Screen passes have troubled the Bills defense all season long.
The Eagles gashed them for 53 yards on six tries Sunday. The Bengals got them on a 30 yarder. The Titans hit one for 50-plus.
It’s something teams won’t stop trying on the Bills, even if it’s also an example of how very good they’ve been.
“It’s kinda a compliment when they run a lot of screens against you,” Micah Hyde said. “They know that our guys up front are able to get after the quarterback. We’ve given up some things. We’re an attack defense. They’re going to continue to happen. It’s on us to get them down and live to fight another day.”
As with most plays, the Bills say stopping a screen is a team effort, but it is toughest on the guys up front.
“No defensive lineman plays a screen. If you’re playing a screen, you’re not an attack defensive lineman,” Shaq Lawson said. “When the screen comes, we just got to react and attack better with 11 guys going to the football.”
Defensive linemen must also be honest with themselves about what kind of player they really are.
“You have to have an awareness about, ‘ok, I’m not that great of a pass rusher,” Lorenzo Alexander said. “When you’re running free, a majority of the time, it’s because they’re letting you go for a reason.”
If linebackers can’t immediately make the tackle or deny the pass, they can help by at least slowing the running back down. Alexander says make whoever catches the ball “indecisive”.
Often, offenses are trying to run defensive backs away from the play. Their number one job is to recognize that a screen is happening and then do enough to help the cavalry arrive.
“The back seven… get it forced back inside. Obviously, if you’re letting it go down the sideline, the defensive linemen aren’t making it back to that,” Hyde said.
Alexander pointed out the Eagles tended to run screens into the wind on Sunday. He says, going forward, the Bills need to have more knowledge about when they might see a screen.
“It could make us one step closer to making a play instead of missing it,” Alexander said.
And one step closer to making screen attempts only a compliment.