It started at the beginning of the second quarter with an interception from Lavonte David and turned into a full-fledged feeding frenzy — a hungry defense that surrendered 27 points to the Panthers last week avenging a disappointing loss to a divisional foe — swatting down passes, dislodging the football and taking down quarterback E.J. Manuel play, after play, after play.
Five forced turnovers including four interceptions, seven sacks, 13 quarterback hits, nine tackles for losses, eight pass breakups — and not once did the Bills reach the end zone. But this type of play-making was nothing David nor his teammate Gerald McCoy hadn’t already seen in practice.
“These guys do it all the time. I actually think everyone who had an interception today had one in practice this week,” McCoy said. “These guys are getting picks constantly…and it’s showing up.”
First it was David showing up in the second quarter on a tipped pass intended for Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson on second-and-3.
“Our coaches, we get in a line, tip the ball up and we’ve just got to go out and get it. It was basically the exact thing that happened. I [saw] it happen and it was just like practice. I went up and got it, I made a play on the football and got a great run after the catch,” said David, who finished with two picks, a sack, two tackles for losses and nine combined tackles.
Rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks was right behind him, undercutting Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham on a dig route on second-and-6 at the Buffalo 43. “Everybody is running dig [routes] these days. The dig is one of the hardest routes to cover,” Banks said. “I undercut the route and the ball was right there, so I did my thing.”
Graham was the intended target of another pick thrown by E.J. Manuel, this time to middle linebacker Mason Foster on second-and-10 at the Tampa Bay 31.
“I fell back with him. That’s something we worked on in practice. I knew I was going to have a chance to make a play on the ball so I kind of dropped one earlier. I knew I had to get me one no matter what,” Foster said.
“It’s something we’ve been working on a lot lately, getting the ball. I [saw] Lavonte get his so I had to get one at least (laughs). I couldn’t let him outdo me like that. I’m just mad I didn’t stay on my feet. I was trying to run a little bit but it’s alright.”
David would have another pick on a short pass intended for Robert Woods after Darrelle Revis knocked the ball loose from Woods’ hands. He finished with four tackles, a pass-breakup and a sack for a 6-yard loss.
“I don’t think I’ve probably been in a defensive game like this where we made so many…we made five turnovers. It was tremendous today. Guys were playing lights out and their hearts out,” Revis said.
David’s second pick set up a 32-yard field goal by kicker Rian Lindell, the second field goal that was set up by an interception. Lindell also made one from 53 yards out.
Lindell wasn’t the only one on special teams making big plays. Safety Dashon Goldson recovered a muffed punt by Leodis McKelvin in the second quarter at the Buffalo 21 yard line. His efforts were negated by an interception from quarterback Mike Glennon intended for Vincent Jackson at the Buffalo 3.
Glennon struggled throughout the day, finishing 9 for 25 with 90 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But the defense was the difference-maker, with guys like back-ups Da’Quan Bowers and Derek Landri and rookie William Gholston swarming Manuel each for a sack and McCoy harassing him all day.
“I think it was just a result of the disappointment we had last week as a defense,” said Revis on the defensive turn-around this week. “We really felt last week that we were ready and prepared for Carolina but it didn’t go our way, so we just wanted to start fast today. Guys came out today and started fast with a bunch of three-and-outs and we just kept the momentum.”
Added Banks, “Last week was embarrassing. This game [was] really what the Bucs are about.”