Replacement-Heavy Buffalo Bills Pass Defense Leading Way To Wins

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Replacement-Heavy Buffalo Bills Pass Defense Leading Way To Wins
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills have won two straight games after beating the Carolina Panthers on the road last week 20-9.  The Bills beat the NY Jets on the road the previous week in overtime. 

In those two games, the Bills have nine interceptions.  During all of last season, the Bills had 10 picks, tying them for 27th in the league.  Currently, the Bills are tied for the league lead with 13 interceptions.

A huge reason for the turnaround is the efforts of rookie safety Jairus Byrd.  The second-round draft pick out of Oregon was forced to sit out all of the OTAs due to a rule preventing players from attending team activities until their college class has graduated.  Byrd joined the team in training camp and his impact has been seen early in his young career.

An injury to Bryan Scott forced Byrd into action in the Oct. 4 Miami Dolphins game.  In the four games since, Byrd has recorded five interceptions.  In addition to the five for Byrd, Arkansas wide receiver-turned-safety George Wilson has two.  With seven interceptions, the replacements for starters Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott have excelled.

The interceptions have only been a bonus for a Bills pass defense that has played spectacularly all season.  The past three quarterbacks they've faced (Derek Anderson, Mark Sanchez and Jake Delhomme) are not the league's best and definitely contributed to the success.  But the Bills have also faced Drew Brees and held him to his lowest passing total of the season.

The success of the pass defense has come at the expense of the run defense.  Opposing runners have ran rough-shed over the Bills.  The Jets ran for over 300 yards while both the Browns and Panthers had a hundred-yard rusher.  The employment of small, quick linebackers does wonders in the pass defense but often leads to missed or broken tackles.

The Bills return home to face the Texans (4-3) this week.  Houston has thrived through the air while struggling to run the ball consistently. 

Sunday will be a great test to see if the past few weeks have just been a mirage for the Bills or if the young defense can once again lead an offense that, while still not scoring huge points, has limited the turnovers under Ryan Fitzpatrick.

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