HOUSTON – The matchup Sunday between Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White and Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins was highly anticipated.
So, too, will be the rematch, whenever that happens.
White was outspoken after the Bills’ 20-13 loss against Houston at NRG Stadium.
“I feel like I won the battle,” he said. “I mean, what he have, two passes for like 30-something yards on me?
“He had two pass catches, 30-something yards, and he cried the whole game. I was out there with him the whole game. You know what he had. Anytime the offense starts to hide a guy in the backfield to get him away from me, you already know how that's going, so that's all I've got to say about that, man. Obviously, he is a good receiver, but I feel like I'm better.”
White was called for a pair of defensive holding penalties while in coverage. Hopkins finished the game with five catches for a team-leading 63 yards and one touchdown, which came with White in tight coverage in the first quarter.
“We saw a one-on-one,” Hopkins said. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson “put the ball on the money where only I could catch it. It’s as simple as that.”
Hopkins came into the game leading the NFL with 594 receiving yards. Of his five against the Bills, just two came against White’s coverage, according to a video review by The Buffalo News. His estimate of “30-something yards” is actually high. Hopkins’ two catches against White were the 13-yard touchdown and a 10-yard slant – his other three came against zone coverage.
“That’s an All-Pro statement, that’s all I’ve got to say,” White said. “That’s an All-Pro statement. I should get my recognition, man. The guy had two catches for 30-something yards, and they say he the best receiver in the league, but I don’t think so. I feel like I did a great job.”
The same could be said for the defensive effort as a whole, although even after holding the Texans' offense to 13 points, it didn’t end up being enough.
“Obviously, we didn’t do enough if we didn’t win,” White said. “So, I mean, the only thing we can do is go back to the drawing board, continue to play defense like we’ve been playing, continue to take the ball away and getting our team in a great position to win ball games.”
2. One of the reasons the Bills lost is because of a terrible performance on special teams, starting with the opening kickoff. Rookie receiver Ray-Ray McCloud replaced veteran running back Taiwan Jones as the starting kick returner, but fumbled on the game’s first play. McCloud was bailed out when rookie safety Siran Neal recovered the fumble, but the tone was set for what ended up being a long day for the special teams.
McCloud’s next opportunity went even worse than his first. He fumbled an attempted fair catch on a punt, which was recovered by Houston and set up the Texans at the Bills’ 29-yard line. Five plays later, the Texans scored the game’s opening touchdown.
Not surprisingly, McCloud was benched after that, with Jones back to return after the Houston score and safety Micah Hyde taking over as the primary punt returner.
McCloud disputed that he fumbled on the kickoff, saying he left the field because he knew his arm was down. On the muffed punt, McCloud said he’s been coached to run up and catch the ball to save field position.
“Just trying to make a play,” he said. “We’ve been coached about saving field position. Just ran up, tried to make a play on it so we could be closer to field-goal position and ended up making a mistake that rarely happens.
“I was more disappointed that (I) couldn't go back in and kind of grow up. If you make mistakes, it's part of football. And I've made plenty of them at punt returner. I was more mad that he didn't let me go back in, because I got it out the way now. Like, that's my first drop in the NFL. OK, now I know what that's like. I got that out of the way. It's time to get better. It ain't really nothing to it, I mean I didn't lose my confidence or anything.”
Hyde sought out McCloud for a pep talk of sorts after the lost fumble.
“It’s tough. I’m speaking in general – anybody in the league as a rookie – catching punts in this league is different,” Hyde said. “It’s not like college. You’re not going to sit back and they punt it and it’s going to roll to you and you’re able to make a play. No, the ball is up in the air for some time, and you’ve got to catch it, react, and try to make some plays. So, he’ll grow into it. Everybody in this locker room has faith in Ray-Ray and what he can do in the punt-return game.”
If only McCloud’s lost fumble was the Bills’ lone special-teams problem. Far from it, actually.
The entire left side of the team’s line got blown up in the second quarter, leading to a blocked punt that set the Texans up with another short field that they turned into a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
If that wasn’t rock bottom for the special teams, it came at the start of the second half when receiver Andre Holmes lined up offside for the kickoff. There were also holding penalties against Deon Lacey and Neal.
“I can't really tell you exactly what happened on each thing,” Holmes said. “As far as special teams go, we've just got to do better.”
Coach Sean McDermott agreed.
“You’re not going to set yourself up for success when you play that type of game. We’ve got to play better in that area,” he said.
3. Holmes’ penalty wasn’t the only inexcusable penalty taken by the Bills. A pair of illegal formation penalties – one against tight end Jason Croom in the third quarter and one against Dion Dawkins in the fourth quarter – erased completions of 44 and 11 yards, respectively.
Overall, the Bills were flagged 12 times for 104 yards. That included three false starts, which drive the head coach nuts.
“You can’t hurt yourself with pre-snap penalties the way we did today,” McDermott said.
4. At least for this week, Phillip Gaines was the Bills' starting cornerback. Whether that continues going forward remains to be seen after Gaines took a game-changing penalty. He was whistled for pass interference against Texans receiver Will Fuller V in the end zone on the play that brought on the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. The penalty gave the Texans 41 yards and put the ball on the Bills’ 1-yard line. The Buffalo defense held the Texans out of the end zone and forced a tying field goal, but the penalty still had a huge impact on the game.
The team made Ryan Lewis inactive, meaning Gaines started opposite White. The Bills had been rotating Lewis and Gaines throughout the practice week. Lewis started the last three games, but Gaines replaced him in the second half of the Week 5 win against the Titans.
5. The Bills lost left guard Vlad Ducasse to a knee injury in the second half. He was announced as questionable to return, but never re-entered the game. He was replaced by Ryan Groy.
6. Ouch. My hair. Jadeveon Clowney made a tackle that’s going to show up on every highlight reel in the fourth quarter, pulling Chris Ivory down by one of the Bills’ running back’s dreadlocks. Both Clowney and Ivory could be seen laughing after the play, which is legal. “I tried to do whatever it takes to get that tackle,” Clowney told reporters. “I grabbed for his jersey and pulled him by the hair. I got dreads. I know that hurts. He said, ‘Come on, man, why you do that?’ I said, ‘Come on, man why you try to run from me?’ It’s part of the uniform. If I had to reach for him again, I would.”
7. With no players listed on the injury report, the Bills had some tougher-than-usual decisions to make regarding inactives. Joining Lewis were quarterback Derek Anderson, linebacker Julian Stanford, running back Marcus Murphy and offensive linemen Conor McDermott, Ike Boettger and Wyatt Teller.
Story topics: Chris Ivory/ Conor McDermott/ Deon Lacey/ Derek Anderson/ Dion Dawkins/ Ike Boettger/ Jason Croom/ Julian Stanford/ Marcus Murphy/ Micah Hyde/ Phillip Gaines/ Ray-Ray McCloud/ Ryan Groy/ Ryan Lewis/ Sean McDermott/ Siran Neal/ Tre'davious White/ Vlad Ducasse/ Wyatt Teller