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Bills vs. Jaguars: Defense stellar in forgotten effort

Like that loss, this goes a little differently than expected in naming a top player/unit from Week 9

The absurdity of naming a player(s)/unit of the game in defeat isn’t lost on me—especially when that loss is as embarrassing as what transpired Sunday afternoon. Championship teams don’t usually allow a 14-point home underdog to dismantle their top-ranked scoring offense. But the Buffalo Bills flat-out blew it. They mailed it in—at least on offense against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

To continue defending this exercise, let me remind you of perhaps the greatest slight the NFL ever rolled out: Thurman Thomas not winning the MVP of Super Bowl XXV. He was an assassin, and the true reason they had any business winning the game with seconds left. Instead, it went to Otis Anderson, whose play was good but largely unmemorable by the masses. Assuredly, they won’t name MVPs of the losing team in any game, ever. But Thurman was unstoppable by anyone and anything other than a lack of touches in that game. His undoing was a lack of coaching foresight. So, too, may be Buffalo’s fate on defense this season.

While trying to air out the stink from Sunday’s loss, I was reminded during America’s Game of the Week that Buffalo’s defense played a terrific game—much as they've done all season to this point. It wasn’t that the Bills got a mention, mind you. You see. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were quick to remind viewers the misfortune that would exist should the Green Bay Packers end up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, based on the defense’s performance. They lost—13-7. The platitudes continued afterward—thoughts how the Packers’ defense was brilliant in shutting down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The same wasn’t quickly off anyone’s tongues when it came to the Buffalo Bills’ effort against Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, and the Jaguars. And why should it?

So why should anyone bother recognizing the defense in a loss against a 2021 NFL “bottom feeder?” Simply put: It would be a shame to ignore their effort Sunday in Duval County just because the offense couldn’t get its head out of the soil. We’re talking a unit that limited an NFL offense to 218 total yards, a 15 percent third-down conversion rate, and three field goals. When a defense accomplishes that much, it’s usually a pretty decent bet the team wins their game—like nine-times-out-of-ten decent.

Look, I'm not here to convince you that the Bills’ defense is stellar. We all know it. I’m not here to convince you that their effort came against the likes of the (now faltering) Chiefs. True, it was the massively rebuilding Jaguars. But, “any given Sunday,” they say—and was Week 9 ever any given Sunday for so many. Still, I am inclined to recognize and commend Buffalo’s defense at a time when their efforts are more likely to go ignored. The Bills have a championship-caliber defense, and it would be a monumental shame if that was wasted due to the apparent short-sightedness in constructing a fair bit of the roster for 2021.

Our own Dan Lavoie expertly laid out that situation here, and I encourage you to digest it. How different is this year’s defense without Boogie Basham? (I’ll wait.) Now how different is the offensive line with player x or y along the interior? (The line forms to the right.) Without getting too far down the rabbit hole here concerning personnel decisions, it’s clear the Bills have a problem on offense. The unfortunate reality is that it’s affecting franchise quarterback Josh Allen and anyone who lines up at running back. I’m the staunchest of critics about Devin Singletary and Zack Moss because I find their abilities to lack elite traits, but I don’t know that Derrick Henry would have half his 2021 yards in Buffalo’s offense.

I’ve already spent too much space taking the spotlight away from the Bills’ great defense. One thing’s clear to me as I watch this year’s squad. Last season’s statistical output seems impossible to replicate, even with an added game. When it comes to the defense, that’s as impressive as it gets. The hope is that head coach Sean McDermott figures it all out. That key injured players can return and that others don’t suffer similar setbacks. When we look back at this season, it’s very likely many of us will once again be wowed by the team’s defensive performances. Right now, that wow factor might do a fair bit of good getting us through the misery that is the other side of the coin.

Because that defense? Bad things, man. Baaaaad things. That’s why the Buffalo Bills’ defense is Week 9’s player(s) of the game.