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All-22 Analysis: Buffalo Bills sackapalooza vs. Washington Commanders

What a game!

NFL: SEP 24 Bills at Commanders Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hey everyone! It’s time for this week’s All-22 Analysis. What to pick. What to pick. The Buffalo Bills took down the Washington Commanders and we’re all in a celebratory mood. B.J. Monacelli decided to do an article about the offense (here), allowing me to double dip on defensive dominance. I usually stick to nine GIFs maximum as a soft rule. Hmmmmm...

I mean, sure. The headline already gave it away. I think the clues above would have been just as obvious though. Let’s go “highlight-reel mode” this week and take a look at the Bills’ sacks from their Week 3 game. Friends and family of Sam Howell may wish to avert their eyes.

Sack 1 — DaQuan Jones and Ed Oliver

A major theme of each play in this article is that if the person is wearing a Bills uniform, they’ve probably done a good job. I’ll highlight some specific positives I see but have fun spotting them all.

For this play, Defensive tackles DaQuan Jones and Ed Oliver did fairly well pushing back their man one-on-one. Oliver timed a shoulder to Jones’ man, knocking him off Jones. Oliver’s lateral move also helped free himself from his block. Jones and Oliver proceeded to race to quarterback Sam Howell in a contest where everyone wins! Except Sam Howell.

Sack 2 — Terrel Bernard

This play makes an appearance in this week’s Skarey Movies, which you should watch for more of my thoughts. This is one of the most singularly awesome individual efforts I’ve seen in a long time from any player. From the shove to shed the block, to the tackling form and a lot of little things — all of which I discuss in-depth for this week’s Skarey Movies.

Sack 3 — Terrel Bernard again

This play was also featured in this week’s Skarey Movies (hint, hint). In the video breakdown I covered the successes of every Buffalo Bills defender on the screen. A lot of individual wins allowed Terrel Bernard a free rush using a quick stunt. From there he chased down Howell.

Sack 4 — Leonard Floyd

An NFL play is often decided by a fraction of a second. When rushing the passer, any delay — such as being held up on a block — is a huge issue. Here above, edge rusher Leonard Floyd used his right hand to push up near the collar to maintain a bit of distance and also assist with leverage. At the same time, his left hand grabbed onto his opponent’s arm to isolate it. When it was time to disengage, it was easier to shove it away and chase down Howell.

Sack 5 — Leonard Floyd again

Floyd liked taking down Sam Howell so much he did it on the very next play. Floyd was using a speed rush, which saw the right hand come up to feign a jab to the shoulder. The lineman reached out in response and Floyd dipped his shoulder instead of making contact with his hand. This caused the spot the lineman was aiming for to vanish — like a ghost. This is one way to use edge rusher Von Miller’s ghost move.

Sack 6 — Ed Oliver

Oliver started off with a little wiggle for misdirection. Then the handfighting began. None of the angles have what Oliver did very well, but take a look at his opponent’s left arm (our right). It popped up violently, suggesting Oliver blasted it pretty good. With that moment of separation caused by this move, Oliver ducked in for the sack.

Sack 7 — Greg Rousseau

Greg Rousseau had to take out two blockers to make this sack happen. On the first pause he punched to his opponent’s shoulder, making his upper body twist. While this looks to have been a chip block, Rousseau’s punch made the momentary block even more momentary. On the second pause he had excellent contact and leverage into the shoulder, and you can see how far back his man moved in the next couple frames. Rousseau was able to release and like we’ve seen many players do already... chased down Sam Howell to end the play.

Sack 8 — A.J. Epenesa

A.J. Epenesa was one-on-one with some handfighting going on. I point out the moment Epenesa gets the victory. The slap to his man’s upper arm was enough to rotate the shoulders a bit. You can see the hands of his opponent punch and whiff behind Epenesa while trying to recover. Can you guess what Epenesa did next? The answer is of course... chase down Sam Howell.

Sack 9 — DaQuan Jones

Let’s be candid. For the last few sacks, this game was over. Buffalo could just kill time and coast to a win. Does defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (or anyone, really) look like he was taking it easy? This was an effort sack, 100%. I highlight the shove that simultaneously freed Jones from the block and lowered his shoulder into Sam Howell. No chasing him down this time.

In summary

Would you be shocked if I said “don’t expect this every week?” Of course not. There’s a thing called the “bye week.” Also, nine sacks a game isn’t sustainable. Sam Howell made a few of these a bit easier for Buffalo, for sure. So did the play calling. Remember that this was a two-score game going into the fourth quarter. How does that connect?

Three sacks came in the first half, which is still pretty good. Two came late in the third quarter, when Washington was trying to do some catch up. But four of these were in the fourth quarter. More specifically, after a sequence that went something like “Washington fumble, Buffalo touchdown, A.J. Epenesa pick six.” Now a four-score game, Washington became one-dimensional and it became easy pickings.

Now then, the Bills weren’t slouches. The entire defense played at a very high level. Every single play above has at least one remarkable performance. That sets a high bar that is unlikely to be replicated in totality, but also shows the ceiling of the Buffalo Bills’ defense.