Tough losses are no stranger to sports fans. They are certainly no stranger to fans of the Buffalo Bills. For a fan of any tenure of this franchise, there have been a significant amount of man-hours spent dealing with the fallout of lost games and missed opportunities.
The Bills’ overtime divisional playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs has opened a Pandora’s box of fan reaction. Anger, frustration, feelings of injustice, dejection, disbelief, heartbreak, and the list could go on for the length of this article. There is a specific characteristic to the feelings around this loss, which is that it should not have happened. Similar to the “Hail Murray” against the Arizona Cardinals last year or the “Music City Miracle”—the game should have been over and it wasn’t.
There will continue to be plenty of questioning of the coaching staff and decisions around certain aspects of this loss. A lot of the passion behind those critiques and demands for answers is coming from a common source: hurt.
There are few sports experiences that can fill a fan with pride and affection for a player the way Bills fans were gushing for Josh Allen when he gave Buffalo the lead with 13 seconds left at Arrowhead. Seeing his intensity on the sideline celebrating with his teammates and releasing that communal catharsis fans had been carrying all week by screaming was like watching someone who had manifested victory by pure force of will. And the injustice is that it should have been enough.
Fans are still waking up this morning thinking a horrible recurrent thought of two words: “13 seconds… 13 seconds.” This sort of improbability of losing reopens all the scar tissue of old from victories taken away from us despite near impossibility. The Music City Miracle feels particularly familiar. Hell, this franchise has a feature-length documentary about its heartbreaking Super Bowl runs. And all this adds up to a cumulative thought of “Why us?”
The pain of January 23 isn’t just about that loss, it’s about having a quarterback who was damn near perfect and did everything he possibly could, including giving us the lead with 13 seconds left and it still not being enough. What does it take? How could this not be enough? How could the Bills do that in Kansas City and it still not be our time? When will it be this fan base’s turn? Why us?
These questions are emotionally real but their answers are horribly clinical. What does it take? A better defensive performance. How could this not be enough? Because the OT rules allow for sudden death. How could this not be our time? Because we share this era with Mahomes in KC. When will it be this fan base’s turn? We don’t know. Why us?
I’m not sure there is an answer to that.