A return for Terrence McGee meant a much different thing for the cornerback earlier in his career. The former Pro Bowl kick returner has a singular role as a cornerback now, but that role has even been compromised by injury. On Sunday against the Giants, McGee showed he still has starting caliber cover skills.
In his return to the lineup since the season opener at Kansas City, McGee was seemingly everywhere on the field registering a game-high 11 tackles and a pair of pass breakups in Buffalo's narrow 27-24 loss.
Coming out of training camp McGee had earned his familiar starting left cornerback role. The veteran cornerback was eager to make up for the previous two seasons when injury kept him off the field an extended amount of time. But on the first play from scrimmage against the Chiefs he severely pulled his hamstring and would go on to miss the next four games.
McGee was active for Buffalo's Week 5 game against Philadelphia, but never took the field as the Bills had him dressed only in the event of an injury at cornerback. Going into Sunday's game McGee wasn't sure how extensive his role would be.
Would he man the left cornerback position or would the staff only have him play nickel corner and ramp up his workload steadily in the weeks to come?
Buffalo's coaching staff ultimately gave McGee the start and he looked up to the task from the very beginning. On the first play from scrimmage McGee made the tackle on Ahmad Bradshaw as his trademark run support was on display early. A few plays later on that opening series he teamed with Nick Barnett on a third down stop holding Bradshaw to one-yard gain on a 3rd-and-2 to force an early punt.
A couple of series later McGee would post a tackle for loss as he dropped Bradshaw for a loss of one as he tried to get around the right corner of the Giants offensive formation.
The rest of McGee's performance came largely in pass coverage where the longest gain he surrendered went for 15 yards on a day where the Giants' had their share of big plays. Up 24-17 late in the third quarter the Giants looked to have a big play on McGee that could've possibly put the game out of reach.
Eli Manning went up top to Mario Manningham on a deep post pattern for what looked like a 37-yard touchdown play, but McGee was able to break up the play as he fell to the turf with the Giants receiver.
"I was doing my best to stay up top," McGee said. "He got past me a little bit so when I saw the ball come down I knew where he had to catch that I might have a chance to get my arm in there. So as soon as he caught it I was able to stick my arm in there and going down I was able to rake it and luckily the ball bounced out because he had it in his hands."
The play was ruled incomplete on the field, but was challenged by Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. The play was ultimately upheld after review.
With the game tied at 24 and just under eight minutes remaining, McGee would add in one more third down stop on Bradshaw holding him eight yards short of the first down marker to get the ball back for the offense. Unfortunately that ensuing possession for Buffalo's offense would end with Ryan Fitzpatrick's second interception in the game.
"They gave us the ball back and they gave us opportunities," said Fitzpatrick of McGee and the defense. "We had a couple of opportunities there. It was the perfect day for the defense getting us the ball back and we were going to be able to go and it'd be a good team victory if we were able to score again. It just didn't work out that way."
Though the loss offered little in reward for McGee's efforts, Buffalo's defensive staff has to be encouraged by the veteran cornerback's performance coming off the injury.