The Cincinnati Bengals upset the apple cart at Highmark Stadium, dismantling the Bills and their Super Bowl aspirations.
Then Eli Apple turned rotten.
Apple, a Bengals cornerback who relishes the villain role, derided Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs in a tweet on Monday evening. It may have included a veiled shot at Damar Hamlin.
Diggs, who hadn’t publicly spoken since the Bills were bounced from the playoffs, fired off three Tweets in a two-minute span:
- “Want me to be okay with losing ? Nah.”
- “Want me to be okay with our level of play when it’s not up to the standard ? Nah”
- “It’s easy to criticize my reaction more than the result.”
“Cancun on 3,” Apple quote-tweeted, along with an emoji making heart hands, which has been Damar Hamlin’s signature salute as the football world has rallied around him. Hamlin wears No. 3 and “Play for 3” emerged as the Bills’ motto.
Apple didn’t stop poking fun at Diggs and the Bills there. He sent more than 20 retweets, including: a screengrab of a Bills fan giving him the middle finger; videos portraying Josh Allen a fake in big games who couldn’t put up more than 10 points; a video implying Diggs and Allen are garbage; a meme ridiculing Diggs for watching opposing teams celebrate; a clip from the game of Apple gesturing while Diggs was on a knee being tended to by trainers; an animation of Apple slapping cutouts of the heads of Josh Allen, Gabe Davis, Stefon Diggs, Sean McDermott and a Buffalo wing.
“Someone get them in couples therapy,” Apple tweeted above a video of a visibly frustrated Diggs on the sideline late in the loss to the Bengals. “I’ll pay on God.” Apple tagged Allen and Diggs in the tweet.
The CBS broadcast showed a demonstrative Diggs talking in the direction of Allen and a Bills staff member late in the game. Allen never looked up from his tablet on the bench.
Diggs received criticism for darting out of Highmark Stadium immediately after 27-10 loss. Running back Duke Johnson chased down Diggs, who left the locker room before head coach Sean McDermott addressed the team, and persuaded the star wide receiver to briefly return. Diggs wasn’t available to the media on Sunday or Monday.
“He’s frustrated like we all are,” McDermott told reporters on locker cleanout day. “He was in today. He and I spoke, and I’ll leave it at that.” McDermott lauded Diggs’ competitiveness and passion that the team loves.
Apple knocked down a pass in the end zone as the Bills went for it on fourth-and-6 from their 20-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. He celebrated by running along the Bills sideline wagging a finger and then continued gesticulating, dancing, and lifting his arms to bask in the victory.
Apple conducted postgame interviews leaning against a wall and smoking a cigar in the locker room.
“We are just the greatest,” Apple said.
Hamlin attended the divisional round game with his mother and younger brother less than three weeks after going into cardiac arrest and being resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati. The heart hands were included in nearly all of his Twitter and Instagram posts amid his recovery from hospital beds in Cincinnati and Buffalo.
Bills players honored Hamlin with No. 3 patches on their jerseys and hats, and repeatedly cupped their hands into a heart shape to celebrate touchdowns in their first game after Hamlin’s medical emergency. Hamlin’s heart-shape signal is pervasive in Buffalo, appearing on ice sculptures, murals, and T-shirts.
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