OPINION: Bills defense set tone for rout in D.C.

For the second-straight week, the Bills defense dominated its opponent

Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - One of my first thoughts after the Buffalo Bills lost their season opener to the New York Jets: "Don't panic."

All the Bills had to do was take care of business in their next two games, and they'd be hosting the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 for a battle for first place in the AFC East.

I was very confident the Bills would have no trouble with the Las Vegas Raiders and Washington Commanders in back-to-back weeks, knowing the Dolphins were likely coming to Orchard Park next week at 3-0.

That scenario has, indeed, played out.

The Bills had back-to-back laughers over teams they were clearly much better than. However, I did not expect the Dolphins to put up 70 points against the Denver Broncos (you probably didn't either) and have 130 points scored in their first three games.

For the second-straight game, the Bills defense dominated their opponent and, once again, it started up front.

The Bills' defensive line destroyed the Commanders' offensive line and their second-year quarterback Sam Howell. This game was a shutout, as far as I'm concerned.

Washington kicked a 51-yard field goal in the final minute of regulation against backups on defense.

Check out these eye-popping numbers from Sean McDermott's defense following Sunday's 37-3 win:

- Nine sacks (tied for third-most in a single game in Bills history)
- Five takeaways (four interceptions and one fumble recovery)
- 15 quarterback hits
- One touchdown scored (A.J. Epenesa's pick-six in the fourth quarter)
- Zero points given up in two red zone possessions
- A goal line stand with two stops at their one-yard line
- Only four Washington drives that got into Buffalo territory
- Three-and-out or fewer forced on 6-of-10 drives
- Commanders went 1-for-9 on third down

There were a number of standout performers on that side of the ball for the Bills on Sunday.

I went into the season thinking the middle linebacker spot was a huge hole for the Bills to fill. However, three games in, it looks like more of a strength.

Second-year linebacker Terrel Bernard had the kind of day a linebacker dreams of. No problem with splash plays for the former 2022 third-round pick. Bernard had seven tackles, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, two sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery, and a pass defended.

The NFL should just give him the AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors right now.

The interception was not an easy play. Bernard dropped into zone coverage and made a leaping grab for his second pick in as many weeks.

On his second sack of the game, Bernard came on a blitz and showed good closing speed as he chased down Howell from behind.

Bernard became the first NFL linebacker to have two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery in the same game since 2007.

Epenesa came up with his first career interception and, for the icing on the cake, returned it for a touchdown. It was the first touchdown by a Bills defensive lineman since Aaron Schobel in 2009.

A pressure by Epenesa earlier in the game helped lead to a pick for safety Micah Hyde.

It was great to see Hyde get a pick after missing most of last season with an a neck injury.

In that same vein, I was really happy to see Tre'Davious White get an interception too. White, who didn't look like he was back to normal last season after he returned from a torn ACL, appears to be his old, top cornerback self.

The addition of Leonard Floyd continues to pay dividends for the Bills. He had a pair of sacks on Sunday, and he flew by the right tackle so fast on one of them, the guy probably suffered wind burns.

Floyd has three sacks in his first three games. Imagine what the pass rush will look like when Von Miller returns.

As far as the offense, the numbers weren't eye-popping for Josh Allen, but he played a smart game once again. The offense scored points on six of their nine drives with him at quarterback.

Allen was pulled from the game, along with some other offensive starters, with more than eight minutes remaining in regulation.

Allen had one interception on the afternoon, but it was on a bomb on third down and was basically a net punt of 41 yards. Other than that, though, he didn't force things, he got the ball out on time, and he only ran when necessary.

In fact, Allen ran just three times on Sunday, and one of those was a 10-yard touchdown run when he saw a clear path up the middle to the end zone.

Stefon Diggs is still great and uncoverable (is that a word?). He had eight catches for 111 yards, his second 100-plus yard game of the season and 18th with the Bills.

That was it, though, as far as the passing game went.

Gabe Davis did have a terrific 35-yard touchdown grab, but that was his only catch of the game. Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid combined for only three catches and 14 yards.

The offensive line did more than its fair share against a talented Commanders defensive line. Allen was never sacked and was hit just one time on 35 drop-backs.

The Bills also ran 33 times for 168 yards, which is a very healthy average of 5.1 yards per-carry.

Even the special teams chipped in on Sunday, as Tyler Bass was 4-for-4 on field goals, including his 10th career kick of 50 or more yards.

In addition, Deonte Harty had a 23-yard punt return that helped shorten the field for, what turned out to be, the Bills' lone touchdown drive of the first half to Davis.

All-in-all, another stress free day for "Bills Mafia".

I don't think that will be the case next Sunday, but it's shaping up to be a great week, as the buzz builds for a showdown of two of the NFL's best in Orchard Park.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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