Bills Today: Redemption for the secondary

Posted Nov 21, 2016

Buffalo's secondary entered Sunday's game under much scrutiny, but they performed well in the hard fought win over Cincinnati.

1 - Redemption for the secondary
Many eyebrows were raised earlier in the week when Rex Ryan announced that Ronald Darby would be competing for his starting cornerback job against veteran Corey White and that Nickel Robey-Coleman would lose a majority of his playing time at the nickel position to rookie Kevon Seymour.

The moves came as a result of the secondary’s poor execution against deep passes in addition to trouble covering the opposition’s taller targets in previous games.

Needless to say, the secondary redeemed itself on Sunday.

Darby ended up starting and seeing the most action, and helped the Bills hold Andy Dalton and Cincy’s receivers in check.

The Bengals longest pass play went for 21 yards to Tyler Eifert. The Bills, who had given up three touchdowns to tight ends over the two previous games, held Eifert to three catches and 37 yards.

Even more importantly for the Bills is that they were finally able to force turnovers. Dalton only had four interceptions coming into the game, but was picked off twice by Stephon Gilmore. Seymour almost had another when he jumped a route in the second quarter and had the ball go off of his fingertips.

Gilmore’s takeaways were the first from Buffalo’s defense since Robey-Coleman had two interceptions in Week 5.

Across the board, the Bills know how big it was to get the secondary back on track for the stretch run.

“Guys went out there and made more plays and that’s what it’s about,” safety Corey Graham said. “We play defensive back. You either make it or you miss it. It’s a game of inches and unfortunately, the last few games, a lot of those balls went their way. And that’s how it goes. (Sunday) a lot of them went our way. We just have to continue to play, stay together and grind it out and we should be all right.”

The Bills caught a huge break when A.J. Green suffered a hamstring injury on the game’s first drive and did not return. Buffalo was able to successfully change up their game plan, and held the Bengals to only one first down in the second half until the game’s final drive.

“Once he came out of the game we went into our regular coverages,” Gilmore said. “We were going to double him a little bit throughout the game, so it did change our game plan. We mixed it up. We were running a little bit more zone in the second half and our defensive line got to the quarterback.”

Nobody wanted to see the secondary succeed more than Ryan himself. After Gilmore’s first interception that he took all the way back to the Cincinnati three-yard line, Ryan ran all the way down the field to greet his cornerback.

“When the head coach runs all the way down to the end zone and shakes your hand, that gives you a great feeling,” Gilmore said. “That makes you want to go out there and keep fighting for him.”


2 - Injury update
On Sunday, Buffalo’s offense took a major hit. It’s most productive wideout, Robert Woods suffered a knee injury and left Paul Brown Stadium on crutches. Feature back LeSean McCoy left a short time later with a dislocated thumb and didn’t return.

For head coach Rex Ryan it took some of the enjoyment out of the hard fought win over Cincinnati.

“I feel deflated a little bit about the injuries because I know what this team could do,” said Ryan. “If we’re healthy, we’re going to be pretty tough. That’s what it takes, but right now I feel great. We needed a win desperately. We’ve given away some games like this this year and it feels good to be on this end of it. But we will see where we go from here. I know our guys are 100 percent committed to each other, and that’s encouraging for me.”

Ryan provided some detail regarding McCoy’s thumb injury.

“McCoy with a thumb, they couldn’t pop the thumb back in, so that’s where he is,” said Ryan.

The dislocated thumb is something that isn’t expected to keep McCoy out of the lineup moving forward. Rex Ryan is expected to have more details in his Monday afternoon press conference on McCoy and Woods, who will be re-evaluated Monday.

Safety Robert Blanton left the game on the second-to-last play with a foot injury. The severity of his injury was not known since it happened so late in the game.  

3 - AFC playoff picture
Buffalo knew that Sunday’s game against the Bengals was essentially a must-win game based on where the team currently sits in the standings. To have a realistic chance at the playoffs, the Bills knows they had to win six of its remaining seven games coming off the bye

Sunday’s win was especially big because it came against a conference foe. Buffalo’s final six matchups are all against AFC teams; the Bengals gave the Bills just their second conference win on the season, the first coming against the Patriots in Week 4.

The Bills sit 10th in the AFC standings, with the same record as both Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. Buffalo loses the tiebreaker against either of those teams based on win percentage in conference games.

After next week’s game against Jacksonville, the Bills will be facing a team that they need to leapfrog to get into the postseason in three of the following four games.

The two teams that currently occupy the wild card positions are Denver and Kansas City. The Chiefs suffered a surprising loss at home on Sunday against Tampa Bay to give Oakland sole possession of first place in the AFC West heading into the Raiders’ Monday Night tilt.

The good news for Buffalo is that Kansas City and Denver have to play each other twice over the season’s final six weeks. The Bills take on the Raiders in Oakland in Week 13. The Raiders also have matchups against the Chiefs and Broncos down the stretch.

The Bills then host the 5-5 Steelers in Week 14 and the surprising 6-4 Dolphins in Week 16. The Dolphins have won four straight, while the Steelers have sputtered. Sprinkled in between those games against contending teams are contests against the Browns and a finale game against the Jets.

Last season the two AFC Wild Card teams were the Chiefs and Steelers. Kansas City finished 11-5 and Pittsburgh went 10-6.