The Bills leaned into two specific personnel groupings in Thursday's game against the Buccaneers, and both decisions played a key role in the 24-18 win.
Poyer in dime
Seven plays into the game, Buffalo's defense came out in a dime package (six defensive backs) on a 3rd & 15 play. It's not unusual for the Bills to deploy this personnel group in passing situations but out of the ordinary on this play was safety Jordan Poyer playing in the second level of the defense next to LB Terrel Bernard.
"We moved him into the dime position on third and sometimes second down," Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. "You use the resources you have, it's a position Jordan has played for us before and he's tough."
Poyer's first play in the dime look had him occupying the underneath zone short of the sticks as opposed to playing the deep half of the field. Poyer quickly saw Bucs QB Baker Mayfield throwing short to TE Cade Otton and the safety broke toward Otton to force an incompletion.
"The matchup that he gives us from that position against the back or whomever he's assigned to as a coverage person," Bills defensive line coach Eric Washington said of the benefits of Poyer's role.
Buffalo utilized Poyer in the dime package throughout Thursday's win, allowing safety Taylor Rapp to see the field more often. Rapp was on the field for 38% of the Bills' defensive snaps against Tampa Bay, his second-highest snap share of the season. The only time previously Rapp had been utilized more was when he started in place of Poyer in Week 4 due to a knee injury.
"It's something that we had in the works now for a couple of weeks," Bills defensive line coach Eric Washington said. "When Jordan does (that) for us, he gets an opportunity to utilize his skills as a blitzer. Because we blitz him from the safety position. He's excellent as a blitzer, as a fifth rusher."
After missing the team's Miami win, Poyer has played every defensive snap since returning in Week 5. The coaching staff believes the veteran safety is settling into a grove as the team nears the midway point of the season.
"Seems like he's a little bit rejuvenated," McDermott said. "He's made some big plays for us the last two games and I'm happy for him. It's fun to watch."
Shakir in the slot
His role has slowly grown over the course of the season but Thursday's win saw Khalil Shakir truly shine for the Bills offense. The second-year player saw 65% of the snaps against the Bucs, by far his highest of the season, and did his damage running routes as the team's primary slot WR.
Shakir had 69 of his career-high 92 receiving yards on the Bills first two drives. He was also the team's leading receiver on the night. McDermott complimented Shakir's ability to rack up yards after the catch which helped the Bills get into field goal range on the opening drive.
"Starting with Shakir's catch and run just on a simple outlet throw from Josh. I thought he did a good job. That was a huge play and I think that then becomes infectious, right, to get the ball out and get the ball in the hands of the playmakers and let them do their thing," McDermott said.
Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said the team came into the game with a conscious effort to go up-tempo more often and spread the ball around. Getting Shakir involved immediately fit right into that mindset as he operates well in space and in the quick passing game.
"He's a player that's got a lot of flexibility," Dorsey said. "Whether it's inside and then he's made a lot of plays for us outside as well. He's smart, he's tough, he's dependable."
Shakir had 14 receptions over his first 20 games as a Bill. He has 10 catches and 127 yards over the last two weeks.
After working through some struggles to begin games the last few weeks, Dorsey said one of the most important parts of the 'TNF' win was finding offensive momentum on the first handful of drives.
"I think the mental kind of toughness of our group that has shown up the past few weeks," Dorsey said, "it really showed yesterday as well to start the game."
See the best game photos from the Bills and Buccaneers at Highmark Stadium. This gallery is presented by Gabe's Collision.