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How Sean McDermott put ‘juice’ back in Bills with dominant defensive game


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Mitch Morse half expected Sean McDermott to yank a knot in the Bills’ tail.

Who would have blamed him?

After a 22-16 loss on “Monday Night Football” during which the Buffalo Bills committed four turnovers, allowed five plays of 20-plus yards and had a costly special teams coverage issue, McDermott could have gone scorched earth on his players. He decided to reserve that for the Las Vegas Raiders.

“I think it started on Wednesday when we had that walk-through practice,” Morse said. “We went out there and understood coach was giving us a bone by taking away some physical reps, and that’s tough for a coach after a loss. But that put the ball in our court.”

The Bills didn’t fumble it. They ripped through the Raiders with an authoritative and well-rounded 38-10 win. Yes, Josh Allen bounced back with a 274-yard, three-touchdown afternoon. But just as important was the fact he didn’t have to do it all because of how much went right around him.

“No one liked the taste in our mouths this week,” Morse said. “That brought a certain edge to this week’s practice — nothing crazy or confrontational, but very intentional. We understood we had to come out here and play with an edge and tone. This team’s got the energy; it’s got the juice. It’s just sometimes the execution can vacate when you’re too amped up.”

Spencer Brown described Monday night’s loss as a “punch in the f—— stomach” and that the team came back Wednesday “pissed off.” McDermott had the wherewithal to recognize his players didn’t need an extra kick in the pants than the one they got against the Jets. He had a knowing smirk on Wednesday when he said, “Thankfully they don’t stack all the games into Week 1.” Then he pushed the right buttons during the week, and on Sunday, to get his team back to looking like the Bills that have been one of the AFC’s best teams for three straight seasons.

The Bills went down 7-0 early on Sunday after a listless first five minutes. Jimmy Garoppolo easily took the Vegas offense down the field for a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Buffalo’s offense followed that with a three-and-out.

After the Monday night loss led to a week of angst in Western New York, the first five minutes of the home opener didn’t do much to ease the nerves of Bills fans.

But then Buffalo’s defensive line changed the game.

On the Raiders’ second drive of the game, they were facing a second-and-8. Garoppolo dropped back and immediately was under pressure from DaQuan Jones. He hurried a quick throw to Ameer Abdullah, but Buffalo’s towering defensive end Greg Rousseau got his hand on it. Then Terrel Bernard swooped in for the interception.

“That’s as best as you can draw it up,” A.J. Epenesa said. “This whole week we knew what we were about. Coach McDermott challenged us and said it’s a man-whooping-man day, we’re a man-whooping-man defense. That’s what we came out today to do. I feel like we did that.”

Allen took the offense down the field for the touchdown, and the Bills outscored the Raiders 38-3 from that interception on. Buffalo’s defense didn’t have a sack in this game, but the defensive line led the way with a relentless effort. After the opening drive, Garoppolo was 13-21 for 140 yards and two interceptions.

At the end of the first half, Josh Jacobs had minus-6 yards rushing on seven carries. He finished with minus-2 yards on nine carries. The last time Josh McDaniels was running an offense in this stadium, the Patriots ran 46 times for 222 yards in a windstorm. This time? The Bills turned last season’s rushing champion into 2016 Reggie Bush. Buffalo’s defensive line did that without Von Miller, as Epenesa pointed out, “Our best player hasn’t even laced them up yet.” This was a depth performance.

“That’s our thing,” defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said. “Our D-line is loaded. That’s what all of the great teams have. The Eagles, the 49ers, their D-line rolls and makes plays. Today we made plays.”

Even without a sack, the Bills ended up with six pressures on 24 Garoppolo dropbacks. He was hit twice, had two passes batted by Buffalo defensive linemen and the defensive line finished with three tackles for loss. Through two weeks, the Bills have allowed just 26 points on defense. That stat didn’t impress Phillips much.

“Definitely the first game we should have held them to less,” Phillips said. “Today, I don’t think they should have scored. We have to get better on that first drive of the game. After that, we’ll be playing ball.”

McDermott’s going to face tougher tests than Zach Wilson and Garoppolo. Tua TagovailoaTrevor LawrenceJoe BurrowPatrick MahomesJalen Hurts and Justin Herbert are all on the schedule. But McDermott’s first two games as Buffalo’s play caller suggest this defense is going to be up to the task.

“You can feel the juice from him now,” Epenesa said. “It was always there but now that he’s hands on with the defense for real, it’s not so much so that you can feel it, but he shows it. He shows his intensity. He shows his juice. Not that he didn’t as a head coach, but now he feels a little more personable to all of the defense because he is directly connected. You can see the juice a little more. I love it. It gets me fired up seeing him in there. He’s just talking to a room full of people and he gets me jacked up.”

McDermott carried that swagger into his fourth-down decisions. After starting last week’s loss to the Jets by kicking a field goal on fourth-and-2 to take a 3-0 lead, McDermott went for it on fourth down four times in this game. The Bills converted three of those chances.

This was as complete a performance as the Bills could have asked for. Allen got back on track, the offense got contributions from receivers not named Stefon Diggs. Buffalo’s running backs had 178 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. The defense was nearly flawless after the first drive.  Buffalo outgained Las Vegas 450-240 and had a 40:04 to 19:56 advantage in time of possession. The loss on Monday night, and the subsequent criticism, felt like a distant memory as the Bills got to put the game on ice with their backup quarterback.

“I don’t know if you watch Ted Lasso, but we were just like goldfish,” offensive tackle Spencer Brown said. “We flushed it and didn’t even think about it. It was good to be back at home in front of everybody and in a rhythm. I didn’t even really think about Monday at all.”

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“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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Thanks for that, Hipster.   The quotes were enjoyable.  Interesting to see HCSM as HC did the exact opposite of what many on here demanded, the Bienemy-style hard ass, and Mitch Morse explained why it was right that they were grateful for HCSM throwing them a bone.  One would also be wise to consider the team isn't filled with the same personnel as past teams, or current opponents in the NFL, and is not in need of that type of treatment.

Also cool to read AJ Epenesa talk about the differences in McDermott  as a HC vs DC.  The total stats at the end are enjoyable, and I'm glad DCSM had a moment of respite at home before facing a murderers' row QB schedule.  On that note, unless I missed it, it didn't emphasize holding the NFL's leading rusher to negative 2 yards.  Rushing defense still matters, as plenty on here like to note.   It's still early, but it seems like Coach is well-suited for his added duties, and as noted they may bring out the aggressive side of him now that he has found a rhythm.    Go Bills!

Andy did you hear about this one?-REM . "I don't think I'm easy to talk about. I've got a very irregular head. And I'm not anything that you think I am anyway". -Syd Barrett, founder of Pink Floyd. Rolling Stone, December 1971.  https://nativeamericanchurches.org/ My Adopt A Bill is Stefon Diggs  My 2nd Adopt A Bill is Christian Wade(he gets an exemption and doesn't require a spot) :)    Being staff seemed unable to train an elite legend how to run, Cole Beasley is my backup.   (I doubt that explanation is wanted).

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