Sean McDermott, Leslie Frazier Right Wayward Buffalo Bills' Defense
Five observations from the Bills’ stunning 27-6 win over the Vikings on Sunday:
—Sean McDermott created a stir by taking the play calling away from Leslie Frazier in the Chargers game. I felt he had thrown Frazier under the bus and tried to deflect attention from a historically bad six quarters by his defense.
But McDermott and Frazier said they would collaborate on calling the plays. Evidently, it worked. They had their defense primed for a great game on Sunday. They got great pressure on Kirk Cousins with some inventive and timely blitzes. The secondary also had a terrific game after two dreadful outings. The linebackers were terrific.
In the locker rom afterwards, McDermott told his players “You earned it” and called up Frazier to get a game ball. The two hugged. It was a nice gesture and presumably any hard feelings between the two have dissipated. In the end, McDermott got the best out of his defense, which has now played six solid quarters after six unsightly ones.
—The Bills, who closed as 17-point underdogs on the Vegas betting line, became the largest underdog to win a game in 23 years — and only the 15th in the Super Bowl era. The last underdog to win outright with such a line was the Redskins, who beat the Cowboys, 24-17, as 17 1/2-point underdogs on Dec. 3, 1995.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the previous 24 teams to be favored by 17 or more points in a game had won. NFL favorites of 17-plus points are now 145-15 straight-up in the Super Bowl era. So yes, that was a pretty stunning outcome.
—For the first time in six games, including January’s playoff loss in Jacksonville, the Bills took the ball away more than once. They had three. They recovered two Vikings fumbles and intercepted Kirk Cousins once. They also sacked him four times after amassing only three sacks combined in losses to the Ravens and Chargers.
Last week in an appearance at Dos Amigos, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander lamented the lack of takeaways, which has been the Bills’ signature a year ago. They had five games with three or more takeaways and went 4-1 in those games.
During one stretch, they had three or more in four straight games (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Oakland) as they got to 5-2. Next week in Green Bay, they’ll need to be just as resourceful against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers.
—Chris Ivory acquitted himself well in place of injured tailback LeSean McCoy. Ivory had 56 yards rushing on 20 carries and 70 yards on three receptions. The 126 combined yards are the most for Ivory in a game since Nov. 12, 2015, in a Thursday night loss to the Bills.
Ivory caught a 55-yard pass from Josh Allen late in the first quarter that set the Bills up at the Vikings’ 6-yard line. Allen eventually scored on a one-yard lunge. The 55-yard catch was the longest of Ivory's NFL career.
—Kelvin Benjamin had two bad drops early, sparking a cascade of criticism on Twitter. It was warranted.
Benjamin hasn’t lived up to his No. 1 receiver label since coming to the Bills a year ago. But he finished with three catches for 29 yards. It ended a stretch of four games, including the playoff loss to Jacksonville, when he had a combined six catches for 65 yards.
The Bills need more from Benjamin. Allen knows that, and he went back to him several times after the early drops to build his confidence. It’s the sort of thing another Bills quarterback used to do in his day: Jim Kelly.