Bills plug leaks on defense with Brady, Patriots up next
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — One moment, Leslie Frazier expressed relief at how the Buffalo Bills were finally able to plug various holes on a leaky defense.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys competed,” the defensive coordinator said Monday, referring to Buffalo’s 16-10 win at Kansas City a day earlier. “As a staff, we could see we were beginning to flip the switch. And then yesterday kind of validates that.”
The next moment, Frazier issued a heavy sigh when reminded of his next challenge: containing Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
“Oh boy,” Frazier said. “A lot of people have tried to do that over the course of his career and not many people have been very successful.”
That particularly includes the Bills when it comes to facing their AFC East rival.
Brady has a 26-2 career record against Buffalo, not including a 2014 season-ending 17-9 loss in which he played just the first half with the Patriots having already secured their playoff seeding. And the Patriots (9-2) make their annual trip to Orchard Park with an offense that leads the NFL in yards gained and is third in scoring at 325 points.
If there’s any bright side, Frazier said, it’s having a positive outing to build off after Buffalo (6-5) snapped a three-game skid to stay in a convoluted AFC playoff picture.
“New opponent. New challenge,” he said. “You need to go into this game with some confidence as you prepare, and we should have that as we get ready.”
After staggering through three games in which they gave up 135 points and an average of 414 yards, the Bills rediscovered a semblance of their early season stoutness against the Chiefs. Buffalo limited Kansas City to 236 yards of offense and 14 first downs, and it sealed the victory on cornerback Tre’Davious White’s late interception of Alex Smith.
The win also stabilized a Bills offense facing a crisis of confidence at quarterback a week after coach Sean McDermott benched Tyrod Taylor and started rookie Nathan Peterman in a 54-24 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers. The decision backfired with Peterman throwing five interceptions in the first half before being replaced by Taylor with Buffalo trailing 40-7.
Taylor responded with an efficient if modest outing against Kansas City by completing 19 of 29 attempts for 183 yards with a touchdown in a turnover-free performance. The Bills were particularly conservative in nursing a second-half lead by having Taylor attempt just five passes.
“Look, we did enough to win the game,” McDermott said. “That said, in all three phases we have to continue to improve, not just offensively, but defensively, special teams.”
The Bills still have questions on both sides of the ball
The offense in games Taylor starts has topped 300 yards just four times, 20 first downs just three times and been limited to scoring one or fewer touchdown five times, including one against the Chiefs.
One reason McDermott benched Taylor in favor of Peterman was a sputtering offense that managed four first downs and 99 net yards and punted six times on its first eight drives in a 47-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 12.
Then there’s a patchwork defense that relies heavily on creating takeaways to compensate for other deficiencies.
In Buffalo’s six wins, the defense has forced 15 takeaways (five fumbles, 10 interceptions) and returned two for touchdowns. In five losses, the Bills have just four takeaways (two fumbles, two interceptions).