Brian Moorman lingered around the Buffalo Bills’ locker room longer than normal.
Moorman usually is out of the stadium in a hurry when he doesn’t punt well, but Sunday was different. He kept his game jersey from a 19-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins. The nameplate above his locker stall already was stashed in his bag.
Unlike last year’s unceremonious in-season departure, Moorman wanted to absorb every moment of what might’ve been his final game in Ralph Wilson Stadium. He’d been thinking about it all week.
“I tried to take it in the best I could,” Moorman said. His jaw clenched. His lower lip trembled a bit. “With everything that happened last year and not being able to soak in my last one, then to be able to come back and be in the locker room with these guys, it’s tough.
“I tried to take a few extra seconds to look around. I tried to shake a few extra hands. I prepared myself emotionally. Part of me doesn’t want to say it’s the end, but I also know that it’s a business.”
Moorman acknowledged he might’ve been giving his final interview at The Ralph and apologized twice for rambling. Moments later, he was among the last to exit the locker room.
Moorman is a two-time Pro Bowler. He has played 189 games for the Bills and was a captain seven consecutive seasons. But the Bills cut him last year over philosophical differences with former special-teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven.
“Being back? I still pinch myself,” Moorman said. “I love being a part of the Buffalo Bills. I’m grateful.
“I think they’re going in the right direction. I’d love to be a part of it. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I enjoyed this year, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
The Ralph wasn’t in a sentimental mood Sunday. Notoriously nasty winds whipped through the stadium. Rain fell throughout the game. The temperature at kickoff was 41 degrees.
“All the balls we were kicking in warmups were water-logged and heavy,” Moorman said. “Then to kick a light ball in the game, they were acting different. You just try to do your best.”
Moorman’s first punt went 13 yards, waffling out of bounds at Buffalo’s 49. On live television, it looked like a Miami player might’ve deflected the ball.
“I wish,” Moorman said.
“It crossed my mind: ‘That’s not how I wanted it to end. I hope I get more opportunities today.’ ”
Moorman’s rough afternoon continued. He grossed 36.3 yards and netted 33.0 yards per punt.
He did have punts of 50 yards and 52 yards, with the latter a touchback. But he didn’t place any inside Miami’s 20-yard line.
“Today’s a bad day to ask me how my season’s went,” Moorman said. “But I still think I’m very competitive in this league. I’m not averaging 50 yards a punt, but I’m pretty happy with this year aside from a couple games.”
Moorman ranks near the bottom of NFL punters with a 41.6 gross average and a 36.7 net average.
But he has done well in clutch situations, including a gorgeous 50-yard punt with a five-second hang time late in the fourth quarter of last week’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“If this is my last home game,” Moorman said in a whisper, “to play in a game like that, the fans were great and loud – as always – and we shut the Dolphins out.”
Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus sat out the first quarter as punishment for breaking an unspecified team rule this week.
Dareus said, “It was probably one of the hardest quarters I’ve ever played,” because, well, he didn’t.
Dareus stood on the sideline in a rain coat and stocking cap until the second quarter began. He played the rest of the way, recording three tackles and a quarterback hit.
Neither Dareus nor Bills coach Doug Marrone would reveal why the punishment was warranted.
“It’s not really nothing important,” Dareus said. “It’s just a quarter. I just missed a quarter. It’s a team issue.
“You suffer the consequences, roll along with them, do the best you can.”
The Bills broke their 49-year-old sacks record Sunday. They needed two and got seven. They have 56 entering next Sunday’s finale against the New England Patriots.
Defensive end Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams reached double digits for the season, giving the Bills three players with at least 10 sacks. No team had accomplished the feat since the 2000 New Orleans Saints. The last time the Bills did it was 1995.
Mario Williams leads the Bills with 13 sacks. Kyle Williams has 10.5, and Hughes has 10.
Jim Leonhard snagged his fourth interception Sunday, tying him with fellow safeties Jairus Byrd and Aaron Williams and linebacker Kiko Alonso for the team lead. The last time the Bills had four players with at least four interceptions was 1965.
The Bills and the assembled media bid farewell to the Ralph Wilson Stadium press box, one of the NFL’s last great perches. Bills Senior Vice President of Communications Scott Berchtold delivered a champagne toast before kickoff.
The press box will be converted into suites for next season as part of $130 million in jointly funded stadium renovations as part of the October lease extension with Erie County. Media will be housed in an enclosed, corner-club-seat area.
Sunday’s Bills’ finale at New England has been flexed. The game will start at 4:25 p.m. instead of 1 p.m.