Buffalo Bills say 'Hail Murray' loss fueled torrid end to regular season

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Usually a bye week offers players an opportunity to get their minds off the game for a few days; during the Buffalo Bills' bye in Week 11, however, it was nearly impossible to escape their previous loss.

That's because nearly every network aired replays of how that 32-30 loss to the Arizona Cardinals ended -- a Hail Mary pass from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins, who caught the prayer over the Bills' three best defenders. The play, dubbed "Hail Murray," was inescapable on social media as well, and it featured memes and even a Hopkins-inspired photo caption contest.

But, Buffalo hasn't lost a game since.

Over their next six games, the Bills outscored their opponents 229-110, capturing four straight wins on national television from Week 13 to Week 16 in the process. They have won all six games by double digits and are arguably the hottest team in the NFL entering the playoffs on the heels of a 56-26 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins.

If you ask the players, it's not a coincidence.

"Before the bye, having the Arizona game and the way we lost that, I wouldn't change it for the world," Bills safety Micah Hyde said. "Because it made us a better defense, it made us a better team. We understood we should have won that game. Obviously, shoulda, coulda, woulda. ... But, I mean, we were just rolling after that."

He has a point, as the Bills' defense ranks seventh in the NFL since Week 12, allowing 317 yards per game, including a paltry 94 rushing yards -- which is critical with the league's third-leading rusher Jonathan Taylor (1,169 yards, 11 touchdowns) and the Indianapolis Colts coming to Orchard Park for Saturday's AFC wild-card game (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Hyde, one of the players over whom Hopkins made the game-winning catch, said the loss helped the Bills' defense build confidence in one another and that at this point in the season, they know they're a good team and won't let that play define them. Jordan Poyer, the other Bills safety involved in the play, agreed with Hyde, saying if you play the game long enough, you'll end up on the wrong end of a highlight play.

When it happens, you essentially have to leave it in the past and move forward.

"You're kind of able to look back and reflect. Obviously, we feel we shouldn't have lost that game," Poyer said. "Three of our defenders in a position to make a play, you'd like to think that we were able to make that play. But at the same time, I've played this game long enough that you're gonna be on the bad end of some plays.

"One play is not going to define me as a player, or, I know, Micah as a player. We're damn good players. So, to be able to move on and compartmentalize what is important right now, that play happened, you learn from it and you move on. I definitely think it made us stronger as a unit, as a core group.

"You can go back to 2017 and the things that we've gone through that continue to make us who we are right now."