Andy Dalton Saved the Bills, and Fans Flocked to His Charity

Andy Dalton, the quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, is an unlikely hero for Buffalo Bills fans.

But Dalton’s improbable last-minute touchdown pass against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday cleared the path for Buffalo’s first playoff appearance since the 1999 season, and grateful Bills fans responded by channeling their excitement into charity. Dalton said that by Tuesday evening, 7,000 people had donated over $170,000 to his foundation since the game, enough to cover most of the charity’s goals for all of 2018.

Many of the Bills fans donated $17 as a tribute to breaking their 17-year postseason drought.

The Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation, named for the Bengals quarterback and his wife, provides money and experiences for seriously ill children and their families in Cincinnati and Fort Worth, Tex. Before the Bills fans’ support, the foundation aimed to give six families each month grants averaging $2,000, for an annual budget of about $144,000. The money helps with medical bills and needed supplies.

But after exceeding the entire year’s fund-raising goals in just two days, the foundation will be able to increase the number of grants it gives or to fund other programs, said Andrea Baker, a spokeswoman. The organization typically receives more applications for help than it’s able to provide, she said.

“This money is going to allow us to not worry about accepting those extra applications each month,” she said.

The donations began soon after the Bengals game ended, and word spread rapidly through social media.

“What better way to say thank you than to donate 17 dollars, for 17 years, to help out his foundation,” said Norman Stoerr, a 62-year-old Bills fan who was born and raised in Buffalo .

“This is beyond football,” said Peter Bellas, 56, a Bills fan in Miami who said he donated $49 in honor of the 49-yard touchdown. “The world doesn’t come to an end if the Buffalo Bills win or lose, but people’s lives are positively impacted by this in a way that’s rather meaningful.”

Bills fans aren’t quite sure what to do with their happiness, a relatively unfamiliar feeling for them. Often considered among the most tortured fan bases in the N.F.L., they may wish to skip the next paragraph.

They’d probably rather not be reminded of the 17 years of near misses and futility, including the failures to find a consistent quarterback or head coach. The team’s last playoff appearance, in 2000, ended in an improbable last-second loss on a play that became known as the Music City Miracle. And even their best run, in which they lost four straight Super Bowls in the ’90s, is best known for an infamous missed field goal.

Going into Sunday, the Bills were considered a long shot to make the playoffs. After beating Miami, they still needed the Bengals, who went into their game with a 6-9 record, to take down the Ravens.

Hope was all but gone for Bills fans as Dalton faced a fourth-and-12 with 52 seconds remaining, trailing by 27-24. But he lofted a pass downfield to Tyler Boyd, who broke a tackle on his way to a 49-yard touchdown.

Having a history of disappointments made the success all the sweeter. The unlikely chain of events had Bills fans feeling downright gleeful, as seen in videos of reactions to Dalton’s touchdown toss.The Bills and the Ravens both finished 9-7, but the Bills got the final wild card position on tiebreakers. They’ll play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild-card round on Sunday.