Happy Anniversary. Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd and Bills fans meet again.
Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of Boyd's last-minute magic act that poofed Buffalo's 17-year playoff drought when his fourth-and-12 conversion on a pass from Andy Dalton for a 49-yard touchdown on the last snap of the season knocked out Baltimore and put in Buffalo.
The Bills Mafia did what it always does and came through. They started sending donations immediately even though Boyd didn't have his foundation up and going yet.
So Boyd's Wonder Woman of a mother quickly punched up a link for the Western Pennsylvania Youth Athletic Association geared for children 7-14. She's the president of the organization that helped take her son off the mean streets of Clairton, Pa. Eight days after The Play, they shut it off with $65,000, mostly from Buffalo.
"We were able to portion some of the (donations) to basketball," Tonya Payne said back then. "Each football team has core expenses. Like paying for security, refs, transportation, food. We put the money toward those things so the teams could concentrate their fundraising on just uniforms and equipment."
In five years the organization has blown up into a year-round venture with more than just football with the help of the $65,000, not to mention Boyd's $43 million extension before the 2019 season. It's the Bills' first trip here since.
But all that goes out the window for about three hours Monday night (8:30-ESPN, Cincinnati's Channel 9) at Paycor Stadium when the 11-4 Bengals play the 12-3 Bills for home-field in the AFC playoffs.
"I've got a lot of love and appreciation for what the fans did for me and my foundation," Boyd said after Saturday's practice.
"At the end of the day, we're not friends this week, but I always respect and show them love," Boyd said. "It helped me have more activities and more different things for the little guys to do besides just football."
If the WPYAA blew up that day five years ago, what about Boyd's career? He had been benched two weeks before and finished the 2017 season with just 22 catches for 225 yards.
Since then he's become the most feared slot receiver in the league, he's had two 1,000-yard seasons, he has the fifth most catches in Bengals history with 441 and passed franchise legends Isaac Curtis and Cris Collinsworth this season.
"I don't think it turned around my career," Boyd said. "But it helped put me in the position where I am today."
Which is No. 8 on the active list with the most receiving yards by a wide receiver for one team, (5,282) and No. 7 for catches.
Footnote: The only Bengals starter that's still around from the 22 that started Dec. 31, 2017 in Baltimore is running back Joe Mixon. Boyd didn't start, but three receivers did: A.J. Green, Josh Malone and Brandon LaFell. Safety Brandon Wilson played, but is now on the physically unable to perform list. So did long snapper Clark Harris (injured reserve) and punter Kevin Huber (practice squad).
JOLTIN' JOE OPINES: It's going to be close, but no cigars if the Bengals can beat the Bills Monday night. Mixon thinks head coach Zac Taylor has something else in mind.
"That's for another celebration, you know what I'm saying?" Mixon said of cigars Saturday. "Zac will probably get it for the one seed. It'll definitely be a great thing for us to have that, but we're ready for whatever. At the same time, our approach will never be any different.
"We've got to go in there like we're the underdog. We've got to go in there hungry and ready to go. As long as we got that ready, I know our intensity in that game. I know the crowd is going to come with it. I know our players are going to come with it. So will our coaches. We're all excited. We got a huge one coming up. We've got to seize the opportunity, man."
Mixon likes how the Bengals have seized this seven-game winning streak, the longest at the end of a Bengals season since the first year of the 1970 merger and the longest at any point since the 8-0 start in 2015. No Bengal is left from that one.
"The best part of being a part of a win streak like this, because this is my first time riding this high, too, is after these wins, we're able to enjoy them and then come back to work and be able to just do it all over again," Mixon said. "It's not getting complacent. Nobody in this locker room has gotten complacent.
"After one win, we look forward to getting another one. After the next one, we look forward to going into work and dialing in for a team like this, which we're going to need every bit of preparation for. I have no doubt in my mind that going into this game that my guys are going to be ready."
He also sent Twitter into a tizzy when he observed, "At the end of the day, what people got to realize and understand, (we're) the big dog of the AFC and that's just what it is. For anything to happen, it goes through us. We know what our end goal is and in order to get to that end goal we've got to get through Buffalo. We've got to keep one week at a time and everything else takes care of itself."
With two more catches Monday, Mixon breaks Giovani Bernard's Bengals record for most catches by a running back in a season that was set in his rookie season nine years ago. He's currently at 55, tied with James Brooks in 1985, and that despite missing two-and-a-half games with a concussion.
Mixon and quarterback Joe Burrow have become the master of the check-down pass under relentless zone defenses designed to take away the big play. Last Saturday in New England was vintage Mixon with a quiet 108 scrimmage yards on 65 rushing and 43 receiving with a career-high tying seven catches.
The Bills make life difficult underneath with terrific linebackers in 250-pound Tremaine Edwards and fleet Matt Milano. They can make those first-down check-downs shrink from seven yards to three.
"They're a solid linebacker group. But I mean, they're not the Ravens. They're good, you know what I'm saying?" said Mixon, who gets them next. "They get paid, too. I'm not saying they're not good. But they're not the Ravens, you know what I'm saying? They're the team that limits that type of shrinkage in the pass game like that.
"But at the same time, Edmunds is a bigger guy. Milano, he's stout and he has great instincts. But at the same time, if they want to do that, we've got other ways to attack them. The best thing about it is they're going to have to play us honest. If you want to cheat, whatever you want to do. We're going to make you pay whichever way you want to do it."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: On second thought, maybe Taylor would hand out the cigars Monday or the next Sunday if either game results in clinching the AFC North. It turns out, Taylor is a division guy. He was asked Saturday what was his favorite day of this past eventful year in Bengals history and he said the Jan. 2 win over the Chiefs at Paycor because it gave them the North.
"Just how hard it had been to get to that moment. Winning the AFC championship game? Winning the division personally was a bigger deal," Taylor said. "That really signified our growth we had over three years. When we knew what type of team we had, even wining in the playoff was exciting, but we expected to do it. The division was more of, 'Here we are. We accomplished a very big goal." ….
Taylor wasn't giving up anything on who is right tackle is going to be Monday or if left end Sam Hubbard is playing. He did say it would be fair to categorize Hubbard (calf) a game time decision after the third straight day he was limited in practice …
Nose tackle DJ Reader returned Saturday after missing Friday for personal reasons …