It was a Sean McDermott kind of game for the Buffalo Bills’ defense Sunday.
Create turnovers, win a defensive battle.
The Bills improved to 10-2 under head coach McDermott when they win the turnover battle. Six of those 10 wins have come in one-score games.
The Bills won the turnover battle, 3-1, in the 13-12 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
“No. 1 part of the game,” said Titans coach Mike Vrabel. “We knew coming in that these guys really feasted off of it. And they were hunting them up, and we didn’t do a good enough job of taking care of the football.”
The Bills’ takeaways lead the plays that shaped the game:
1. Long-armed rookie. For the second consecutive week, the long reach of Bills rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds produced a turnover. Last week he deflected a pass into Jordan Poyer’s arms for an interception. This week he was an underneath zone defender and poked the ball out of the arms of receiver Taywan Taylor after a short throw to the flat.
The wingspan of the 6-foot-5 Edmunds measures 83 inches, longest of any linebacker in this year's draft. That’s about a foot longer than that of an average 6-foot male.
“I was just going through my keys, just formation recognition and things we studied throughout the week,” Edmunds said. “I’m always trying to make plays and get the ball out.”
The turnover set up the Bills for a 49-yard drive to their lone TD.
2. Another impressive rookie. Taron Johnson continued the strong start to his rookie season by jumping a slant pass to slot receiver Nick Williams and intercepting at the Titans’ 35 in the second quarter. The Bills were in two-deep zone coverage.
“I was reading the quarterback’s vision,” Johnson said. “His eyes went inside, I broke on it. I had a safety behind me.”
Marcus Mariota had tight end Jonnu Smith open on a short cross to the left.
“I should’ve got down to a different read,” Mariota said. “You’ve gotta give credit to Buffalo for disguising, moving around, getting coverages, and it’s just one of those things.”
3. Shaq fulfills a prediction. The Titans were driving at their own 48 late in the third quarter when Shaq Lawson raked the ball out of the arms of Dion Lewis for a fumble. Cornerback Ryan Lewis made the initial stop to allow Lawson to go ball-hunting.
“I’ve been trying to get the ball out all year,” Lawson said. “One of the coaches this week said, ‘Shaq you’re going to get a ball out.’ So I saw the ball and started stripping. It felt good because the only thing the coach was talking about is takeaways. That’s what we preach every day.”
“Guy made a great play,” Lewis said. “We knew all week coming into the game that they were going to try to strip at it. They just got me, made a great play.”
4. Allen shows speed. Josh Allen’s 14-yard TD run in the first quarter was his third rushing TD of the season. The Bills faked a stretch run to the right. Fullback Patrick DiMarco ran to the left flat, but he was well covered by linebacker Rashaan Evans.
“It’s like a three-level play,” DiMarco said. “It’s a run-action. If I can outflank that backer, then dump it to me now. Then you’ve kind of got a wave of guys coming. I think they had it well covered. The good thing about that is you continue running to the sideline to open lanes up. Josh is a phenomenal athlete. He gets the ball in space and he made a play.”
With Evans chasing DiMarco, Allen cut upfield and was too fast for diving safety Kendrick Lewis. The other Titans linebackers had overflowed on the stretch run fake.
5. Worried about a flag. On the Titans’ third field-goal drive, Jerry Hughes had his arms around Mariota but let him go, hoping he’d fall down. The QB didn’t and was able to throw the ball away.
Said Hughes: “I made an inside move. I’m underneath the quarterback at that point in time. So when I go to wrap you up, I’m naturally low. I’m naturally underneath him. If I pick him up and finish him, it’s a 15-yard penalty. They might score on that drive. It’s a tough situation to be in. I’m very thankful our secondary played lights out all day and got us off the field.”
6. Shady’s magic act. LeSean McCoy got the Bills’ winning drive moving with a 14-yard swing pass to the Bills’ 46. McCoy broke four tackles. He left linebackers Daren Bates and Jayon Brown on the ground. Cornerback Malcolm Butler whiffed at him. Linebacker Brian Orakpo grasped, missed and landed on the ground.
7. Road grader. Chris Ivory ran over cornerback Adoree' Jackson in bouncing off right tackle on a 4-yard run with 1:45 left. It should have been a no-gainer.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to get outside of Jackson, and I know those guys like to throw at the legs,” Ivory said. “Being that I had pursuit coming from either the D-tackle or D-end, I saw the angle he took, I felt I could cut it up and maybe get between those guys.”
“The beast,” said left tackle Dion Dawkins of Ivory. “We know when Chris is back there he’s going to run through people, keep his feet moving and be that dog.”
8. Left-tackle quickness. Dawkins bowled over Jackson to spring Ray-Ray McCloud for a first down on a 6-yard swing pass to the Titans’ 33 with 1:36 to go.
“Those are my favorite plays 'cuz I get to show my athleticism,” Dawkins said.
Four plays later, Stephen Hauschka's field goal won it.