It wasn't the prettiest game to re-watch, but the Buffalo Bills' victory over the Oakland Raiders wasn't as ugly as it appeared watching it live at Ralph Wilson Stadium, either. Here's what we noticed on a second run-through of the game tape defensively.
Boy, Buffalo's defense came through in a big way in this win. It's hard to appreciate just how good they were when, for most of the game while watching it live, I was anxiously waiting for the offense to wake up. Buffalo's defense was superb, specifically against the run.
Defensive ends: Aaron Schobel and the rest of the defensive ends have taken some heat from some of us Kurupt for their lack of a pass rush. To be honest, it appeared that the Bills' ends spent most of their time playing contain and trying to clog throwing lanes on Sunday, relying on the blitz to get to JaMarcus Russell up the middle. That scheme makes sense - we knew the Raiders were going to throw short and quick, because they're playing a zone defense and they're protecting a young quarterback. Russell had a few good throws, particularly early in the game, but the ends were active and they held the quarterback in check. Let's not forget how good these guys are against the run, too - even Copeland Bryan, who wasn't even expected to make the team, is holding up well against the run.
Defensive tackles: It's time for a little love for Kyle Williams. Marcus Stroud gets all the hype - and to be certain, Williams is helped out by the fact that he plays alongside Stroud on the interior - but Williams was, once again, our most active defensive lineman Sunday. All four of his tackles came at or behind the line of scrimmage, and he looked unblockable one-on-one. Teams are now starting to double Williams and run away from Stroud, and that's where they have their most success in the running game. It's proof of how good our starting tackles are, and it also shows where teams will likely try to attack us over the next few weeks.
Linebackers: We got a better tackling effort out of our front seven in general, but Kawika Mitchell once again missed some tackles, forcing his teammates to clean up after him. Teams are starting to be wary of Mitchell on the blitz, as well, so they're keeping in two backs to basically act as an extra offensive guard because Mitchell lines up between the tackle and the end so often.
I'll re-iterate what I said yesterday: Paul Posluszny has been terrific in coverage. The long touchdown that Buffalo gave up in the fourth quarter was, indeed, Posluszny's fault - he dove to tip the pass (missing by inches) rather than dropping back to try to catch Higgins. It was a worthwhile gamble that backfired, and ultimately, where was little that Poz could have done. It's the only mistake he's made through three games this season.
Defensive Backs: Buffalo's defensive backs - in particular, safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Ashton Youboty - have become quite adept at slipping blocks and making big stops one-on-one. We saw Youboty do it twice in the win over Jacksonville, and he had another big stop on a third down in this one. Whitner also ran around some key blocks to touch up McFadden on a would-be Raiders third down conversion. The Bills' defensive backs are much more aggressive this season and finally using their speed and athleticism as assets.
Jabari Greer needs a little love as well. He's one of the skinniest guys I've ever seen play cornerback, but he is tough defending the run. He had a huge stop on a potential long gainer by Darren McFadden in the fourth quarter (two plays prior to the Johnnie Lee Higgins touchdown); Greer stepped up and stuffed McFadden in open space. That was a huge play. We've also seen him successfully take on a Walter Jones block this year as well. The guy is just tough, and his play is the embodiment of what Buffalo's defense is all about.
One more film review session coming your way this evening as we take a look at the Bills' sub-par special teams effort. Stay tuned, Rumblers.