Both personally and professionally, it’s was a rough two weeks for Buffalo Bills’ second-year running back Zack Moss.
Just days removed from being a healthy scratch in Buffalo’s season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Moss had to South Florida to attend his aunt’s funeral. Then, on his third touch of Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins, he lost a fumble following a six-yard reception. To some, this sequence of events would prove to be too much to overcome. But on this Bills team, it’s just an opportunity to reset and overcome – which is just what Moss did in Buffalo’s 35-0 Week 2 victory.
Moss finished the game with just 26 rushing yards on eight carries but scored two touchdowns – including one of the most impressive one-yard runs you’ll likely see this season.
“I buried my aunt yesterday morning, then just having to come out here and having a fumble in a big game that we needed…I had to get my mental right,” Moss said after the game. “Just switch over and I knew I had to pick it up for this team.”
The 2020 third-round draft pick showed off the power and physicality that made him such an intriguing prospect on the fifth and final Buffalo touchdown of the game. Moss stood tall after absorbing a huge hit by linebacker Elandon Roberts, maintaining balance before powering through traffic to find the endzone.
“II thought it showed a tremendous amount of character and focus,” McDermott said of Moss’ two touchdown performance given the unfortunate circumstances. “That’s not easy to do, to go down there early ahead of the team and take care of business as he had to ono the personal side of things, but then shift gears and focus on playing an NFL football game in the heat. I thought he did a phenomenal job. It was fascinating to watch, after the fumble he did a great job resetting and mentally that showed a lot of strength and toughness and got him to where he had a really good game.”
Being inactive for a season-opener certainly irritated Moss, who tweeted “100%” just moments after the announcement. But after the game, Moss explained that the trust he feels from McDermott allowed him to stay focused and play freely, without added pressure.
“It was similar last year, Monday night against San Francisco, we had a fumble on the exchange deep in the red zone and I got benched that game,” Moss said about his fumble against the Dolphins. “So it was a big learning curve. But for Coach McDermott to keep telling me he trusts me every time I see him, it was big for me and let me know that I just need to come back out and do what I need to do.”
Since arriving in Buffalo back in 2017, McDermott has created an environment that fosters growth and ultimately, a tightly-knit locker room by taking these types of negative plays or situations and using them as teachable moments that carry over to future plays and games.
“I just think overall, that’s what you want, that’s what I’d want if I were a player,” McDermott said was his reasoning behind letting Moss continue to get the ball after his early turnover. “To be able to be given the chance to reset and learn from the mistake that I made. We try to create an environment here where we talk about that and follow through on that. I’m not perfect but I think being able to try and follow through on that as best we can is important for our players to try and play aggressive and take healthy risks and that’s a big part of who we are.”
Expectations throughout the offseason were sky-high for Moss ahead of the 2021 NFL season, but Devin Singletary solidified himself as the No. 1 in the Bills’ backfield during training camp. Singletary looks incredibly explosive through Buffalo’s first two games and the third-year back finished with 82 yards on 13 attempts, including a 46-yard score on the Bills’ first offensive play against Miami With Singletary getting the lion share of carries between the 20s, Moss knows that he needs to take advantage of every opportunity he gets – particularly in the red zone, where his skill set is best utilized.
“Make it count,” is what Moss says he told himself about his goalline chances. “We know as running backs, if you don’t make them count down there, the chances of you getting another one is very slim. There’s a chance that they might go to the air. I wanted to make sure when I got it, I went across that white line so we didn’t have to go in the air and I wouldn’t have to block anybody.”
While Moss may not be the Bills’ bell-cow that many believed he’d be prior to training camp, the former Utah star is keeping things in perspective.
“It’s life,” Moss says about his role. “Just going from having ups and having downs in just 24 hours. I’m just thankful for being able to play this game because there are other things in life that are way more important. But I get a chance to come out and play this game. But I’m super blessed to be able to come back out and have the game that I did and rebound.”
Buffalo hosts the Washington Football Team on Sunday, who boast one of the strongest front sevens in the NFL. If Sunday’s game against the Dolphins showed anything, it’s that Moss is more than capable of getting tough yards, and he’ll likely see a significant workload in Week 3.