The Buffalo Bills know their next opponent is the one who knocked them out of an opportunity to win the Super Bowl last season. They understand how talented the Kansas City Chiefs are and know what a win would mean for the psyche of the team and community. With the added attention of this Sunday's nationally televised game, head coach Sean McDermott is aiming to keep his team's preparation consistent with previous four weeks of the season. And, oddly enough, McDermott learned about the importance of consistency from the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
"That was big for me as a young coach," McDermott said of the lessons he learned from Andy Reid when the two were on the same staff in Philadelphia. "I remember a few of those occasions when we were in maybe a little bit of a dip, and Andy's consistency brought us out of that. And then we went on to bigger, better things of course for many years there. His leadership and his examples are one of the things I learned from that consistency standpoint."
McDermott sets an example for his staff and players by preparing for their next opponent the same way they did it the week before. This means having the same practice schedule, meeting schedule, meal schedule and more. Even though it's their first night game of the season, they will try to stay as close to their normal schedule as possible. By setting this example, players know what's expected of them each week.
"Consistency is something that is important for our success down the road," McDermott added. "And consistency is usually bred by consistent preparation. So that's what I'm looking for this week is for us to get back and prepare with the work."
Just like every week, Buffalo spent Monday by closing the chapter on their last opponent. This entails re-watching the game, correcting mistakes and learning from it. Tuesday is their weekly players' day off and Wednesday will be Buffalo's first practice of Chiefs Week.
"This is a good team with good players and good coaches, like it is every week in this league," Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. "We're starting back over. You put this one to bed, win or lose. You go through the things that you need to go through and try to correct the things you can correct and improve on the things you can improve. And then you start it again, right about now. So that's kind of where we're at in the week."
McDermott has been known for his consistent nature since he's gotten to Buffalo. And he's not going to change that just because the Chiefs are on the schedule this Sunday and the team will be in the national spotlight on Sunday Night Football.
Star Lotulelei has been a "tremendous help" to start the season
The return of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been a huge bright spot on Buffalo's defensive line to start the season. Lotulelei has 2.0 sacks in the last two games, which ties for the most on the team with rookie defensive end Greg Rousseau.
It doesn't matter if it's coming from Sean McDermott, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier or any defensive player because everyone agrees Lotulelei, who opted out of the 2020 season, has helped the defensive line step their game up.
"He's helped us tremendously up front and as a defense, just bringing a presence about him that we were missing," Frazier said. "I'll be frank with you -- we missed that. It's great to have him back."
His two sacks to start the 2021 season have already tied his sack total from 2019. And his play against the Texans was worth pointing out to the defense.
"I showed the guys a clip today of Star from the game," Frazier shared. "He was in a one-on-one situation with the opposing team's guard. He just destroyed the guy and then he stood up and had a few words for him as well.
"Just that whole attitude shift that he brings along with his play. He's just a physical presence, big, powerful man who is a very intelligent football player, as well."
And it's not just his play on the field that is worth pointing out, Frazier also thinks he does a great job leading the younger players for a guy who has a quiet demeanor.
"He'll say something that might help that player," Frazier shared. "Like, if you put your left hand down instead of your right or if you bring your right leg back a little bit and push your left leg this direction, things like that to give them some tips. Some things that might help that player perform a little bit better or make a play. Coming from a guy who has achieved some of the things that he's achieved in this league, that goes a long way."
There are many reasons why Buffalo's defensive line has looked different from last year and Lotulelei is near the top of the list as to why it has improved so much.
The offensive line shuffle
Buffalo's offensive line looked a little different on Sunday and there's many things that factored into the changes up front. Guard Jon Feliciano did not play because he is recovering from a concussion, so Ike Boettger replaced him at left guard. Daryl Williams, who has played right tackle in the past, moved inside to play right guard and rookie Spencer Brown made his first career start at right tackle.
While there could be some shifting up front this Sunday depending on who's healthy, Sean McDermott was pleased with how the front five played and likes those players going forward.
"I liked some of what I saw yesterday in the game, and we just have to continue to get better," McDermott said. "So, as we sit here today, I expect that to continue."
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll wants to see improvement up front each week regardless of who is playing.
"We're just going to grind it out here with the guys we got and try to get better," Daboll added. "You're always evaluating, regardless of if it's the five guys you're going with or the receivers, you're always evaluating every week to see how you can improve. Those five guys did a good job, we still got a lot of things to clean up."
After evaluating the film, McDermott thinks Brown helped the run game and has a lot to build on from his first start.
"As a rookie in his first start, there's still a lot of work there," McDermott said. "That growth mindset is important that he takes that into this week and builds on last week's performance. That being said, I thought he showed poise. I thought he showed physical and mental toughness. I thought he gave us a little boost there on some of the runs we were trying to get done."
Matt Milano, Jordan Poyer, Taron Johnson injury update
The health of the Bills will be an important factor to Sunday's game. Linebacker Matt Milano came out of the game against Houston with a hamstring injury and never returned. The defense was also without safety Jordan Poyer (ankle) and cornerback Taron Johnson (groin).
Sean McDermott announced that all three players are day-to-day when he spoke to the media on Monday afternoon.
"All these injuries are individual cases so you have to take them on an individual basis because of the way that they are," McDermott said. "And then just generally speaking, we're never going to put a player out there that can potentially hurt himself or worse, can't defend himself.
"So we err on that side first and foremost of player safety, and then we take it from there. That's where I trust our medical staff."
Milano will be a valuable piece to the defense on Sunday when it comes to limiting Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Leslie Frazier said if Milano can't go, they may have to change some things.
"He's a vital part of what we do on defense," Frazier shared. "We'd love to have him, but if we don't have him, we've got some other guys that will step in and do a good job for us as well. May alter some things here and there, but at the end of the day, we'll find a way to make it work."