Another gut wrenching loss is in the books. With each there comes the familiar moments. The moment when we know we've blown the play we couldn't afford to. The moment when writing is on the wall. The moment we turn the ball over. The moment a whistle or a flag defines the day. But there is something else that has become familiar to me during these three tough Sundays. Something that has me excited about defense in Buffalo again at a time when the defense is anything but exciting. In some ways, it has the chance to be a coming of age story for two Buffalo Bills defenders who Dick Jauron left behind for us.
Kyle Williams and Paul Posluszny are playing the best football of their careers over the last three to four games. I actually think the emergence of Kyle and Paul as impact factors is a type of collaboration. Kyle Williams really started garnering attention for looking great when Posluszny came back from injury and Posluszny has finally been causing consistent havoc in the running and passing games now that teams are consistently double and sometimes triple blocking Kyle Williams. Everyone notices the impact of a NTs block eating play when the result is an ILB diagnosing a development to make a strong takedown on a ball carrier for a one yard gain and everyone notices the impact of an ILB's vision and intensity when he has an overcomeable path to the ball carrier thanks to the bulldozing efforts of his NT. What is developing here between Poz and Big Kyle is the kind of relationship between an ILB and his big nasty that defensive coordinators dream of having and fans delight in rooting for. They are getting better each and every week and they are doing it together.
After Baltimore, a lot us fans thought - "you know, Poz had a really good game". After Kansas City, a lot of us fans thought, "hey you know what, Poz might have just had the best game of his career". And now while watching the Bears game I was thinking, "stats may have been outrageous at Kansas City, but THIS is Poz's best game ever". He was flying to the ball carrier, meeting runners as soon as they thought they had daylight at the line of scrimmage, shouting out adjustments presnap to his teammates, and making not only the Poz specialty wrap up tackles but was getting to the ball carrier and driving them into the turf with authority. His coverage was not excellent but he was in position to dissuade Cutler from throwing at him and made a nice effort to help George Wilson force Cutler into a tough sideline endzone throw that was incomplete. The best part for a fan like myself, who pays particular attention to Poz during the game, is watching the small things, the subtleties in his demeanor, which are indicating a guy whose confidence is growing every play. After a down hes chatting it up with Reggie Torbor to identify what happened, he's moving with a surety in his step to get to the ball carrier or get a hand up to tip a pass up for grabs and he's pointing and shouting out presnap adjustments without absolute certainty. Something has flipped on for Poz and its really exciting to see unfold.
Kyle Williams is becoming a force. While it seems like something has flipped the switch for Poz, it appears like something has gone horribly wrong for Kyle. Horribly wrong in a good way - he looks meaner, nastier, stronger, and desperate to unleash it on his opponent. Play after play in recent games we are getting to watch offensive lines throw two big baddies at Kyle as he punches, bats, and clobbers his way into overpowering them. We watched this occur until the Ravens finally settled for running to the outside to shred our defense, we watched this happen against the Chiefs until Kyle was being pestered by three blockers to get a shifty Jamaal Charles through the hole or to give Cassel enough time to roll out, and we watched Jay Cutler get repeatedly flushed out of his pocket by Kyle Williams literally throwing guys like Chris Williams to the turf, letting them know they don't belong on the same field as him. And the best part? He seems to have figured out how to split apart the interior of offensive lines like an established craftsman knows his tools. He charges in, forces a runner to cut away from him or a QB to backpedal, gets up, puts his arms on his hips to catch his breath then gets right back into his stance to do it again the next play. It has been a long time since the Bills have had a defender I am confident will win his individual battle every play and it feels real good to have one again.
There hasn't been a lot to be happy about regarding this Bills defense this year but there are exciting developments taking place in the middle of the formation if you keep an eye out for it. Presnap there is a little joy brought to my heart in an otherwise dreary season for the defense watching Poz immediately spring into action on a QB adjustment, calling out verbally to his teammates, turning his head to yell his recognition to the guys behind him, to each side and in front, pointing out assignments to guys like Jairus Byrd and Akin Ayodele, and adjusting his positioning to put himself in the best position to make a play for the team. All the while this is going on, the other team is barking and pointing at Kyle Williams and a player is moving in motion to get in behind Williams to give a QB or the runner an extra man to try and get in the way of the Kyle Williams siege they know is coming. When the play is snapped and Kyle takes two guys straight into the ball carrier, forcing him to cut away and into what looks like an open hole, only to have Poz come flying in and put him into the turf for a short gain is a crowd pleaser - at least it gets me amped.
Poz and Kyle still have a lot of work to do, each in different ways, and they still have a lot more to prove. But there is an excitement that I can feel that only comes when you are watching teammates developing a synergy together. How far they can take that synergy is up to the coaching staff, themselves, and their teammates and is certainly up for debate. But if it continues to get better and stronger as the games go on, I'll be looking to Buddy Nix to make sure he keeps these two guys together. With a little luck and some continued hard work from Poz and Kyle, they can be something for our GM to try and build around on the defensive side of the ball. And that is something we can all get excited about.