Ready for prime time | How Buffalo’s defense feeds off making timely plays down the stretch


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White explained how there are three different identities that a defense can adopt. A total shut down defense that holds opponents to low yardage outputs and forces a lot of punts. A stingy red zone defense that holds opponents down on the scoreboard and forces field goals. Or a takeaway defense that helps win games by giving their offense extra possessions to score more points.

White predicted at midseason that the 2020 defense for the Bills would be the latter, and for the most part he was correct.

Though it wasn’t until Week 12 that a true trend began to develop, as a lot of the new players took time to blend together following the absence of OTAs, a pad-less training camp and no preseason, Buffalo’s defense began to deliver game-changing plays more often.

“I think we made those adjustments along the way,” said Frazier. “And we have been playing good defense down the stretch, but that’s part of what we have to do as coaches. You have to be able to adjust. Don’t be pigheaded and say, ‘Okay, I’m just going to keep doing XYZ because it was good with this group a year ago or two years ago.’ You’ve got to adjust. We’ve tried to do that.”

In an effort to make more plays Frazier has increased the team’s blitz rate to 37.7 percent, the highest in the McDermott era. He has also blitzed at the fourth-highest rate in the league on first down (37.7%).

The Bills defensive unit has also gone to an almost exclusive nickel personnel grouping, as they lined up with five defensive backs just over 90 percent of their defensive snaps, the highest rate in the league (90.4%).

The critical play or two hasn’t always been in the form of a turnover, but Frazier’s unit did begin performing more consistently and in a way that Sean McDermott has preached for years.

It’s clear that the side of the ball that has carried the Bills to the Divisional Round of the Playoffs this season has been their high-powered offense. Second in the league in scoring with an MVP contender at quarterback, Buffalo’s passing game has looked unstoppable at times.

But their defense and special teams has to make their fair share of contributions too, and that’s McDermott’s vision of complementary football.

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