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Opinion: Jerry Hughes finally breaks through on the stat sheet

Folks had been dogging him all year.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills’ pass rush has been lackluster this season, and their sack totals have been minimal. Still, Jerry Hughes was out there winning one-on-one matchups each and every week. While he wasn’t getting home, he was moving passers off their spots and doing his 1/11 to quote head coach Sean McDermott. On Sunday, he finally broke through on the stat sheet. Hopefully that will quiet his critics.

Hughes was all over the field Sunday totaling five tackles but his two sacks of New York Jets QB Sam Darnold were difference makers. Both came in the second half as the Bills shut down the Jets’ offense to the tune of four total yards. On 3rd-and-13 in the third quarter, Hughes stripped the ball from Darnold for a loss of three yards, forcing a punt.

Then on New York’s last gasp drive, Hughes pinned back his ears and went to town. He overwhelmed George Fant on the second first down of the drive, forcing a massively obvious holding call. On the ensuing 1st-and-20, he sacked Darnold for a loss of two. On the next play, Hughes intercepted a batted ball to effectively end the game. Three snaps, three huge plays from Hughes.

Yes, he came into the game with zero sacks, and lots of folks use only that number to determine the effectiveness of a pass rush. According to Pro Football Reference, he has ten QB pressures through seven games and five QB hurries. And with how bad the rest of the pass rush has been, teams have just been stepping up into the pocket to avoid Hughes, rolling or drifting to the opposite side to give their tackle help, or doubling him.

Hughes was never the problem with the pass rush and now maybe folks will get off his back for a week.