1 - The three plays that could've changed Bills’ season
NFL teams play thousands of snaps over the course of a season.
Though individual plays often go to forgotten due to their innumerable nature, entire seasons can sometimes come down to one snap. Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander can think of three plays that decided the Bills’ 2018 season, that separated the 6-10 team from playoff contention.
“It’s three realistic plays,” Alexander said during a recent appearance on One Bills Live. “[Week 13 vs.] Miami, touchdown in the end zone that we could have easily caught. I look at the [Week 14] Jets game, goal line stand, we could have made that tackle. We had guys in place, just a little bit better technique. Just a little bit more effort here and there and you end up winning that battle. Then the Houston game, which really changed the trajectory of [their] season and ours, strip sack fumble, ball is laying on there, who wants it more? Those are three plays easily that can switch.
“When I step back and look at it and kind of put it together, [I] really see that we were three plays from being 9-7.”
The fact that the team’s 2018 season came down to three plays is what motivated the 35-year-old Alexander to ink a one-year extension with the Bills. The veteran feels as though Buffalo’s young foundation will mature in the offseason, setting the team up for a breakout 2019 campaign.
“Obviously we have a huge core of youth players on this team right now,” Alexander said. “I think we’re in a position to really do something special next year.
“Josh [Allen] really started to mature in a lot of different ways once he got healthy. Tremaine Edmunds, the same thing toward the end of the season, could really see his growth. We have some nucleus guys, Zay Jones, Robert Foster is another guy that’s really stepped up. I think we’re going to be in a position next year, along with our defensive guys that are coming back, to really make some noise.”
2 - Lorenzo Alexander led LBs in QB pressures in 2018
Rarely will you see an NFL player playing some of his best football at the age of 35.
In a league in which young superstars emerge each and every year, wily veterans often don’t receive the love and notoriety that they deserve. That’s why it’s always refreshing to see a player in their mid-30s turn in a breakout campaign - which is exactly what Lorenzo Alexander did in the 2018 season.
The Buffalo linebacker finished the 2018 campaign with 74 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and two interceptions. Buffalo’s coaching staff made the most of Alexander’s versatility throughout the season, lining him up at a number of different positions across the front seven. He took snaps at strongside linebacker, weakside linebacker, and defensive tackle last season - all of this while also playing a key role on special teams.
Though the Bills’ brass used Alexander in a variety of ways last season, the plays in which Alexander took part in often ended in the same way - with the veteran creating pressure on the quarterback. According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander totaled 38 quarterback pressures last season, the most amongst all linebackers.
Alexander was part of a Buffalo pass rush that was incredibly productive in the 2018 season. Defensive end Jerry Hughes finished the campaign with a pressure rate of 19.7 percent, according to PFF, the highest percentage amongst all edge defenders.
Buffalo fans will be fortunate enough to watch the 35-year-old Alexander play for at least one more season. He recently signed a one-year extension with the Bills.
3 - These former Bills are headed to Super Bowl LIII
Two teams have punched their tickets to Super Bowl LIII after what can best be described as a controversial weekend of Conference Championship football.
The Sean McVay-led Los Angeles Rams will represent the NFC in this year’s championship contest. They'll face off against the Bill Belichick-coached New England Patriots, who are set to partake in their third consecutive Super Bowl.
If the grand, extravagant nature of the Super Bowl isn’t enough to entice you to tune in, perhaps the fact that a few former Bills will participate in the event will be. Five former Buffalo players - and one former Bills head coach - are headed to Super Bowl LIII.
Three players currently on New England’s roster have spent time with the Bills in the past. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore got his start in Buffalo before signing with New England in the 2017 offseason. Wide receiver Chris Hogan and linebacker Ramon Humber were journeymen before arriving in Buffalo, both playing for three teams before signing with the Bills. Neither Hogan nor Humber were able to carve out significant roles for themselves in Buffalo, ultimately signing with the Pats in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Two former Bills currently play rather significant roles in Los Angeles. Robert Woods, whom the Bills selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, signed with his hometown-Rams in 2017. He’s coming off the first 1,000-receiving yard season of his career. Nickell Robey-Coleman signed with the Bills after going undrafted in 2013, playing four seasons in Buffalo before following Woods to Los Angeles in 2017.
Buffalo fans will also see a familiar face on the sideline while watching the Super Bowl. Wade Phillips, who was on the Bills’ coaching staff from 1995-2000, currently serves as the Rams’ defensive coordinator.