Despite the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers had been stumbling in recent weeks, if I were a betting man I’d wager that fans of the Buffalo Bills figured they’d give up more than 15 points on Sunday Night Football. A major reason for this better-than-expected result was the play of Buffalo’s defensive backs. This week, let’s show them some love with analysis and appreciation in one neat, little package.
Let’s start with the big ones. Taron Johnson was the first Bills player to score a defensive touchdown since...well it’s been awhile. Possibly an embarrassingly long time. How did this happen? It starts with discipline and trust in his teammates. Johnson has a couple potential opponents to juggle but passes off the first one to Tremaine Edmunds without batting an eyelash. Trusting that his linebacker has it under control, it allows Johnson to cut off the route and get the pick-six.
This didn’t bounce the Buffalo Bills’ way but it shows how the defensive backs could be an instant away from an impact play at any time. Jordan Poyer’s reaction time to the ball is excellent. Even though he bites hard on the play going to the edge he has the agility to turn right back to the ball carrier. Poyer wraps up but, as you often see with Bills defenders, there’s always an effort to get a hand on the ball.
This is definitely an underthrow as both Levi Wallace and James Washington slow way down as they see the trajectory. What’s important here is that Wallace is reacting at pretty much the same time as Washington. That allows him to box out the receiver and win the jump ball.
I know I’ve used the word before but the Bills love “versatility.” The mix-and-match style applies across the board. Taron Johnson comes in like a rocket behind A.J. Epenesa and uses some nice change-of-direction skills to get to the running back. Something to note is that the tackle is aimed at the legs, which means the running back can’t keep churning. Even though there’s plenty of contact in front of the play, the hit from the side/back prevents any attempt at moving the pile.
This might be my favorite clip. Jordan Poyer is pretty evenly matched in the size department and has a little more momentum. James Conner could stand to improve his feet but does manage to get low. Poyer gets lower and has the superior technique, and you can see what it does to the already collapsing pocket. With no room to throw, the pass doesn’t have the zip to arrive where it needs to land.
For the record the pass is definitely an overthrow. However it looks way worse than it otherwise would have thanks to Tre’Davious White. White doesn’t jam on this play but delays the route with nice footwork that keeps him in front of James Washington. As the ball is released watch White and Washington. White tracks the ball and drifts with Washington, which helps displace Washington further. White accelerates and is in better position than the intended receiver.
Similar to Taron Johnson, here’s Micah Hyde coming in off the edge and limiting this rushing attempt to one yard. As we see above, there’s no chance of extra yards once the legs are wrapped up like an AT-AT on Hoth.
The entire defense had a banner day keeping Pittsburgh to its lowest point total of the season. And that’s including points gifted by a short field. I could keep rattling off stats like the Steelers converting a single third down, and a ten-minute time of possession disparity. This is a case where the results really speak for themselves. The Bills dominated. A large part of that was a number of big plays from the defensive backs.