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The Buck Stops Here: Bills managing just fine without Stephon Gilmore

Bill Belichick is the best coach in NFL history, so there's a tendency to eventually agree with him even when you initially disagree with decisions that seem suspicious. You eventually come around to thinking: Belichick knows more about football than anyone else, he rarely makes mistakes and therefore I must be wrong.

Who would trade Drew Bledsoe to a division rival? Belichick, because he had that Tom Brady guy and knew Bledsoe was good enough to help the Bills beat other division teams but not good enough to consistently beat the Patriots. Belichick traded Bledsoe and watched him help Buffalo help New England win the division.

That's why he's a genius.

Alarms sounded during the offseason, however, when he signed Stephon Gilmore to a five-year contract worth $65 million. Gilmore was brutal for the Bills last year before playing better in the second half of the season. New England handed over $40 million guaranteed, the most it ever awarded to a defensive player.

Could it be Hoodie miscalculated for a change?

It's not to suggest Gilmore has been terrible, although he did get smoked for a touchdown in his debut. The bigger point is the Bills made little effort to keep him, rebuilt their secondary and have been fine without him. A trouble spot with four new players going into the season, the defensive backfield has been their strength.

The Bills have allowed only 428 yards passing through the first two games, have yet to yield a passing touchdown and recorded seven sacks. The defensive line has contributed by putting pressure on the quarterback, but Buffalo had six sacks Sunday largely because receivers were covered. Jordan Poyer registered a sack on a safety blitz.

Buffalo was second among NFL defenses in terms of yard allowed, fifth against the run and eighth against the pass.

OK, so their early success comes with a caveat. In the first two games, they squared off against a bum in Josh McCown and a quarterback with a bum shoulder in Cam Newton. McCown couldn't start for any team but the wretched Jets while Newton is nowhere near his MVP form of two years ago.

Still, the Bills should be thrilled with their DBs. They unearthed a potential jewel in the hard-hitting Poyer, who had an interception and two sacks in his first two games. He was the top-rated safety in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, and the top-rated player on Buffalo's roster.

First-round pick Tre'Davious White was rated 10th among cornerbacks, six spots ahead of Gilmore. Micah Hyde has been steady and smart, as expected. The Bills had the audacity to trade cornerback Ronald Darby to Philadelphia because they were impressed with White and newbie E.J. Gaines.

The Bills will be tested in the coming weeks. Trevor Simien, who has thrown for six touchdowns and is the fourth-rated passer in the NFL, comes to town Sunday. Buffalo will see Matt Ryan, the reigning MVP, the following week with Jamies Winston, Derek Carr, Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers on the schedule after the bye.

Oh, yeah, and they face that Brady guy twice in the final five games. As we all know, when Belichick and Brady are involved, there are reasons to be suspicious.

Home Run Derby

Thirty homers were added across the big leagues Tuesday night as baseball soared past its record for most dingers in a season. There have been 5,707 homers hit this season, 14 more than in steroid-stained 2000, with 168 games remaining on the schedule.

Baseball was averaging 2.52 homers per game, putting the sport on pace for a whopping 6,123 for the season – or 430 more than the record. Ninety-seven more homers already had been hit this year than in 2016 even though a vast majority of players participated in both seasons.

So why the major league jump?

"I don't think we're going to have a single explanation for why we've seen so many," Commissioner Ron Manfred told The Associated Press. "But the players are bigger and stronger. They're playing a little differently, in terms of the way they swing. Pitchers throw harder. The one thing I remain comfortable with: Nothing about baseball, according to our testing, is materially different."

Translation: Players aren't juicing.

It would be difficult to get away with using performance-enhancing drugs given baseball's problems around the turn of the century. If there was an undetectable PED out there, it would be hard for a mass of players to keep secret. Years ago, there were rumors about PED use long before it was confirmed.

The reasons for the HR surge could be anything from juiced balls to smaller strike zones to less pitching depth, although none seems drastically different this year than last. Hitters who are bigger and stronger than ever are connecting with pitches thrown harder than ever using bats that are better than ever.

This also should not be overlooked: players today grew up in an era in which technology greatly impacted bats, contributing to kids developing home-run swing planes. There's less emphasis on striking out than there was in previous generations, too, which also explains why K's have increased for 10 straight seasons.

Quarterback Watch

In the first round of the 2018 draft, the Buffalo Bills select quarterback …

Sam Darnold, USC. Darnold completed 28 of 39 passes for 397 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 27-24 win over Texas. The performance pushed him over 1,000 yards passing for the season, but he has thrown seven TDs and six picks in three games.

Josh Rosen, UCLA. Rosen was 34 of 56 for 463 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 48-45 loss to Memphis. He has thrown for 1,283 yards, 13 TDs and two INTs in three games.

Josh Allen, Wyoming. He completed only nine of 24 passes for 64 yards and one interception in a 49-13 loss to Oregon. He ran for a 10-yard score. Oregon isn't Gardner-Webb, kid.

Lamar Jackson. Louisville. Jackson was 21 of 42 for 317 yards with three TDs and an interception in a 47-21 loss to powerhouse Clemson. The Heisman Trophy winner completed 65 percent of his passes for 771 yards, five TDs and no picks in his other two games.

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State. The senior shredded Pittsburgh for 497 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-21 rout. He had thrown for 1,135 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception this season while averaging 12.1 yards per attempt.

Take it from KD

The day before a speaking engagement with a San Francisco-based technology company about how people can manage their brand, Warriors star Kevin Durant managed to make a mess of his Twitter account.

Durant's official Twitter account included two tweets (since deleted) responding to another tweet asking him for reasons he left Oklahoma City, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. His responses came in the third person, as if someone else handled his account.

The first one read: "He didn't like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan. His roster wasn't that good, it was just him and russ" in reference to Russell Westbrook. The second read: "Imagine taking russ off that team, see how bad they were. Kd can't win a championship with those cats."

It raised questions about whether Durant set up a fake Twitter account and accidentally replied from his official account. The next day, while speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt, he said he "happened to take it a little too far." Later, he told the group, "That was childish. That was idiotic, all those type of words. I regret doing that, and I apologize for doing that."

The message: Do as I say, not as I do.

Quotable

Mets pitcher Matt Harvey after getting roughed up for seven runs and 12 hits in four innings in a 12-1 loss to the Marlins: "There's nothing to say. Terrible. It's not fun. There's no reason for questions. There are no answers."

Stats Inc.

1 – Career grand slams allowed in 288 starts over 10 seasons by Clayton Kershaw after serving one to Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr in a 4-3 loss Monday.

5 – Seasons during his 14-year career in which Eli Manning lost the first two games of the season. In 2007, the Giants dropped the first two and won the Super Bowl.

144 – Games played by Aaron Rodgers, fewest in NFL history, when reaching 300 career touchdown passes.

Extra Points

Strange but true, Edwin Encarnacion was the only player who contributed to the Indians' record 22-game winning streak and also played for the Bisons. He played two games for the Herd in 2014, going 2 for 8 with a homer during a rehab stint when he was with the Blue Jays.

Hats off to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett for calling out Ezekiel Elliott after the running back loafed during two interception returns. Too often, coaches refrain from publicly criticizing players. More often, it's exactly what they deserve.

Michael Phelps, in an interview with AP, said he had no desire to return to competitive swimming. It can only mean one thing: Phelps is expected to announce his plans to participate in the 2020 Olympics.

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