MINNEAPOLIS – Sean McDermott thought it would benefit Matt Milano to stand and watch last week.
The Buffalo Bills’ second-year linebacker lost some snaps to veteran Ramon Humber during a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
“Sometimes, it benefits a young player to be able to watch a series or two, get next to his coach on the sideline and learn a little bit (by) watching how they’re attacking us offensively,” is how the Bills' coach explained that decision.
Milano wasn’t exactly buying that it was some sort of wake-up call, but whatever it was, it paid off Sunday. Milano stuffed the stat sheet with an interception, fumble recovery and his first career sack in the Bills’ 27-6 upset win against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. That’s exactly the way the Bills had to hope a young player would respond to a challenge.
“He's done a good job of just keeping his confidence,” fellow linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said of Milano. “They've been on a rotation any way with him and Ramon, just getting some fresh bodies in there going back and forth, but any time Matt is playing with confidence, he's out there making plays. Obviously, he did a great job of that, flying around today. Getting a sack, an interception, just causing a lot of havoc out there.”
Milano referred to losing snaps in Week 2 as simply a coaching decision, not some great indictment of his play.
“Whenever I’m out there, I’m trying to make plays,” he said. “As a whole group, we were just tired of what the outside noise was saying. We just stuck together, practiced hard, stayed true to what we know and what we do.”
Milano flashed big-play ability as a rookie, but like the defense as a whole, didn’t make many of those in the first two weeks. That changed Sunday – for Milano and the team.
“Matt made some big plays for us,” McDermott said. “He had a sack, fumble recovery, an interception. Those are big plays for us. You can make big plays when you play within the defense and play disciplined.”
Milano’s interception in the third quarter came after rookie middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds laid a big hit on Vikings running back Latavius Murray, jarring the ball loose.
“My man Tremaine made a good play on it, then the right place at the right time,” Milano said. “Our thing was just coming out fast. Starting fast and making plays – offense, defense and special teams – and I think that's what we did.”
One of McDermott’s main coaching points is emphasizing fundamentals when things aren’t going well. That was on display Sunday, as the defense easily tackled the best it has all year.
“The little things, that's what was beating us the last two weeks,” Milano said. “Staying consistent on it and really focusing in on this game and just playing together as a team. Without Tremaine, I wouldn’t have had that pick. … It just feels good to finally get a win under our belt.”
With that win, the Bills busted plenty of survivor pools around the country. Milano couldn’t help but smile when that was mentioned.
“Feels great, to be honest,” he said. “I'm excited for the next game. Got Green Bay at Green Bay, but like I said we're just taking it one game at a time. It feels good. Any time you win, it feels good.”