ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Forget the touchdown Tre’Davious White scored, or the NFL rookie defensive player of the month honor he won in September. The Buffalo Bills starting cornerback would rather focus on his flaws to stay grounded.
Take last Buffalo’s come-from-behind 30-27 win over Tampa Bay last weekend, for example.
Rather than celebrate what proved to be the game-deciding fumble he forced and recovered to set up Stephen Hauschka’s 30-yard field goal with 14 seconds left, White was still brooding over allowing Mike Evans to catch a go-ahead touchdown pass three minutes earlier.
“There was nothing I could have done,” White said Wednesday, of Evans’ near-indefensible right-toe-dragging 12-yard catch just inside the right sideline. “But still, you know, I’ve got to live with it.”
Allowing a slight smile when reminded of how he punched the ball loose from Adam Humphries’ hands the very next time he stepped on the field, White said: “My game went from terrible to OK.”
His coaches and teammates might disagree with that assessment as Buffalo (4-2) prepares to host Oakland (3-4) on Sunday.
And yet, the Bills first-round draft pick refuses to settle for anything less than perfection despite being tied for the NFL lead with 11 passes defensed, having scored on a 52-yard fumble return in a win over Atlanta or intercepting a Trevor Siemian pass in a win over Denver, while being on the field for all but two of Buffalo’s 409 defensive plays.
“I don’t think I’m too hard on myself,” said White, who was inconsolable on the team bus after being burned by A.J. Green scoring a 77-yard touchdown in a 20-16 loss to the Bengals. “It’s part of just wanting to get better and better each week — never getting complacent.”
Coach Sean McDermott doubts anything might dent White’s makeup based on how he responded against the Bucs.
“When I see plays like that, I don’t worry as much about that in terms of mental toughness and being able to bounce back,” McDermott said. “The success he’s had is not a mistake, it’s not happenstance. He’s wired the right way.”
White has made an indelible impression on McDermott since March, when the two first met at the NFL rookie scouting combine at Indianapolis.
At the time, the rookie coach was preparing to overhaul much of Buffalo’s roster with the intention of restocking it with players he viewed as having leadership, maturity and character. White fit the bill, McDermott said, in being a four-year starter and team captain at LSU, and elected to return for his senior season to earn his sports administration degree.
Two months later the Bills selected the 22-year-old with the 27th pick.
Whatever initial hesitations defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier had in awarding a rookie a starting job were erased by how White performed on the field and learned the Bills system within the first month of practice.
“It was clearly evident to us early on that this guy could handle it,” Frazier said. “This game is not too big for him as a rookie. He’s lined up now against some of the best receivers week in and week out. And he’s held his own.”
White is part of a revamped starting secondary that includes free-agent safety additions Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer and cornerback E.J. Gaines, who was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams in August.
All four have at least one interception each, led by Hyde’s four. Injuries, however, have begun testing the secondary’s thin depth.
Gaines missed one game with a groin injury and his status is uncertain for Sunday’s game after he hurt his hamstring against Tampa Bay. Poyer’s status is also uncertain after he hurt his right knee Sunday.
Buffalo has allowed a combined 712 yards passing the past two games, and faces a daunting test against a Derek Carr-led attack that had 417 yards passing in a 31-30 win over the Chiefs on Oct. 19.
What else is new, White said, noting he’s also faced Atlanta’s Julio Jones this season.
“I’ve got a lot to learn,” he added, before finally finding something positive to acknowledge.
“We’re winning,” White said. “That’s all that matters.”
NOTES: Buffalo claimed CB Lafayette Pitts on waivers a day after he was released by Jacksonville. … Buffalo opened a roster spot by releasing CB Tony McRae two days after being claimed on waivers.