The Buffalo Bills defense had been awful in the three previous weeks. Against the New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, and Los Angeles Chargers the defense was run over and sliced through in the passing game. On Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, they were able to lock down the running game and pressure quarterback Alex Smith into bad throws.
How did they do it? Here’s what they had to say after the game.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier Monday
Q: Given how the previous three weeks went and then to see this performance, have you allowed yourself to step away from the ledge a bit?
A: Well, you know, as you and I both know, in the NFL, it’s always week-to-week and it’s so different from week-to-week. You just look around the league at how quickly things can shift and turn. Fortunately for us, we were able to get it done yesterday and now we have a big-time opponent coming to our place. You shift and you move on to the next opponent.
Q: What more can you tell us about what you changed at the linebackers at the snap that positively affected the running game by the run defense?
A: We just tried to work a little more intentionally on putting the eyes in the right places and understanding the importance of running through your gaps, like we were doing earlier in the season and not letting some of the movement by the offenses create hesitation. When we got back to that, it paid off for us yesterday. Hopefully, going forward, we can continue that and just grow from there.
Q: How fair would it be to say that before this game, the linebackers were going more laterally at the snap as opposed to downhill?
A: Yeah, we had some of that. We had been such a downhill team early in the season. For whatever reason, we started going sideways a little bit more but we got back to what we’ve been good at in the past yesterday, and so we’ve got to build on that. It’s on tape again and we had shown some clips previously when we were more downhill as backers and our guys did that yesterday and it made a difference.
Q: Coach, did you play more press yesterday than normal?
A: I wouldn’t say it was any more than normal. We had it mixed in there on occasion, but I don’t know if it was more than normal, though.
Q: Does that maybe counteract a little bit of their stream game and the line? Make sure you’re there at the line when those guys catch it, because they’re so good at space?
A: Well, that was part of the strategy. They do a great job with their wide receiver screens outside the core that you need to be closer to the line of scrimmage to have the chance to defend it. They got one against us but for the most part, we defended it pretty well throughout the day.
Q: Lorenzo [Alexander] was inside, he was outside, rushing the passer or dropping, usually kind of all over the place, Coach. What went into that thinking this week?
A: We need to be able to, you mentioned earlier about the screen game, we needed to be able to have some flexibility with one of our rushes where you add to the rush, but sometimes you drop it. Sometimes, you’re coming off the edge, but sometimes you’re spying the quarterback because this guy’s – he’s unique with his scrambling abilities. The one guy on our defensive line that had those capabilities and was most apt to be able to do that was Lorenzo, so we wanted to be able to utilize his talents in that way and he played a heck of a game for us. He did a terrific job and probably as instrumental in our third down defense being as successful as it was yesterday was his play. He did a lot of things with his movement, with his rush [and] his dropping coverage. That kind of created some confusion for their offense line and I’d venture to say even their quarterback at times. He did a heck of a job for us, so it was a good job by him.
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander on Sunday
Q: What was the defense’s approach for containing QB Alex Smith?
A: I think Coach (Leslie) Frazier had a great gameplan on him to make him hold the ball, where he had to hold it, pump and really didn’t have any quick throws out of his hands. I was able to get off blocks and get a sack, especially on mine, which was a coverage sack. He was back there scrambling and trying to make a play with his legs. That gave me time to get off my block and run him down.
Q: Were you used more in the pass rush today than last week?
A: Yeah. Last week Sean (McDermott) asked me what some of my strengths were and he wanted to implement that. So in nickel coverages, I didn’t even play today. I’m an edge guy. I can play off the ball, but my strengths are playing on the edge like in a 3-4 system and rushing the passer. I think they tried to play to that today and allow me to use some of my ability to roam off the ball, act like I’m coming, drop in, blitzing sometimes. It was fun for me to go out there and relish in that role for this week. But next week it could be totally different.
Cornerback Tre’Davious White on Sunday
Q: Just walk us through the last play. What did you see and how did it happen?
A: It was just route recognition. Coach (Gill) Byrd put us in great positions to make plays. We’ve been watching film and formations all week. I saw that formation three or four times and he [Tyreek Hill] ran that route, but he [Alex Smith] didn’t throw it. I knew at crunch time 10 [Hill] was his guy. I knew he [Smith] was going to go to him [Hill], so I just jumped it.
Q: Speaking of Hill, he was a guy they targeted a lot. But, you guys didn’t really let him go off. What was the key to holding him down?
A: [We] just limited the big plays. A guy like him, they want to get him the ball in space and get him over the top. We did a great job of keeping him in front of us. Everybody was running to him and tackling him as a group.
Q: What was the difference overall? This was a performance similar to what we saw earlier in the season and not the past three games.
A: We’ve got a lot of guys, in this locker room, who are mentally tough. We’re sticking together. I feel like Coach McDermott does a great job of telling us that we want to play our best in November and December. I feel like we’re going to go up at the right time and I feel like this is the right time.
Q: I know you’re a confident group. But, what does snapping this three-game skid do for you guys?
A: It’s big. Any time you can get a win in this league, it’s big. To get it on the road in a stadium like this against a team like that, it’s a big deal. I feel like this is going to get our momentum going.
Linebacker Matt Milano on Sunday
Q: How did you hold that explosive offense to 10 points today?
A: We had good week of practice. Everybody was locked in. We just came out here and executed.
Q: Ten is their guy, 87 is their guy, but it looked like neither of them really went off even though they were targeted. How much concentration was focused on Hill and Kelce?
A: We definitely concentrated on them. We game planned them a little bit during the week. Like I said, we came out here, made some plays, and things started to rolling in favor of us. So, it was good.
Q: It seems like the defense you guys had for the first month and a half of the season got lost for a while.
A: It got lost, but it’s back. We’re back.
Safety Micah Hyde on Sunday
Q: What did you think about the defense today?
A: We’ve gave up a few long gains. But, we just had to stay over the top of them. They get most of their scores on big plays. And, if we limit them from doing that, that’s the result of the game. But, you’ve got to give it to the whole defense today, they did an awesome job of getting to the rock and tackling. Those tackles that we were missing in the past, didn’t happen today.
Q: The defense you guys played through the first six weeks got lost for a while.
A: Exactly. We knew what we had to do. Our confidence was always there. We weren’t down. We gave up a lot of points in the previous three games. We knew that coming in. But, in our preparation, we stuck to the same stuff. We knew what we had to do. We kept it basic and came out with the win.