Lorenzo Alexander is 35 years old. That fact continues to blow the minds of his teammates on the Buffalo Bills’ defense.
“Zo's a beast. Everything he does for us, especially at his age, man, this dude is a beast,” safety Micah Hyde said.
On Sunday, that included stepping into a new role. With Matt Milano out for the season because of a broken fibula, Alexander played 53 snaps, his second-highest total of the season. He finished with six tackles, two of which went for a loss, two quarterback hits and one pass defensed in a 14-13 win over the Detroit Lions.
“I hope he plays for the next five years,” Hyde said. “I'm going to try and talk him into it, because this dude is running around like he's 23 years old.”
“He has high expectations of himself, and that's why he prepares the way he does,” added safety Jordan Poyer. “He's a great mentor for younger guys. Looking at him in the fourth quarter and him being someone I want to play for. He's a huge asset to our team. Can't say enough about Lorenzo.”
Alexander is in the final year of his contract but has expressed an interest in returning. Given the season he’s had, it seems likely that the interest in that would be mutual.
“We're lucky to have some guys in this locker room who are leaders on and off the football field, and he’s one of them,” Hyde said. “I could ask Zo a personal question, and he's always there to answer with good advice. Having guys like Zo is amazing. He's not the only one. There's a lot of guys on this team that are able to play different positions, and when they're thrown in the fire, they can make plays.”
Alexander has 49 tackles, a team-leading 6.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits, eight passes defensed and one interception, fumble recovery and forced fumble.
“We were using Lorenzo a little bit in some different positions than what he’s played this year up to this point,” coach Sean McDermott said after the win. “To be able to do that, I thought he did a phenomenal job out there.”
“Zo does it all,” added defensive end Jerry Hughes. “I don't think there's too much on the football field Lorenzo can't do. We understand that and we're going to utilize him. He stepped up to the challenge, and it's great. Our whole mantra on this team is ‘next man up.’ It's unfortunate that we lost a star like Matt, but we have another star like Lorenzo.”
Having a chess piece like Alexander is invaluable for a defense.
“That's kind of been my niche my entire career, and that's probably one of the reasons why I've never been a starter until here of late. Just being a jack-of-all-trades type of guy, that's why I've been in the league for 14 years,” he said. “That's kind of what my role is, and I'm just trying to do it to the best of my ability. … It's fun for me. Obviously Matt is a great player and has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season. I just wanted to come in there and not let the guys down. It's hard to fill in for a guy that's been playing as well as he has, so I just wanted to step up and do my part today. It allows our team to have depth and some versatility when I'm able to do that for us.”
By now, it’s been well documented that Alexander entered the NFL as a 290-pound defensive tackle. Now, 14 years later he’s a 245-pound linebacker strong enough to rush the passer and athletic enough to play single coverage on opposing running backs.
“Anything you put your mind to, you can do. He's a living testament to that,” Hughes said. “He comes in, works hard, he's a great example for not only myself, but the young guys on the team.”
The Bills sit 10th in the draft order with a 5-9 record. They dropped down from the No. 6 spot a week ago. The Bills are last in the draft order among the five teams with a 5-9 record because of their strength of schedule (.522). Arizona holds the No. 1 spot, followed by Oakland. Both teams are 3-11.
Stat of the game: 6
That’s the number of undrafted rookies the Bills had on the field Sunday: By snaps, they were: WR Robert Foster (57), CB Levi Wallace (56), RB Keith Ford (41), TE Jason Croom (32), LB Corey Thompson (20), DE Mike Love (9), G Ike Boettger (9).
Game ball: Robert Foster
His 42-yard touchdown catch provided the go-ahead points and pushed him over 100 yards for the third time this season. Foster is the Bills’ first receiver to have at least three 100-yard games in a season since Sammy Watkins in 2015, and the first rookie to do it since Watkins in 2014. He also became the first undrafted free agent in team history to have back-to-back 100-yard games. Foster has star potential, and is showing that with each passing week.
Quote of the day
“You’ve got to win close games in the NFL. That’s the takeaway from this game – you have to win close games, however they come out. You also have to score points and stop them. I’d like a larger margin. That would make the hair I have left stay on the top of my head. That’s what we’re looking for. We have a lot of work to do. We’ve got to look at this film, be honest with ourselves and take it one step at a time right now.” – McDermott, on what he took away from the win.
Snap count notes
1. Rookie guard Ike Boettger got nine snaps at right guard in place of John Miller. Perhaps that’s a sign the Bills will give Boettger more of a look over the final two games.
2. Charles Clay played 41 of 68 offensive snaps (60 percent), but was targeted just once, with the pass falling incomplete. Clay is really struggling of late, with two catches for 15 yards in the last three games.
3. With Isaiah McKenzie missing some time in the second half because of cramping, rookie receiver Ray-Ray McCloud got eight snaps.
4. Trent Murphy and Shaq Lawson continue to get nearly an even distribution of work. This week, Murphy had 35 snaps and Lawson had 34.
5. Cornerback Denzel Rice and wide receiver Da’Mari Scott made their respective debuts with the Bills, playing exclusively on special teams. Both players took 11 snaps.
The Bills visit New England in Week 16 for the second straight year. Buffalo gave the home team a scare in its last trip to Gillette Stadium before New England eventually pulled away. Here are three things to know about the Patriots …
1. They’re on a losing streak. New England dropped its second straight game Sunday, losing to Pittsburgh, 17-10. Amazingly, it’s just the ninth time in quarterback Tom Brady’s 19-year career he’s dropped consecutive games. He has just one losing streak longer than two games in his career, and that came back in 2002. So expect the Patriots, who can clinch the AFC East with a win, to be in an ornery mood Sunday. New England had been 125-5 when Brady started and their opponents scored 17 points or less. That dropped to 125-6 Sunday.
2. They are in danger of missing out on a first-round bye. New England now needs to win their final two games, at home against the Bills and Jets, and then get some help to avoid playing on wild-card weekend. If they win out, the Patriots need the Texans to lose one of their final two games in order to secure a first-round bye. Even if that doesn’t happen, the Patriots shouldn’t be counted out. They would be favored to win in the wild-card round against either the Ravens, Colts or Titans, and then would go to Houston for the divisional round. Bill Belichick is 10-1 in his career against the Texans and 5-0 against Bill O’Brien, his former assistant.
3. Their run defense is a mess. Playing without James Conner, the Steelers were able to pile up 161 yards on 23 carries (excluding kneeldowns). Most of the damage was done by rookie Jaylon Samuels, who had 142 yards on 19 carries. New England gave up way too many big holes in run defense. It’s the second straight week that unit has struggled, after allowing 189 yards to Miami in Week 14.
Story topics: Charles Clay/ Corey Thompson/ Da'Mari Scott/ Denzel Rice/ Ike Boettger/ Isaiah McKenzie/ Jason Croom/ Jerry Hughes/ John Miller/ Jordan Poyer/ Keith Ford/ Levi Wallace/ Lorenzo Alexander/ Matt Milano/ Micah Hyde/ Mike Love/ Ray-Ray McCloud/ Robert Foster/ Sean McDermott/ Shaq Lawson/ Trent Murphy