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Mark Gaughan's Matchup Winners: Bills secondary bounces back


Bills secondary vs. Bengals receivers

Give credit where it’s due. The Ryan brothers and Dennis Thurman lived up to their reputation for coaching up the Bills’ beleaguered defensive secondary and shutting down the Bengals’ passing attack. The Bills played a lot of Cover 2 coverages and two-deep safeties with man coverage underneath against the Bengals. With a few exceptions, they executed. Stephon Gilmore had two interceptions. The corners mostly did a good job of playing inside leverage to take away Andy Dalton’s easy slant passes. After getting eaten up by great tight ends the last two weeks (New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Seattle’s Jimmy Graham), the Bills bracketed Tyler Eifert a lot and held him to just three catches for 37 yards. Yes, the job was made easier thanks to the hamstring injury to A.J. Green. But solid coverage by the Bills’ secondary forced Dalton into a ton of checkdowns.

Bills OL vs. Bengals DL

How would the Bills’ offensive line fare in its first game without veteran center Eric Wood? Fine. New center Ryan Groy held up in the middle, and his shotgun snaps were on point. The Bills ran the ball well against a good defensive line, rolling up 183 yards and 5.4 yards a carry. It was the most rush yards against Cincinnati in the last 22 games. Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins is a tough matchup for guards, because he’s quick and built low to the ground. He gets under guards’ pads with his bull rush. But right guard John Miller, with help from Groy, did a good job on him. The Bengals’ other defensive tackle Doneta Peko, is one of the tougher shade defensive tackles in the league (playing over the shoulder of the center). He was a non-factor. Atkins made just one tackle. Peko had two assists.

Mike Gillislee vs. Jeremy Hill

Hill is a second-round draft pick who rushed for 1,124 yards as a rookie in 2014 and had a league-high 11 rushing TDs last season. Gillislee was a fifth-round pick out of Florida in 2013 who the Bills picked up off the scrap heap last season. Gillislee once again looked every bit as good as his counterpart runner. The Bills’ back gained 72 yards on 14 carries. Hill had 62 on 16 carries. Hill is averaging 4.6 yards a carry this season. Gillislee is averaging 5.8. The Bills let Gillislee set the table. They ran him on first down 11 times for 69 yards. Gillislee followed Jerome Felton and John Miller and made a nice cut to the middle in traffic for a 13-yard gain on a third-quarter field goal drive. He also got the Bills off their own 1 yard line with a 10-yard speed burst off left tackle.

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