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Bills HC Sean McDermott highlights several players after their Week 2 win

While Week 1 was full of the ugly, Week 2 was a thing of beauty

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills didn’t practice on Monday, but that didn’t stop head coach Sean McDermott from talking about the players who stood out in Sunday’s win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

First up were players from the linebacker room: Terrell Bernard and Matt Milano.

“Through two games I think he’s done a nice job,” McDermott said about Bernard, who won the starting middle linebacker position despite not playing in a single preseason game. “He’s extremely smart. An instinctive player. I think he’s handled it well.”

When training camp opened back in July, Bernard was in a three-way race for the team’s MIKE position that was left vacant by the departure of Tremaine Edmunds during free agency. Only one of the three was able to finish the preseason healthy — and it wasn’t Bernard. Baylon Specter injured a hamstring and was placed on Injured Reserve when the season opened. Bernard also had a hamstring injury — but his occurred the first day of training camp and sat him out for the entire month of August. Despite Tyrel Dodson being the “obvious” choice for the position based on availability, McDermott surprised the NFL world when he named Bernard the starter before opening day. Bernard played 100% of Buffalo’s defensive snaps in the first game (Monday night against the New York Jets) and then played 85% in Week 2.

The other linebacker that McDermott highlighted in his press conference was an obvious choice: Matt Milano.

“I was as impressed after the game as I was watching it during the game,” McDermott laughed when asked about Milano’s second interception of the season. “It was weird — I almost expected Matt to do that when I saw the position he was in. It was kind of a right place right time.”

McDermott continued to sing the praises of his outside linebacker, who appears to be on a quest to get a second All-Pro nomination this year. “He did his job with coverage. And he’s so competitive — he’s got a nasty streak. When he’s around the ball, he’s going to do whatever it takes to take the ball away from them.”

For those of you who missed it, here’s another look at Milano’s insane INT.

While McDermott was beyond happy with his defensive line (don’t forget, the head coach is pulling double duty this season and serving as defensive coordinator as well), he had some high praise for defensive tackle Ed Oliver himself.

“When he comes off the ball, that’s when he’s at his best,” the Bills’ coach said about the fifth-year tackle recording a tackle for a four-yard loss on the first play of Sunday’s game. “When he does that we are in good shape.”

On the offensive side of the ball, McDermott had plenty of praise for his offensive line, specifically for Spencer Brown and O’Cyrus Torrence

“I thought he really had the right mental approach for the game,” McDermott said about Brown and the way he was able to handle the Raiders’ Maxx Crosby. “When you play Crosby it’s a full-game affair. You have to be prepared to go all day long. You have to be able to stay mentally tough.”

Brown kept Crosby in check for the entirety of the game and made sure that the Raiders defensive end wasn’t making things difficult for quarterback Josh Allen.

Helping Brown, who played 100% of the Bills’ offensive snaps, was rookie right tackle O’Cyrus Torrence, who also didn’t miss a single snap on Sunday.

“[He is] very poised. Very focused.” McDermott said that the rookie lineman out of the University of Florida has a very “businesslike approach” to the game. “For a young player — a rookie — to come in with that demeanor, he’s giving himself a chance.”

The blocking that the Brown-Torrence duo provided resulted in some skill players being able to stand out in the coach’s mind as well.

“Very pleased and impressed with the balance there,” McDermott said about the Bills’ running back room, which was able to put up 173 yards on the ground (not including Allen’s seven yards). “They are all similar but all different. All three pride themselves on pass protection as well.”

Speaking of the pass protection, Allen was another standout for McDermott this week. The head coach was impressed with the discipline the quarterback had on display Sunday and pointed to a play in which Allen threw the ball into the ground rather than try some insane heroics on a first-down play.

“Knowing when a play is over before it’s over is half the battle when playing quarterback,” McDermott said about Allen’s major shift in maturity over the past week.

Of course, Allen can’t throw the ball to himself, and while his favorite receiver — Stefon Diggs — was doing his thing in Week 2, it was Gabe Davis who got the shoutout from his coach.

“Gabe works extremely hard at his craft. He takes his job very seriously. Some games you are going to have production and some games its not going to work that way,” McDermott said, adding that the no-quit mentality is an asset for the fourth-year receiver. “Glad he stayed after it and made some big plays for us.”

Here’s a video of Davis’ insane catch for a touchdown for those of you who missed it — or those who just want to keep watching it over and over.

McDermott was quick to point out that Sunday’s win was a team effort. “It speaks of an unselfish approach and a mindset of ‘this is what we’re planning to do’ during the week and then executing [it] on game day.”

He also said that he feels that the Bills are still a few weeks away from establishing their identity and having teams worry about them.

“[Your identity] takes shape over a handful of weeks — three, four, five maybe sometimes six weeks — to get a feel for who you are,” he said. “This team — this year — with the personnel we have — yesterday was a good step in the right direction. It’s some of what we want to become, [but] we’re not there yet.”

If McDermott is right and Sunday’s game is just a step into becoming the 2023 Buffalo Bills, then it was a statement to the other 31 teams in the NFL. The Bills are back — and they’re going to be scary.