Buffalo's secondary has talked time and again about being the best defensive backfield in the league. Coming off a season in which the Bills defense compiled the second highest interception total in the league, the men on the back end want more. If the last three games of the preseason are any indication, they could be in midseason form sooner rather than later.
In their preseason finale cornerback Drayton Florence picked off a Drew Stafford pass intended for Calvin Johnson and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage. It was the third straight game in which a Bills cornerback took an interception back for a score.
"We were playing cover 2 and I just tried to bait him a little bit playing 10 yards off, still knowing I had the flat responsibility. Calvin ran the hitch and he threw it and I jumped it," said Florence. "It felt great. I needed this. I wanted to end the preseason on a good note. It's good to go into the regular season knowing I can make plays like that."
In Week 2 of the preseason, Terrence McGee returned a Peyton Manning pass 78 yards for a touchdown in the Bills 34-21 win over Indianapolis. Against the Bengals in Week 3 Reggie Corner took a Jordan Palmer offering back 20 yards to pay dirt.
"It always feels good when the defense scores, and that's three games we've scored like that each time," said Terrence McGee. "It definitely helps out the whole team."
It also continues to keep the men in the secondary competitive with one another. As much as they want to make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, Buffalo's defensive backs also want to keep pace with each other in the takeaway department.
"That's what is good about our secondary here. Everybody is competing not only for a job, but just competing to be the best corner or to be the best safety," said Florence. "And I think that's making everybody better. I hope I can get two more (interceptions) in a row to start the season off."
The interceptions became contagious last season when the Bills racked up a total of 28 interceptions, 22 of which came from the defensive backs. In the recently concluded preseason Buffalo's secondary did it largely without the help of the team's top interceptor a year ago, Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd.
Byrd missed the last three games of the preseason with a non-football injury, but head coach Chan Gailey is cautiously optimistic that his free safety will be ready for the regular season opener.
With the full lineup from last season expected to return and the men on the back end already making big plays the players believe they're building the right kind of momentum heading into the 16-game slate.
"Guys are just ready to get the season rolling," said Florence. "We've got a week to prepare for Miami, which is going to be a great opponent to come in and open the season up. And I'm just happy to be out there competing with these guys in the secondary."
Despite their brimming confidence the Buffalo secondary knows come the regular season it's a whole different ball game.
"We definitely feel ready," said McGee. "Feeling ready and being ready are two different things though, so when we get out there next week and we're out there for the full game we'll know where we stand after the first game.
"In the preseason you get a good feel for things, but you're not really playing the whole game. We're going to be in there for four quarters and we'll see if we're really ready."
After the preview they provided in the preseason the odds are good they'll be ready to perform.