John Brown is on pace to do something that hasn't been done in Buffalo in more than a dozen years.
After making five catches for 83 yards during Sunday's 31-21 win over the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field, Brown has 473 receiving yards in the Bills' 5-1 start. That puts him on pace for 1,261 yards this season. If he gets there, he'd be the first Bills receiver to top 1,200 yards in a season since Lee Evans had 1,292 yards in 2006.
"He's looking like a No. 1 receiver, because he is a No. 1," defensive end Jerry Hughes said. "He's making all the big plays. Any time we need a big catch, he's doing it."
Brown ranks 16th in the NFL in total receiving yards, with 13 of the 15 players ahead of him on the list having played seven games. Among receivers, he's 12th in receiving yards. He also is one of only two players in the league with at least 50 yards receiving in all of his team's games, joining Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints.
"Just take advantage of my opportunities," Brown said after Sunday's win. "When my number is called, execute. With the timing Josh (Allen) and I have, with the offensive line blocking, they're giving me a chance to make plays."
If there's one thing missing from Brown being a true No. 1 receiver, it's the diva personality that so often seems to be a prerequisite for the position. Don’t expect him to go all Antonio Brown any time soon.
"He's an awesome weapon for Josh to have, and he's awesome to play with," fellow receiver Cole Beasley said. "I love playing with the guy. He brings energy every day – just goes to work. You know, he really doesn't say much, but he leads by example. He shows up every Sunday, so that's what you want to see from a guy like that that you paid money for.”
The Bills gave Brown a three-year contract worth up to $27 million in the offseason. His salary cap charge this year is a reasonable $7.5 million. Based on his production through six games, the Bills are getting one heck of a deal.
“I have a lot of trust in John and what he does, just because how hard he works,” Allen said. “He’s a guy that’s going to go to work and get open for you, so I’m proud of the way he played today.”
Brown has gotten off to good starts before. Last year with the Ravens, he had 601 receiving yards and four touchdowns in the first nine games, but his production dropped sharply when Baltimore made a quarterback switch to rookie Lamar Jackson in Week 10. Brown had just 114 receiving yards over the final six games.
“I'm not satisfied, but I will say it feels good to pick up where I left off at (the beginning of 2018),” he said. “You've got to be prepared for anything, even if the offense changes. You've just got to be ready at all times. The guys in the room and the coaches, they give me the confidence to be able to play. They're always looking for me to make a play. That's what keeps me going.”
The biggest play Brown made Sunday came in the fourth quarter. He beat former Bills cornerback Ryan Lewis at the line of scrimmage to get open on a post route, and Allen hit him in stride for a 20-yard touchdown that regained the lead. Brown punctuated the touchdown with a dance from his days growing up in Homestead, Fla.
“That's a Miami thing. Guys have been wanting to see it for a long time, so I gave it to them,” he said of his celebration.
“John works at it during the week and prepares himself, so it’s good to see us get him the ball in that situation,” coach Sean McDermott said.
Can Brown continue to produce among the top 10 receivers in the NFL? If so, it bodes well for the entire offense.
“The better he plays, the more chances I'll get, too,” Beasley said. “He's doing a great job of spreading the field. Eventually, they're going to have to do some things to take him away, because he's been doing an exceptional job.”
Game ball: Tre’Davious White
An easy choice. White was responsible for two turnovers in the second half Sunday, an interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the third quarter and a forced fumble in the fourth quarter that was recovered by Hughes. Those plays were absolutely massive in a game the Bills had to have.
“That boy was something else today,” safety Micah Hyde said of White. “That’s just the stuff he’s able to do for this football team.”
According to the NFL’s NextGen stats, White leads the NFL with a 26.6 passer rating among defenders with a minimum of 20 targets against.
The Bills continued to strengthen their playoff position. They have a 1.5-game lead over the Houston Texans for the first wild-card spot in the AFC and are two games up on the Oakland Raiders, who at 3-3 are seventh in the conference and the first out of the playoffs. Buffalo’s 4-1 conference record is also strong, trailing only the New England Patriots.
Quote of the day
“Look, a lot to learn from this game, I thought, on both sides and really all three phases. But good to get a win, good to get a win at home in front of our fans and appreciate them hanging with us like they did. That’s a tough group right there, and our guys stayed tough throughout the game.” -- McDermott
1. The rotation at right tackle leaned in favor of rookie Cody Ford. He took 37 offensive snaps (66%) compared to just 19 (34%) for veteran Ty Nsekhe. It’s possible that Nsekhe, who missed the Week 5 win over Tennessee with an ankle injury, is still on a limited rep count.
2. Rookie running back Devin Singletary played 22 snaps (39%) in his first game back after missing three with a hamstring injury. Veteran Frank Gore took 30 snaps (54%).
3. Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander blew past his season high in defensive snaps, taking 70 (96%). Alexander’s previous season high was 43, which came in the Week 5 win over Tennessee. Maurice Alexander played 47 defensive snaps (64%) as the Bills adjusted to being without Matt Milano.
4. Nickel cornerback Taron Johnson played 34 defensive snaps (47%) in his return after a four-game absence because of a hamstring injury. That meant cornerback Siran Neal went back to special-teams duty, where he took 16 snaps (59%). No. 4 cornerback Kevin Johnson played 10 defensive snaps (14%).
5. Tight end Tyler Kroft played 25 offensive snaps (45%) in his season debut. Rookie Dawson Knox led the team’s tight ends with 29 snaps (52%), with veteran Lee Smith following Kroft with 23 snaps (41%).
The Bills welcome the Philadelphia Eagles to New Era Field at 1 p.m. Sunday for the first of consecutive home games against NFC East teams. Here are three things to know about the Eagles …
1. They’re coming off a slightly shorter week. Philadelphia fell to 3-4 on the season with a 37-10 blowout loss on the road to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. That was surely an angry, long, late flight home.
2. They are starting slow. The Eagles fell behind to the Cowboys 14-0 in the first quarter Sunday, marking the sixth time in seven games that they’ve trailed by double digits early in the game. It’s difficult to consistently climb out of those types of holes.
3. A pair of former Bills are banged up. Left tackle Jason Peters and linebacker Nigel Bradham missed Sunday’s game for Philadelphia. Peters has a knee injury, while Bradham was out with an ankle injury. The Eagles were also without wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (foot), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion) and running back Darren Sproles (quadriceps) against Dallas.