The Buffalo Bills decided that their fans needed a nail-biter on Sunday, taking the Baltimore Ravens right to the wire before kicking the game-winning field goal. On the way to the razor’s edge win, the Bills’ defense had an overall spectacular outing. Linebacker Matt Milano had 13 tackles, 11 of which were solo, and two were for a loss. Not a bad day at the office, but as usual we’ll dig a bit deeper with the All-22.
I cannot stress this enough...
As much as we all should love Milano, no game is flawless. Really, the whole defense bites on this play. And yes, that sentence means two things. My guess is that Milano believes his teammates have the receiving options accounted for and is giddy at the proposition of ending this play with a big hit on quarterback Lamar Jackson. That doesn’t happen. Jackson is James Bond-level cool as he flips the ball forward for a score. The result is by no means all on Milano, but the pressure he brings helps the Ravens.
Check out Darrell Lane’s breakdown of this play here.
Now that we have a less-than-stellar play out of the way, let’s get to the Milano lovefest. A word that gets tossed around a lot, but is difficult to quantify is the idea of “instinct.” Linebackers often need a healthy dose of this, trying to clog passing lanes that they are in no way looking at during the outset of a play. Milano is shadowing the player behind him using this amorphous concept of “instinct” while also watching the player ahead of him and spying Jackson.
At the pause, Milano sees an eligible receiver getting up from a cut block and creating an easy outlet for Jackson. Milano says “Not on my watch!” and picks up the new assignment with ease.
Another word that gets tossed around is “rangy.” This is a pretty good illustration of that concept. Milano is covering his man and sees the ball delivered a bit further away near the sideline. He cuts around his man, pauses very briefly to avoid an embarrassing collision with his teammate, and then makes the tackle. It’s fast and fluid, and he covers much more distance than you might think possible. That’s “rangy” for you.
This was a first down thanks to a pretty sweet tuck-and-roll by the ball carrier, but Milano nearly recorded another tackle for a loss here. Milano hits the gap before anyone can get a hand on him, shifts his weight, and makes a near 90º cut and gets a hand around some ankles. Safety Jordan Poyer is crashing down and likely results in a similar outcome for Buffalo, but Milano’s change of direction is pretty absurd.
Not much commentary needed on this one. There’s basically zero chance of a completion here against Matt Milano.
Seems like a weird spot for a pause, doesn’t it? Take a close look. Milano is doing a subtle move that keeps him clean from contact as he navigates to get in on the tackle. Just a little shoulder tuck is enough to make offensive tackle Daniel Faalele completely whiff. Faalele likely isn’t stopping Milano entirely, but a quick bump might have been enough to disrupt the hit.
Milano appears to be doing a bit of spying and ends up one-on-one with Jackson. This isn’t a perfect play, as a perfect play would entail a clean hit on Jackson. Instead, Jackson cuts inside and makes Milano miss on a typical tackle. Milano is able to hit the brakes just well enough to get the shoestring tackle. You may have noticed my immense respect for Lamar Jackson. I don’t think many linebackers even get the shoestrings here. Milano deserves a ton of credit.
Another GIF with little commentary needed. In a tied game, Baltimore is looking to get ahead and close out the game. With multiple chances at the goal line, it should be a cinch for a touchdown. Setting the Ravens back a few yards on a heads-up play and agile tackle like this changed things.
The Bills have an embarrassment of riches on their roster, and Matt Milano is a shining example. It’s astounding to think Milano took a team-friendly deal with all that he brings to the table. A rangy and instinctive player, Milano was a difference-maker against a very good Baltimore offense. Check out all our analysis this week as numerous positions deserve some kudos, but the bottom line is that without many extraordinary individual efforts, this is a loss for Buffalo. One of those efforts absolutely belongs to Matt Milano.