After securing second-team All-Pro honors for the second time in his career during the 2021 National Football League season, Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans this past season — leaving a void that was never replaced.
And it didn't take long for his injury to become a factor, either.
With all due respect to safeties Damar Hamlin and Jaquan Johnson, the Buffalo Bills defensive backfield wasn't the same without Hyde. In the first week without their star safety, the Bills lost a nailbiting game against their division-rival Miami Dolphins — a game that was lost on a frustrating fourth-quarter breakdown on defense.
Clinging to a three-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins converted a third and 22 that set up the eventual game-winning touchdown. Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle ran a double-move on a deep post route that gained 47 yards. Had Hyde or his safety partner Jordan Poyer — who was nursing a foot injury — not missed that game, the Bills could have been victorious.
And this play doesn't serve as the only example.
In the Bills second matchup against the Dolphins this season, Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill scored a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Hamlin wasn't quick enough to make up for Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White getting burned by Hill's unheralded speed down the sideline and despite the Bills winning, the Dolphins regained the lead in a crucial game late in the season.
While the Hill touchdown was much quicker and the defensive play call could have been vastly different, Hamlin bit on the pump fake from Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wasn't able to recover in time to make a play — something that Hyde wasn't fooled by in the Bills playoff matchup against the New England Patriots and quarterback Mac Jones during the 2021-22 NFL playoffs.
Micah Hyde's coverage skills is what makes him really special in the Buffalo Bills defense
It's Hyde's ball skills and range that the Bills' defense missed this past season. Not only did he tie the league lead in interceptions with five during the 2021 campaign, but quarterbacks had a QB rating of only 72.8 when throwing at Hyde in coverage.
On numerous occasions during the 2022 season, the Bills were beaten on passing plays downfield — something that has been rare during Hyde's time in Buffalo. The Bills were still in the league's top 10 for passing defense this past season but their secondary allowed 662 more passing yards and nine more passing touchdowns than they allowed in 2021.
And this shouldn't be a knock against the Bills safety replacements from last season, players like Hamlin and Johnson were still relatively inexperienced and had incredible shoes to fill. If anything, take the Bills secondary struggles as an ode to Hyde's greatness.
Despite there having been a number of people to blame for the Bills subpar defense down the stretch last season, injuries to Hyde and a handful of other defenders hindered their ability to play as a cohesive unit — even White hobbled through his recovery from a severe ACL injury that he suffered during the 2021 season.
Assuming the Bills defense can remain healthier this upcoming season, with the return of Hyde and future Hall-of-Fame edge rusher Von Miller, there is no reason to believe they can't improve.
But can the talented Bills defense shut down the league's top quarterbacks when the lights shine brightest in the NFL playoffs?
The burning question still remains but with the return of the Bills superstar safety, you shouldn't have to 'Hyde' your eyes.