Poyer's game-changing plays made Bills' comeback possible

BALTIMORE -- It had been almost 10 years to the day since Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer had a multi-interception game. In a 19-6 Oregon State win over Washington State in 2012, Poyer came away with three interceptions, including the game-winner.

Poyer's two fourth-quarter interceptions on Sunday were crucial in helping the Bills rally to a 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens, ending a streak of seven straight losses in one-score games.

“Just the way he plays, man -- the intensity, the love that he plays with for those guys on the field and on the sideline -- you can't replicate,” quarterback Josh Allen said of Poyer. “We obviously missed him and miss [safety] Micah [Hyde] when they were down, but we're glad to have him back now and keep this thing rolling.”

After being out for last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins with a foot injury, Poyer’s return gave the Bills' defense a boost in recovering from a 17-point deficit, tied for the third-largest road comeback in team history. GM Brandon Beane greeted Poyer warmly at his locker after the game with a handshake and a few words.

Both Ravens drives in the fourth quarter ended with a Poyer interception, with the first off a tipped pass by defensive tackle Prince Emili, but it was the second that proved vital for the outcome of the game.

On the last play of a 14-play drive that took 9:29 off the clock, the Ravens elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Quarterback Lamar Jackson had plenty of time to throw (4.74 seconds), allowing wide receiver Devin Duvernay to get free.

“[Duvernay] was wide open,” Poyer said. “And I kind of peeked at him. He was in the corner of the end zone and Lamar didn't see him at first. I peeked back at Lamar, and he was scrambling. And as soon as I peeked at him, he was kind of raising his hands up like he wanted the ball. So, I just took off. And Lamar saw him open, and he kind of floated in the air, and I just went to go make a play on it.”

Poyer's pick resulted in a touchback, giving the offense an opportunity at the 20-yard line with just over four minutes remaining. He was hurt on the play, looked at by trainers on the sideline and went into the X-ray room at M&T Bank Stadium after the game.

“I just got the wind knocked out of me,” Poyer said. “I'll be all right.”

Poyer, 31, now has an interception in every game he’s played this season and has a league-leading four. He had five in his first All-Pro season last season. But for the first time in Poyer's six seasons as a Bill, he will play without Hyde, who's out for the year with a neck injury.

Instead, 2021 sixth-round pick Damar Hamlin filled in for Hyde, along with fellow backup safety Jaquan Johnson who filled in last week but played no defensive snaps with Poyer back.

The game also marked the return of cornerback Dane Jackson after he missed a game with a neck injury. The Bills' defense, much closer to full strength than in the loss to the Dolphins, limited the Ravens to no second-half points and the team’s lowest passing yards total of the season by far, just 134 yards.

Buffalo has four fourth-quarter interceptions this season, tied for the league lead, after finishing with six fourth-quarter picks all of last season.

The secondary is getting help from an improved defensive line, thanks to the additions of Von Miller and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, in addition to the Bills' young pass-rushers taking a step forward. Jackson was contacted 14 times, tied for a season high.

“In 2015, we won a Super Bowl [with the Denver Broncos]. I think we won nine games within three points or less. That’s just how it is,” Miller said. “When you’re a good team playing good teams, games are going to be close. It's gratifying.”

The success for the Bills and Poyer comes after the safety, who is currently set to become a free agent after this season, requested a contract extension in the offseason. Beane has had conversations with Poyer’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus. The Bills added some incentives to his 2022 contract after Week 1, including on-field production, like interceptions.

While his long-term future with the team is unknown with the Bills having to decide on whether to re-sign the likes of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds as well, the team is glad Poyer is back out on the field.

“We missed him. He’s a game-changer,” pass-rusher Greg Rousseau said. “He’s a first-team All-Pro-caliber player. Having him out there makes the biggest difference for us.”