The Buffalo Bills’ defense kept the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense in check with an outstanding performance in their Week 6 victory. The Bills threw many different looks at the Chiefs and kept them on their toes. One of those looks was matching up reserve defensive back Siran Neal against tight end Travis Kelce. Neal is known for his exceptional special teams play, but given his physical traits, the Bills used him to get physical with Kelce.
The Bills brought in Neal mainly on 3rd & Long plays, or when it was an obvious passing situation. Bringing Neal into the game put the Bills in a “dime” package, which means they had six defensive backs on the field. Sometimes this meant taking linebacker Matt Milano off the field, and other times it meant taking a defensive lineman off the field. Take a look at this interesting tidbit here:
the Bills defense haven't run a single snap of Dime (6 DBs) personnel this entire season.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 16, 2022
they were in Dime personnel on 11.5% of their total snaps in Week 6 against the Chiefs.
Time for some film review!
On this 3rd & 10, Neal starts showing press coverage on Kelce. This is Neal’s first one-on-one of the day versus Kelce, and he looks excited to get physical. He puts a good jam on Kelce at the snap, but then gets tangled up with cornerback Taron Johnson, who is trying to get through to cover his man. This makes Neal grab Kelce, and he gets called for defensive holding.
Nothing special here, which is a good thing sometimes. Neal doesn’t get fooled by the block-and-release wheel route that Kelce runs. He maintains good leverage throughout and looks calm in coverage.
Neal shows an appetite to get physical with Kelce, and does just that during this play. He throws a great jam to start the play and stays in Kelce’s hip pocket throughout the route. Good coverage.
Neal is again matched up one-on-one with Kelce on this play, but Kelce gets the best of him this time. Neal actually covers this route fairly well, but Kelce is the best tight end in the league, and doesn’t require much separation to make a play. Kelce shakes off Neal in the midst of a heavyweight fight to get open for the eight-yard gain.
I love Neal’s intensity here. He is locked in on Kelce. This pays off, as he waits for Kelce to make a chip block and then jams him a few yards down the field. This takes away the quick throw for Mahomes and allows edge rusher Von Miller to swoop in for the sack.
In this play, Neal isn’t matched up with Kelce one-on-one. This time, the Bills run a two-deep zone while they rush three with a QB spy. Neal is on Kelce’s side of the field, and ends up bracketing Kelce with cornerback Dane Jackson. The entire secondary has good coverage here and forces Mahomes to run around; luckily, they trip him up for only a three-yard gain.
Another aggressive one-on-one with Neal versus Kelce. This time, it results in a flag against Neal. He is in a good position at the beginning of the route, but he just holds Kelce too far into the route. I appreciate the tenacity that Neal played with, but sometimes it got him into trouble.
Neal only played 12 total snaps on defense, and only half of those snaps were one-on-one versus Kelce, but he clearly was sent in by the Bills to set the tone and get physical with Kelce. Kelce finished the game with a solid eight receptions for 108 yards, but the most important stat is zero touchdowns—breaking a four-game scoring streak for Kelce against Buffalo, a stretch in which he scored six total touchdowns. The Bills have some work to do to keep Kelce in check for future matchups, but perhaps Neal has a place in that solution.