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Bills vs. Patriots analysis: CB Rasul Douglas

Douglas earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his game-changing performance

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots 27-20 in Week 17 of the NFL season to push their winning streak to four games. On a day when the Buffalo’s offense sputtered, their defense sprang into action creating four turnovers and consistently giving the offense short fields to work with.

Cornerback Rasul Douglas was a factor on three out of the four turnovers, ultimately earning AFC Player of the Week honors for his efforts. Let’s dive into Douglas’ performance this week and how much of an impact he’s made since joining the Bills midseason via a trade.

The Trade

On Halloween, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane dressed up as a burglar and committed highway robbery against the Green Bay Packers. He traded away Buffalo’s 2024 third-round draft pick to the Packers for cornerback Rasul Douglas and a 2024 fifth-round draft pick from the Packers. The two best parts about this trade are:

  1. The Bills will receive a third-round compensatory pick in the 2024 NFL Draft because of Tremaine Edmunds leaving in free agency. So Buffalo will still have a third-round selection in this year's NFL Draft even though they traded one away.
  2. Douglas is under contract for another season, and he’ll have a $9 million cap hit for the team in 2024. For perspective, Tre’Davious White will have a cap hit of over $16 million next season.

Since joining the Bills Douglas has appeared in eight games. In those eight games, he has tallied four interceptions, one touchdown, eight passes defended, two fumble recoveries, and 29 total tackles. Not to mention that Douglas has stepped into the number-one corner role after Tre’Davious White’s season-ending injury. It will be hard to find a more impactful trade-deadline deal than what Douglas has been for the Bills. Well done Douglas and Beane.

Douglas in Week 17

Rasul Douglas was the definition of a shutdown corner versus the Patriots.

Douglas returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, which in theory was the difference in winning the football game. His other interception gave Buffalo’s offense good field position. Douglas also had three passes defended in the game and the first one was the biggest. The Patriots returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then the Bills’ offense went three and out. Immediately returning to the field on defense, Rasul Douglas tipped a pass by quarterback Bailey Zappe in the air and defensive tackle Ed Oliver intercepted it. Rasul Douglas’ monster game earned him AFC Player of the Week honors.

Let’s review some of Douglas’ day against New England...

Film Analysis

Play 1

Douglas had two potential receiving threats to his side of the formation during this play. One went to the flat and Douglas knew the linebacker had the flat, so this freed him up to be aggressive on the other route. Pairing his situational knowledge and seeing the QB loaded up for a quick throw allowed Douglas to drive on the football and tip it into the air for Ed Oliver to intercept. A huge play when the Bills were down 7-0 and the offense had just gone three and out.

Play 2

It’s like Douglas knew this play was coming. Maybe something about this formation or situation tipped him off so he was able to jump the route. Regardless, Douglas did a fantastic job of reading through the receiver to the quarterback. He saw Zappe load up to throw and jumped the route like he was the receiver instead of the cornerback.

Play 3

The receiver Douglas matched up against motioned inside and then took off across the field, leaving him with nothing but space to cover. He didn’t sit and wait — he kept working to find something to cover. He found the deep crossing route that was coming back to him from the other side of the field, so he could move to help Taron Johnson cover that player. While he did this he pointed to tell safety Micah Hyde to peel off the deep crosser and go help the fly route coming behind him. Great communication by Douglas.

Play 4

It’s almost as if Douglas heard the play call and the receiver didn’t. Douglas jumped the route and Zappe threw it right to him. Meanwhile, the receiver was running down the field not even looking for the ball. Douglas made an incredible diving catch, but he didn’t stop there, getting back up and taking the ball to the house for a touchdown. This proved to be the difference in winning the game for Buffalo — a big-time play!

In summary

Rasul Douglas has been a savior for a beat-up Buffalo Bills secondary this season. His stellar play has provided stability to the group and the defense as a whole. He allows the Bills to get back to their roots with a true number-one corner and have fun with coverages and play calls.

If Buffalo makes something of this season with a deep playoff run, the moment Brandon Beane made the trade for Douglas will prove to be one of the most important factors to their success.