No Kyle Williams, no Shawne Merriman, no problem.
The Bills put together their best defensive effort in years, beating the Redskins 23-0 in Toronto and notching the franchise's first shutout win since 2006. At 5-2, the Bills are in first place in the AFC East.
Buffalo caught a break, playing an extremely banged-up Washington squad, but the Bills also were hampered by injuries. OLG Andy Levitre had to play left tackle with Demetrius Bell and Chris Hairston both out. Williams missed his second game and nickel CB Aaron Williams remained out. Plus, the Bills placed Merriman on injured reserve last week.
Chan Gailey and defensive coordinator George Edwards did some shuffling in the front seven, and it made all the difference. Rookie Marcell Dareus moved inside, taking Kyle Williams' spot, and second-year DE Alex Carrington got the start at left end. The Bills also got DE-OLB Chris Kelsay back from injury.
Entering Sunday, the Bills ranked last in the NFL with only four sacks. They also ranked 31st in yards allowed. Against the 'Skins, they sacked QB John Beck nine times, hit him 14 times and held Washington to 178 total yards.
The PFW Spin
Dareus has looked every bit the part of a high draft pick all season, but he had a breakout game on Sunday, recording 2½ sacks, consistently using his strength to power his way up the gut toward Beck.
The rookie's penetration helped the rest of the D-line and allowed the Bills to attack the Redskins without blitzing. Consider this stat — of Buffalo's nine sacks, six of them came with the Bills rushing only four. One sack came when they rushed five and two came from blitzes.
Dareus, Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson and Kelsay combined for six sacks and nine QB hits. It is important to note the Redskins' O-line was banged up and Beck was lacking No. 1 WR Santana Moss, but the Bills' defense entered Sunday pretty banged up themselves. They had a few coverage sacks and kept the Redskins from getting any semblance of rhythm on offense.
Regardless of the Redskins' lack of personnel, the Bills' defensive display should be a big boost to the unit's confidence going forward, especially leading into this week's big test against a Jets team coming off a bye. The Bills have a one-game lead over the Jets and a win would go a long way toward ending Buffalo's playoff drought.
The Jets' defense, mainly the secondary, will cause problems for the Bills' offense. Chan Gailey will need to counter what Rex Ryan throws at Buffalo. But the Jets' offense has struggled, and it provides an opportunity for the Bills' defense to step up again.
Mark Sanchez has been sacked 16 times this season and the Jets' O-line hasn't been as stout as it usually is. He has also lost four fumbles and thrown six interceptions. If the D-line can get good penetration again and force turnovers, it would be key for the Bills, as it would give Ryan Fitzpatrick a short field to work with against the Jets' defense.
Coming into the draft, bolstering the pass rush was a big need for the Bills, and many pegged Von Miller as a shoe-in for Buffalo, if he was available. With Miller gone a pick earlier, the Bills took Dareus, who, unlike Miller, is also strong against the run, and the pick is paying off in a big way. Getting that much penetration from your front four makes a big difference for your defense, now the Bills need to build on their performance in one of their biggest games this late into a season in recent memory against the Jets this Sunday.
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