ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — Jerry Hughes has been a gracious host for 11 years. But no more.
His entire career, the last eight years in Buffalo, Hughes’ house has been the place to be for an AFC Championship Game watch party.
But, things are just a little bit different this time around.
“People can actually sit back and watch me,” Hughes said with a smile after the Bills 17-3 win over the Ravens. “The text messages are flying— ‘what do we do?!?'”
Hughes, the longest-tenured member of the Bills, was a key part of the defense’s stellar performance on Saturday night. It’s a moment he’s been waiting for a long time and something his teammates have been working towards all season.
“The guys in our locker room, this is something that we talked about in April,” said Hughes. “For us to continue to just keep pounding that rock and worrying about the next game, not looking too far in the future, it just goes to show what you can do.”
Hughes had two sacks, which gives him five for his playoff career in Buffalo. Only three other players have hit that mark in franchise history; Darryl Talley, Jeff Wright, and Bruce Smith.
“That’s an honor. To be mentioned with Darryl Talley and Big Bruce, that’s a huge honor,” said Hughes. “Walking into this building back in 2013, I used to see their faces plastered on the wall of all the great quotes and all the great things that they did for this organization. I certainly know all about those guys and that’s just an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as them.”
Hughes is one of the most respected players in the locker room and his teammates weren’t surprised that he was making big plays when it mattered most.
“Jerry is Jerry. He’s been doing that for a long time,” said Jordan Poyer. “He comes to play every week and he had a hell of a game tonight and he was definitely a difference-maker.”
“Jerry is just one of those vets that does his job. We respect him. He’s one of those guys that you just love having on your squad,” said Josh Allen. “For him to go out there and play the way he did… the way our defense stopped the run, the game plan was executed to perfection.”
A lot of the talk coming into Saturday’s game was the Ravens’ explosive run game and if the Bills would be able to slow them down. The team saw a lot of that conversation and it helped them to rise to the occasion.
“That’s a challenge that we all see. We take it as a challenge and we accept it,” said Hughes. “I think we went out there and played like we had something to prove. That’s how you’re supposed to play football at your house, especially in the playoffs.”
The Bills held Lamar Jackson to 34 yards on the ground. J.K. Dobbins and Gus Johnson each had just 42 yards on the day.
It wouldn’t have been quite the same for Hughes if the Bills would have gotten their win in an empty stadium. It also would have been a little bit tougher. The crowd was able to force two false start penalties with the Ravens backed up near their own end zone.
“I do not believe 6,700 people in our stadium. That crowd was roaring it was electric,” said Hughes. “We’ve got to figure out a way to tip our hat to them, get them some free meals or drinks, that’s amazing.”
If anyone’s going to pay BillsMafia back, it’s Hughes.
After all, he’ll have some spare change not having to host his big party.