I was thinking about what Buffalo Bills topic or player to focus on this week while perusing the fantastic work of the Buffalo Rumblings crew, and then I stumbled upon a curious thought in Sean Murphy’s Five Bills to Watch revisitation. In his article, Sean suggested that linebacker Matt Milano may be flying under the radar a bit. Has “All-Pro linebacker who hasn’t lost a step Matt Milano” somehow been getting by mostly unnoticed? That’s not possible is it? It kind of is though.
The Bills’ disappointing loss in Week 1 against the New York Jets left everything but quarterback Josh Allen’s mistakes out of the spotlight. Allen’s resurgence and the shared attention with linebacker Terrell Bernard in Week 2 took some luster off Milano. Bernard’s insane Week 3 drew all the attention, and even this week the content world was all over defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. I don’t mean to suggest these players and topics aren’t deserving of the story lines. It’s just that it’s incredible that a player like Milano could be taken for granted. So let’s check in on the lad to see how he played against the Miami Dolphins!
Play 1 — Blitz
A common theme as it always has been with Milano is speed and agility. Milano timed his rush well with the snap, shifted lanes and quickly got into the backfield. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was barely able to get the football off in time. Admittedly the low snap didn’t help matters. This was a great tone-setting rep as Buffalo and Miami tried to establish the game they respectively preferred to play.
Play 2 — Tackle after gain of 3
For this rep, the speed is sideline-to-sideline with Milano shadowing the ball carrier. The rest of Buffalo’s defense had manned up well leaving this as a two-part contest between Milano and running back De’Von Achane. Milano matched up well with the first part — the footrace to the gap. A slower linebacker gives Achane a clear lane. The next part was making an open-field tackle. All I’ll say on that matter is I don’t envy Achane’s leg in this moment. There’s injured and there’s hurt. I’m glad one of those things didn’t happen. I’m confident the other did.
Play 3 — Forced fumble
This is similar to the last play, but Miami was better-able to get some pulling blockers freed. Milano and Terrel Bernard worked in concert to occupy the best options running back Raheem Mostert had. Bernard exploded through, forcing Mostert to slow down. Milano was there to clean up. Even better, the impact created a fumble that the always-churning Bernard got to first.
Play 4 — Passing lanes and time
I’m a big fan of looking at more subtle impacts when I’m sharp enough to catch them myself. I’m also a big fan of the end zone angle for trying to see what the quarterback sees. My fandom of the second thing led to me being sharp enough to see this gem. Both Milano and Bernard dropped into coverage on this snap. The Dolphins retained a couple players in the backfield to help protect Tagovailoa and buy some extra time. Buffalo rushed four, yet they all managed to win.
You can’t see it well with this angle, but Tagovailoa’s options were limited with the extra blockers and his best options were straight ahead. Both linebackers knew to stick to their zones and make any throw behind them as tough as possible. Add it all up and time ran out for Tua.
Play 5 — Crash and closing speed
This followed the sack on Play 4 and set Miami up with a 2nd & 14. Buffalo played this a bit softer as a result. Milano was tasked with having his eyes forward. He reacted very quickly and looked more like safety support than a linebacker with his closing speed.
Matt Milano is still awesome.