For the second week in a row, the Buffalo Bills' front seven was flat-out manhandled by an opponent. This time it was the New Orleans Saints as Buffalo allowed 298 yards on the ground and six rushing touchdowns during Sunday’s 47-10 defeat at New Era Field.
Buffalo’s defense, which was dominant at times this season and led the league in scoring defense in the early going, has been on a steady decline since Week 5. Buffalo entered Sunday’s game tied for fifth in points allowed, but after surrendering a season-high 47 points, the Bills are now ranked 18th in scoring defense (21.8 points per game).
Compounding matters, the Bills are really struggling to pressure the opposing quarterback. The Bills failed to record a sack against future Hall of Famer Drew Brees on Sunday, but while Brees has one of the quickest releases in the league, Buffalo’s troubles with the pass rush aren’t limited to just this past Sunday’s letdown. Buffalo has only recorded 14 sacks in 2017, which is tied for 28th in the league.
If you subtract the six-sack effort put forth during a Week 2 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Buffalo’s pass rush, thought to be a strength of Leslie Frazier’s defense, has only managed eight sacks in nine games. Over the last six games, the Bills pass rush has compiled only four sacks for a total of minus-14 yards.
Jerry Hughes, Buffalo’s top sack threat, leads the Bills with three sacks. He recorded two sacks vs. Carolina and one sack vs. the Atlanta Falcons, but has been held without a sack over the last five games. The Bills entire defensive line has combined for 10 sacks on the year, and that includes one from the since-traded Marcell Dareus.
Last season, the Bills generated a sack on 7.09% of all their passing-down plays, good for the 4th-highest rate in the league. This season, Buffalo only has sacks on 4.11% of drop-backs by opposing quarterbacks, which is 30th. The net drop of 2.98% is the largest such reduction of sack percentage in the league this season.
The lack of pass-rushing productivity is especially disappointing considering first-year head coach Sean McDermott is carrying four defensive tackles and four defensive ends on the roster. If the Bills are going to right the ship, they’ll need to start by playing better in the trenches. Generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks is a must going forward.