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Top 3 things we learned from Bills-Raiders

Posted Oct 29, 2017

The Bills takeaway parade continues, White takes Cooper out of the game and 20 points proving not to be a barrier for Buffalo's offense at home.


1 – Takeaway parade continues
The Bills came into Sunday’s game leading the league in turnover margin with a plus-10. Against the Raiders, Buffalo only upped the ante. Four takeaways played a huge part in the Bills 20-point victory over Oakland.

“Those tend to come in bunches sometimes,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “We’re doing a really good job in both special teams and defensively.”

Matt Milano got the takeaway string started on Sunday. Leonard Johnson stepped up and delivered a hard hit on DeAndre Washington right after making a reception out of the backfield and jarred the ball loose.

Milano took it out of mid-air and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown to break a 7-7 tie right before the half.

When Buffalo’s offense stalled on their first drive of the second half, the punt coverage unit forced a fumble. This time it was Milano forcing the fumble on punt returner Jalen Richard. Mike Tolbert recovered at the Oakland 14, and the Bills turned it into a field goal.

“It just goes back to the way we practice,” said Milano of the turnover string. “Coach (Leslie) Frazier and all of our coaches do a great job of really putting us in positions and emphasizing that throughout the week.”

On the very next Raiders possession, Preston Brown tipped a pass over the middle intended for Michael Crabtree up in the air and Micah Hyde ran under it for his fifth interception this season.

Buffalo’s offense came on and again produced a field goal drive to put the Bills ahead 20-7.

Late in the game Trae Elston posted his first career interception to seal the game in the waning moments, which the Bills had in hand up 20 points (34-14).

Buffalo has now posted three or more takeaways in four consecutive games for the first time since a similar stretch that bridged the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

“That’s what we preach each and every day,” said Tre’Davious White. “Win the turnover differential and we’ve got a chance to be in each and every game we play in.”  

The Bills are now an astounding plus-14 in turnover margin, since their offense did not commit a turnover themselves.

“On the other side of the ball, the respect for the football that we have when we secure the ball and cover it up when we need to cover it up,” McDermott said. “I think that goes a long way.”

2 – White clamps down on Cooper
Last week he had 11 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns in a dramatic Week 7 win, and heading into Sunday he’d be facing a rookie cornerback in Tre’Davious White and a backup in Shareece Wright.

It wouldn’t have been outlandish to think that Amari Cooper could have another big day against a Bills secondary missing a starting corner in E.J. Gaines and safety in Jordan Poyer.

On the opening drive Buffalo’s defense kept White and Wright on their assigned sides of the field. Oakland drove 81 yards on 13 plays and Cooper had a catch for 13 yards and ran an end around for another four. It was then that the defensive staff decided to have White follow Cooper for the remainder of the game.

“There were some things and we made some adjustments because they had some success on the first drive,” said head coach Sean McDermott of putting White on Cooper. “He did a good job. That’s a Pro Bowl receiver. A good matchup for Tre’ and a good challenge for any corner in this league.”

White was told on Tuesday that the possibility existed in the game plan for him to follow Cooper for most of the game.

“That’s what I want,” said White. “I’m a competitor, so I want to go against the best each and every week. The coaches know that. They thought it would be a good idea to shadow him.”

Good idea indeed.

Though White certainly respected Cooper’s abilities, calling him the most refined route runner he’s ever played against going back to their college days together in the SEC, he wasn’t awed by Cooper’s playmaking ability.

“I think that familiarity certainly helps,” said McDermott.

After the switch was made to have White follow Cooper, the Pro Bowl receiver went quiet.

White’s coverage was so consistent that Derek Carr only targeted Cooper once the remainder of the first half when he was lined up outside. It became such a problem that Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing moved Cooper into the slot just to try to get the ball in his hands.

Even there, Leonard Johnson proved a tough cover as well, allowing just a four-yard catch in the second quarter.

“Those guys have an electrifying offense and for us to come out and rush and cover the way we did, it was something special,” said Johnson.

White’s best play in the first half came on a throw down the sideline that he deftly knocked away for an incompletion.

Come the second half Cooper was targeted seven more times, with six coming when he was lined up as an outside receiver. White held him without a catch until there were 12 minutes left in the game and the Bills up 20 (27-7).

By this time the Bills had backed off in terms of aggressiveness, willing to give up yards in exchange for time on the clock. Even so Cooper would make just a pair of receptions on White for 27 yards and one catch against Johnson in the slot for four yards.

Still, White, though he wasn’t credited with a pass breakup was enough of a nuisance on a 4th-and-3 pass intended for Cooper that it led to an incompletion and a turnover on downs.

“I knew they were in spread so the ball was coming out quick,” he said. “I just tried to get in the way and make a play for the team.”

The final time Carr targeted Cooper, White knew he had inside help and played outside leverage on the receiver. Safety Trae Elston was his inside help and picked off the last pass intended for Cooper for an interception.

White’s stat line (3 tackles, 1 pass defensed) said less about the game he had than perhaps Cooper’s final stat line. Five receptions for 48 yards.

3 – Twenty points or more usually the score
As much as the Bills can attribute their 5-2 record this season to their takeaway prowess, they do have to score points for a chance to win games. At home, where the Bills are still unbeaten this season, points haven’t been hard to come by.

Sunday’s 34-point outburst, thanks in part to the defense (Milano fumble return), made it 13 consecutive home games in which the Bills have scored 20 points or more.

That extends a team record and is the longest active streak in the NFL since New Orleans’ 13-game streak from October 4, 2015 – November 27, 2016.

Coach McDermott feels a key to their offensive success has been the give and take between the players and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison as the game is unfolding.

“I like the adjustments we made, Rick Dennison and the offensive staff,” said McDermott. “The communication was great on the sideline with the players coming off the field and sharing with the coaching staff what they were seeing and vice versa, so the adjustments there were key.

“That communication will be big for us going forward. So I thought we had some key drives when we needed it and I like how we ran the football late in the game. That was important.”

On the road points have proven harder to come by. They’ve only eclipsed 20 points in a road game once this season, the win at Atlanta in Week 4. They’ll look to crack the 20-point barrier again on Thursday night in New York against the Jets.

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