Sitting on the bus on the way to Soldier Field Sunday morning Bills cornerback Corey Graham could not help but think a little bit about the first half of his NFL career with the Bears.
"Obviously I played here for five years," said Graham. "The bus ride coming in here I reminisced a little bit about when I was here and things like that. But it motivated me even more to have a good game because you're playing against a team that obviously drafted you, but didn't feel you were good enough to stay here."
Graham's performance Sunday served notice that veteran cornerback is still very much a playmaker. Stepping into the starting lineup for the inactive Stephon Gilmore (groin) the Buffalo native had three tackles, three pass breakups and an interception in Buffalo's overtime win.
In the second quarter on a pass intended for TE Martellus Bennett, Graham jumped the route for the interception and promptly returned it 45 yards to the Bears' 15-yard line. One play later EJ Manuel found C.J. Spiller on a play action pass for a touchdown, and a 17-7 lead for Buffalo just before the half.
"I saw the tight end come down the seam and Jay [Cutler] was staring at him so I had an opportunity to over the top of him and make a play," Graham said.
Graham also had key pass breakups on the Bears' final drive with under a minute left in regulation and the Bills clinging to a three-point lead (20-17).
On a 2nd-and-1 at the Bills' 19-yard line Jay Cutler tried to hit Brandon Marshall on a fade to the back right corner of the end zone. Graham was expecting the pass and played it accordingly.
"Yes, I was definitely expecting it. I had inside leverage. It's funny that it worked out that way. I had that exact same play in practice and I knew I had to stay inside because they like the back shoulder fade a lot."
Graham bodied up to Marshall and was able to knock the pass from the tall receiver's outstretched hands.
On 3rd-and-1, Graham was again targeted as Cutler tried to find Santonio Holmes on a post route, but again Graham was in position to force an incompletion.
"That was just one of those situations where you get a tight split and the receiver ran an over route and you've just got to chase it down, chase it down and make a play," he said. "He had me by a step and I was chasing him down and I was fortunate that I was able to run to him and make a play."
The veteran corner was pumping his fist emphatically after his second straight pass breakup. Graham's two plays forced Chicago to settle for a field goal and the tie to push the game to overtime.
"I was excited. Not only because it was my first opportunity to put on a Bills uniform in a real game, to come back to Chicago where I played my first five years, and Jay was trying me," said Graham. "I felt like he was coming at my head out there. He was trying a lot I felt in some type of way. When quarterbacks are going to test you like that you've got to find a way to make plays."
Graham credited his coaches for his preparation and being able to step in for Gilmore without missing a beat.
"Our defensive coaches did a great job giving me reps with the [first team] and preparing me for this game," he said. "This whole week I already had the mindset that I was going to be out there playing. I was prepared and I was ready to go."
And his contributions helped deliver Buffalo's first win of the season.
Buffalo native Corey Graham agreed to terms to return to his hometown and play for the Bills.