Buffalo Bills Defense Appears to Value Hurries, Tipped Passes Over Sacks


Buffalo Bills Defense Appears to Value Hurries, Tipped Passes Over Sacks Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams was interestingly unconcerned when he was asked in late September about his team's inability to sack the opposing quarterback.

"It's a concern," Williams told the Democrat & Chronicle after the Bills recorded a grand total of two sacks in the first three games. "We want to hit them and disrupt them more, but you have to look at what we're doing defensively and what they're doing offensively."

Eleven days later, the Bills are still second to last in the NFL in quarterback sacks, up to just five sacks as a team. But with a 4-1 record, nobody seems to be worrying very much.

Schemes are everything in football, and it has become apparent that the Bills' scheme doesn't place much importance on sacking the quarterback. While on the surface that may seem like a huge mistake and a fatal flaw, it has also helped them record a league-high 12 interceptions.

Football fans tend to fall back on certain statistics to evaluate their team's performance, ignoring whether those stats are applicable.

They might rejoice in a scatback's high yards-per-carry average and wonder why he doesn't get the ball more often, for instance, overlooking the fact that the high average might be more an result of other factors, such as getting the majority of his carries on draws in passing situations. They might see their backup quarterback's high passer rating and clamor for him to start, even though the bulk of his playing time probably came against a second-string defense doing very little to disguise its coverage.

This is what many fans do when they look at sacks. Equating "sacks" with "pressuring the quarterback" can be a mistake, though. It was nice when Warren Sapp or Simeon Rice got to the quarterback in the Tampa Two defense, but the defense was just as effective when the pressure and coverage forced the QB into short check-down throws and incompletions.

The Bills appear to have altered their philosophy on pressuring the quarterback from tackling him to causing throws under duress. As they showed in four-interception performances against Tom Brady and Michael Vick, the Bills almost want the quarterback to get rid of the ball at the last minute. In his hurry, he's more susceptible to tipped balls, inaccurate throws and poor decisions that lead to turnovers.

Against Brady, there was the throw slightly behind Chad Ochocinco (snatched by Leodis McKelvin), the ball tipped at the line (pounced on by Drayton Florence) and the catchable pass off Danny Woodhead's hands (and into Bryan Scott's) — all resulted in interceptions.

Against Vick, there was an early throw DeSean Jackson wasn't expecting (Nick Barnett was ready for it), a right-place-right-time pick for George Wilson, another tipped ball at the line (with Reggie Corner the lucky defender this time) and an interception off the hands of Jason Avant that was reminiscent of Woodhead's bobble.

After Brady's four-pick showing, one might have dismissed all the batted balls as a fluke. Five weeks into the season, it's become a trend, and as fluky as it seems, these freaky plays are seemingly exactly what the Bills are trying to accomplish.

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