By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
It had been 17 long years of the Buffalo Bills’ seasons ending after 17 weeks, and Kyle Williams was there for the past 11 of them.
Not this year. The drought is over.
Williams, in his 12th season as a defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills, is finally going to the NFL playoffs.
The Bills, in a scene out of a movie or television drama, took the AFC’s second wild card spot when they beat the Miami Dolphins in Miami, and then had to wait out the Cincinnati Bengals’ upset of the Baltimore Ravens on a last-minute touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd.
Sunday afternoon, December 7,the Bills (9-7) will travel to Jacksonville to take on the AFC South champion Jaguars (10-6), who will be making their first playoff appearance since 2007.
“You know, you go 12 years and you’re after one thing,’’ Williams said. “And you know, you haven't been able to get there or you haven’t been able to win it and now with the first opportunity to achieve that ultimate goal that you have. I mean, it's emotional. You know, I think about all the teammates I’ve had. I think about all my teammates I have now, I think about recovering from surgeries. I mean there's just, there's just so many, so many things that I am thankful for and I’m thankful that we were able to hang in and be here when it happened.’’
Williams, 6-1, 303, was the Bills’ fifth-round Draft pick in 2006 out of LSU. He started 11 games his rookie year and started every year since then. He’s been to five Pro Bowls despite being on a team with a losing record nine times in 11 years, and has the record for most career sacks by a Bills defensive tackle with 43.5.
Against the Dolphins, he scored his first NFL touchdown when he lined up at fullback and crashed into the end zone on a one-yard run that helped the Bills to a 22-16 win. Then came the hard part, waiting, watching, and rooting for the Bengals to beat the Ravens.
“You know, it was very nerve-wracking but luckily my family was down (in Miami) for the game,’’ Williams said. “I went and saw them off the edge of the field. I got my two older boys (Harrison and Reed) and I had a couple of on-field interviews and they were with me and they ran around a little bit on the field and then we went inside. I missed a good portion of the last third of the fourth quarter. So, I walk in during crunch time with only about 1:20 or so left, so I missed out on the long, nerve-wracking deal. I came in right at crunch time and it ended up happening. I’m there with my sons, I’m with my teammates and with a lot of people that I care about. It was awesome. You just think about all the hard work and for me, I think about coming back from surgeries and doing all these things and really grinding and being here so long and I’m just really grateful for the chance to be here when we finally did get over that hump.
“I’m in there with my boys, and I’m like, ‘Hey you know what, I'm just going to be grateful in this situation.’ We’re either going to be celebrating winning season or we’re going to be celebrating the playoffs. The celebration obviously wouldn't have been the same and the feeling wouldn't have been the same if (the Bengals lost). But in that situation, I was just trying to be grateful and soak it in with my boys and my teammates and enjoy it, and then obviously the way it worked out, I mean, you couldn’t ask for anything more.’’
Now Williams and the Bills will want more.
Buffalo’s last playoff appearance came in 1999, as a wild card team and they lost to eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans, 22-16, in a game that became known as the Music City Miracle.
The Bills last playoff win came in 1995 against the Dolphins.
“To be honest with you, getting into the playoffs is not my goal,’’ Williams said. “I don’t get up in March and, like I said earlier, recover from surgeries and do all these things so I can say, ‘Hey, you know, we did it.’ I get to stay in Buffalo for six more days and go play one game in and then I get to go home. That's not what it is. The goal is to be a champion. The goal is to be a world champion and it just so happens this is the first time I've really, truly had that opportunity so I’m going to relish it and give it my all preparation and play wise.’’