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Bills Coach McDermott downplays Carolina homecoming

“I really appreciate the time that I spent there”

September 11, 2017 - 9:10 pm

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WBEN/AP-John Wawrow) — Bills rookie head coach Sean McDermott isn’t one to get sentimental, whether it’s reflecting on his first victory or looking ahead to a Carolina homecoming this weekend.

McDermott cracked a slight smile Monday when reminded the Bills lead the AFC East following their season-opening 21-12 win over the New York Jets.

“I’ll be human for a second, it feels good to be 1-0,” he said. McDermott also acknowledged being honored having veteran defensive lineman Kyle Williams present him with the game ball.

Otherwise, it’s on to preparing for the Panthers.

To hear McDermott put it, Carolina represents nothing more than the next opponent rather than a team that provided him a fresh start in 2011, and eventually led to his hiring in Buffalo in January.

“I really appreciate the time that I spent there,” McDermott said. “But I also know the work we have to put in this week, and that’s where my focus is right now.”

McDermott was far more open in June when detailing how getting hired by Carolina helped define his career. It came on the heels of his being fired as Eagles defensive coordinator and leaving a Philadelphia team he rooted for while growing up in nearby Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

“It crushed me,” McDermott recalled. “I looked introspectively, just looked at myself and said, ‘What did I do wrong?’”

The following day, McDermott was in line for a job with Denver when Panthers coach Ron Rivera offered him the defensive coordinator’s position.

McDermott credits Rivera for being a mentor and providing him the freedom to oversee the defense. He also learned to ease up on his schedule, that spending most every waking hour focusing on football didn’t guarantee success.

“That period of my life, had I not gone through that, I don’t know if I’d be here now,” McDermott said. “That setback was a setup really for a comeback for myself.”

At Carolina, McDermott’s defense played a role in winning three NFC South titles and a 2016 Super Bowl appearance that ended with a loss to Denver. During his six combined seasons, the Panthers allowed the ninth-fewest yards in the NFL, had the second-most sacks (261) and forced the third-most turnovers (169).

McDermott’s success and detailed approach led him to landing the Bills job in succeeding Rex Ryan, who was fired in the final week of last season.

Though the Bills are in the midst of an extensive roster overhaul , glimpses of McDermott’s influence are already evident on a team that lacked cohesion and discipline during two seasons under Ryan.

Against the Jets, the Bills were only penalized six times 50 yards, and no too-many-men flags, which was an issue last season.

Buffalo’s defense, which underachieved under Ryan, allowed 214 yards, just 38 yards rushing, albeit against a Jets team that lacks offensive threats. And the Bills gave up just 11 first downs, their fewest since allowing 11 in a 38-3 win over the Ryan-coached Jets on Nov. 24, 2014.

The Panthers are expected to present a more daunting test following their 23-3 win at San Francisco on Sunday.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane previously worked for the Panthers before being hired in May. And Buffalo’s roster includes former Panthers, running back Mike Tolbert and cornerback Leonard Johnson.

Though McDermott is publicly keeping his emotions in check this week, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier can appreciate what the coach is experiencing.

“There’ll be some emotions. They have to be for the number of years that he spent there,” Frazier said, who’s experienced his share of homecomings during 18 seasons as an NFL coach and another six as a player. “But at the end of the day, he’s leading the Buffalo Bills football team. And he’ll be focused on getting our team ready.”

NOTES: Starting CB E.J. Gaines sustained a bruised left shoulder, McDermott said. Gaines did not return after being hurt in the fourth quarter against the Jets. ... QB Tyrod Taylor improved to 15-4 when attempting 29 or fewer passes. He’s 1-10 with 30 or more attempts. ... Buffalo hasn’t recovered a fumble in 11 consecutive games.

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