The Buffalo Bills suffered their first loss of the season in Week 4 vs the New England Patriots. They turned the ball over four times, gave up a blocked punt for a touchdown, and had to finish the game with their backup quarterback. Despite all of that, the Bills lost by only six points against the vaunted Super Bowl favorite Patriots. The reason they were able to stay in the game, was the play of their defense. The Buffalo Bills defense will keep the Bills in every game they play this year. And this is the reason they’re playoff contenders this season.
The Legitimacy of the Buffalo Bills Defense
The Patriot offense came into week four vs the Bills averaging 35.3 points per game and 408.3 yards per game. They dominated and controlled the pace of each of their first three games and seemingly did what they wanted offensively. That changed vs the Bills. The Buffalo Bills defense held the Pats to 16 points and 224 total yards. They made Tom Brady look below average and played sound situational football relentlessly. This type of performance is nothing new for the Buffalo Bills defense and will keep them in games week in and week out no matter how the offense plays.
New Year, Same Bills Defense
Nobody really knows it, but the Buffalo Bills defense was good last year. Like, really good. First against the pass. Second in the league in total yards allowed per game. They were a force. Levi Wallace had a phenomenal rookie season for a corner that wasn’t drafted. Second year linebacker Matt Milano made leaps in his game. Drafting Ed Oliver in the first round of this year’s draft only added to the young talent and quality on the defensive side of the ball for the Bills.
Now four games into this season, the Buffalo Bills defense has continued where they left off. Second in yards allowed per game. Fifth in points allowed per game. Third in takeaways. With talent, chemistry, and leadership at all three levels, the performance we’ve seen from the Bills defense this year is far from an abnormality. They disguise looks in coverage, can pressure the quarterback with only their front four, and their blitz packages create chaos for the offense.
Head Coach Sean McDermott has a penchant for well coached defenses and developing his players. He did it with the Philadelphia Eagles and he did it with the Carolina Panthers. In Buffalo, McDermott turned safety Micah Hyde into an All-Pro and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander into a bonafide three-down threat. He transformed safety Jordan Poyer from a fringe roster player into a guy that players actually think is good and should make the Pro Bowl. That’s just what coach McDermott does. And it’s a large part of why the Buffalo Bills defense is successful and will continue to be.
What They Did to Tom Brady
Through the first three games of this season the narrative was the Bills hadn’t played anybody good. Well everyone and their mother knows Tom Brady and the Patriots offense are good, and the Bills jacked them up this past week.
Brady came into week four averaging a completion percentage of 68.3% and 303.6 passing yards per game, and had seven touchdowns and no interceptions. His stats vs the Bills; a completion percentage of 46.15%, 150 passing yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. Plus the offense only put up nine points on the day.
Time and time again the Bills made Brady look uncomfortable in the pocket and forced him from his landing point. He was inaccurate, he rushed throws, and found it difficult to beat the Bills pass coverage. The Bills offense played awful at times, giving Brady and the Pats offense chance after chance to put the game away. They didn’t. The Buffalo Bills defense wouldn’t let any nail be put in the coffin and were the reason Buffalo almost inched out the win. Doing something like that to a player like Brady and to an offense like the Patriots, that means something.
No Help From the Offense
The Bills offense hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with their play this year. Week four against the Patriots was a microcosm of the poor play they’ve exhibited at times in 2019. Untimely turnovers, failure to convert chances, and negative plays resulting in great starting field position or direct points for the opposing team. All of those things happened on Sunday against the Pats and worked against the Bills.
The Patriots jumped out to a 13-0 lead (thanks in part to a turnover and a special teams touchdown) and the defense kept the Bills in it. Facing the Patriots. Going down early. Getting little to no help from your offense. All things that could have made the Bills and their defense fall apart. Standing strong in this game was huge for this team and cemented the Bills defense as a legitimate top end unit in the NFL.
If Josh Allen misses any time with his concussion, the Buffalo Bills defense will have to carry an even heavier workload. If the Bills want to make the playoffs, the defense will be the reason they get there. Right now the offense lacks the consistency and efficiency to be a regular threat. That forces the defense to carry the burden of whether or not the Bills lose on a weekly basis. Fortunately for Buffalo, their defense will give them a chance to win every game no matter who the opponent is.
What It All Means for the Buffalo Bills Defense
Getting to the playoffs is going to be a tough road for the Bills at the pace their offense is at. The week four loss to New England showed how damaging poor offensive play can be for Buffalo. If not for the play of the defense, the Bills could easily be looking at a different start to their season. With a solid mix of talent, youth, chemistry, and coaching, this defense deserves to be on everyone’s radar. What they did to Tom Brady wasn’t a fluke or luck. It was by design. The Buffalo Bills defense playing great football isn’t anything new. They’ve been doing it. You just haven’t noticed.
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