Tremaine Edmunds' message sparks Bills as they begin pivotal stretch

MIAMI -- Unless you're around him daily, it's easy to get the impression Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is a quiet guy; a leader, no doubt, but a soft-spoken, second-year player who is one of the last people you would expect to deliver an unsolicited speech to his team.

But those who are around him daily know better, Bills safety Micah Hyde said.

So when Edmunds gave an impassioned speech Saturday before the Bills' Week 11 game against the Miami Dolphins, Hyde said it might have caught some of their teammates off guard.

"[Tremaine]'s a very vocal guy, but I think the whole team hasn't heard him speak," Hyde said. "He got up and spoke his mind, man. It was good to see him come out of his comfort zone. To me, I already feel like he's a vocal guy because I talk to him every day ... it was good to see him get up in front of the team and some offensive guys who don't get to hear him that much."

Edmunds, the Bills' first-round pick in 2018, paced the team with 12 tackles in their 37-20 win against the Dolphins, leading by example after rallying his teammates on Saturday.

This was no premeditated speech that he practiced in his hotel room's mirror, but rather a realization of the role he must play if Buffalo is to make the playoffs for the first time in his professional career.

"It was just what I was feeling in the moment," Edmunds said Sunday. "Those guys got trust in me, man, so me being a leader, I just wanted to take my leadership a step further ... I think the guys heard me and I like the way they responded to me.

"A lot of guys, they look at me as laid-back, which I am, but I wouldn't say it was out of my comfort zone. A lot of guys just don't look at me like that, so they probably think that it is. It's always been in me, so I just wanted to express it to my teammates."

Teammates say Edmunds' speech made an impact Sunday, when the Bills scored on seven of their 12 offensive drives and held Miami to 23 rushing yards. Ideally, it will resonate through a difficult six-week stretch to close the season that will decide Buffalo's playoff fate.

"To me, that just shows how much he's grown and how much he's aware of when it's time for him to say something," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "I think guys' ears perk up when he talks because he's a guy who doesn't say much, so when he speaks, it means something."

At 7-3, the Bills control their own destiny in the AFC wild-card race -- one game ahead of a crowded field. But after building their record against one of the NFL's easiest schedules through the first 11 weeks, the Bills' final six matchups come against the Denver Broncos (3-7), Dallas Cowboys (6-4), Baltimore Ravens (8-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5), New England Patriots (9-1) and New York Jets (3-7).

Sunday's win might have been the closest thing to it, but Buffalo has yet to play a complete game, specifically on special teams, which gave up kick returns of 101 and 49 yards.

Each phase of the game must be proficient in the final stretch of the season. More than proficient, actually.

That was the core of Edmunds' plea to the team -- to play up to the standard it set during training camp this summer at St. John Fisher College. After beating some of the league's bottom-tier teams in less-than-convincing fashion, it was time to remove all doubt.

"[He was] just challenging us to really take that next step in our progression as a football team," Alexander said. "Not just being good, but let's be dominant and when we play teams that we should [dominate], let's be dominant. Let's not make it close.

"That's only going to help us as we continue on this path trying to get into the playoffs."