely useful tool. Getting even a split-second advantage by a player seeing a football and being able to focus more effectively on creating a turnover is invaluable.
There’s no question opportunity must be there for a turnover to occur. What’s makes mindfulness strategies work in this regard is that the player is able to create the opportunity rather than passively waiting for it to happen. Here is where McDermott has helped his players elevate their mindfulness regarding turnovers.
And finally… I find the commentary on radio and television lately about “all this cultural stuff might just be working” quite amusing and frankly personally validating. After spending the better part of two decades being castigated for my psychobabble, along comes this coach who completely gets my focus and why intangibles matter more than incremental differences in talent. Go Bills.
Editor’s babble: If you’re looking for me today, I’ll be floating around on white puffy clouds and smiling at you from the sky… our Bills are back and it’s safe to come out of the root cellar. And if you’re a real glutton for punishment, you can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.