Bills visit Titans eager to keep rolling, get more payback
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Social media and video have made it impossible for the Buffalo Bills to forget their last game against the Tennessee Titans.
Derrick Henry stiff-arming Bills cornerback Josh Norman off his feet through the air literally was everywhere as a highlight, gif or meme.
Time hasn’t eased the memory either.
“We get reminded every time I see highlights,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said of that now infamous play. “I see that play and then, you know, look, give them credit. They outperformed us, they outcoached us, they outplayed us. They’re a good football team.”
The Titans added insult to injury by routing Buffalo 42-16 on only the second Tuesday night game since 1946, rescheduled because of Tennessee’s COVID-19 outbreak last season. The Bills chose not to forget that loss.
“You can learn from those experiences,” McDermott said. “And we weren’t very disciplined in that game, detail-oriented. We didn’t take care of the football. I mean, it was like I told you, they outperformed us.”
Now the schedule takes the Bills (4-1) to the second straight stop on their redemption tour. The Bills just routed the Chiefs 38-20 in Kansas City in a rematch of the AFC title game. This visit to Nashville offers a little payback while the Bills try to keep rolling in Monday night’s showdown of divisional leaders.
Buffalo sits atop the AFC East having won four straight. The Bills have both the NFL’s highest-scoring offense and stingiest defense.
The Titans (3-2) aren’t dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. Injuries are the problem, with 16 players on injured reserve but down to just 14 on this week’s injury report. The defending AFC South champs are coming off a 37-19 win over the Jaguars.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill sees this game as a huge opportunity.
“You love to go out there and be able to showcase what we are about,” Tannehill said. “I think guys are excited. I am excited to go out and play in front of a packed house at home. There is not much better than that.”
BRINGING THE BLITZ
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier resisted the urge to bring the blitz in effectively containing Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes last week. He even wrote on his call sheet “Be patient,” and his defense sacked Mahomes twice.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a game where we didn’t pressure at least once,” Frazier said. “Now, I’m not saying that will always be the strategy.”
That will likely change against the Titans with Tannehill having already been sacked a league-high 20 times.
The 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year has some streaks on the line. He already has tied his career-long streak rushing for at least 100 yards in four straight games, and another would tie Eddie George’s string of five in 1998.
Henry also has run for at least 50 yards in 30 straight games, the third-longest streak in the NFL since 1960, trailing only Priest Holmes (38 in 2001-03) and Chris Carson (31 in 1993-95).
If Henry runs for 110 yards and a touchdown against a defense ranked third against the run, he’ll join Jim Brown (1963), Eric Dickerson (1983) and Terrell Davis (1998) as the only players with 750 yards rushing and eight rushing TDs in the first six games of the season.
After matching a single-game career best with 11 catches in a 43-21 win over Washington, Bills receiver Cole Beasley has combined for three catches in Buffalo’s past two outings. The drop in production matches a huge dip in Beasley’s playing time. He played 22 of 55 snaps against Kansas City, the first time Beasley’s been on the field for less than half of Buffalo’s total offensive plays this year.
The outing came after Beasley, one of the NFL’s most vocal critics of getting vaccinated, went to social media to complain about Bills fans booing him for his views during a 40-0 win over Houston.
McDermott said Beasley’s drop in snaps was game plan related, using more two tight end formations the past two games. Fullback Reggie Gilliam also has gotten additional playing time.
The Titans may be starting to heal up, especially some key players. Seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones is practicing after missing two straight games with an injured hamstring, while outside linebacker Bud Dupree is closer to returning after sitting out the past three.
Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano also is practicing after a hamstring issue kept him out of the win over Kansas City.
For all the attention Henry’s stiff arm of Norman received, it didn’t count. The Bills were flagged for being offside, while the Titans had a holding penalty to wipe out what Vrabel called the “best 5-yard run in football history” on second-and-4.