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PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

Do the Buffalo Bills Have an All-time Great Defense?

Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s D has started the 2021 NFL season on a historic pace. If they keep it up, they’ll make history.

Get the damn tables!

While the Buffalo Bills are known for their high-octane offense led by quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, it’s been their defense that’s had one of the best starts through four games in NFL history.

Following a 40-0 shellacking of the Houston Texans on Sunday, the Bills are 3-1 with a cozy two-game lead in the AFC East. This shutout came two weeks after a 35-0 beatdown of the Miami Dolphins, not to mention another clean sheet in the preseason against Green Bay.

So, how historic is it to pitch two shutouts so early in the season?

Buffalo has allowed 44 total points through four games, tops in the league. To put that into perspective, the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears allowed 12.4 points per game throughout a 16-game season — that’s an incredible number, but Mike Ditka’s team only had two shutouts over that entire span.

No, we’re not saying the Bills suddenly have the best D ever. Even setting the ’85 Bears aside, Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” had five shutouts in 14 games in 1976. But head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier have the Orchard Park boys doing some outstanding things so far in 2021.

Across the NFL, Buffalo is:

  • No. 1 in total defense (216.8 yards per game)
  • No. 1 in scoring defense (11.0)
  • No. 1 in passing yards allowed per game (148.8)
  • No. 1 yards allowed per play (4.0)
  • No. 4 in rushing yards allowed per game (68.0)
  • No. 2 in interceptions (7)
  • No. 4 in fumble recoveries (4)
  • Tied for No. 1 in turnover differential (+7)
  • No. 6 in sacks per game (3.0)
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The Bills’ D has notably spread the wealth in terms of its defensive production, a sign of some potential sustainability. Star Lotuleilei and 2021 first-round pick Greg Rousseau lead the way in sacks on the defensive line with two each, while linebacker Matt Milano is striving on the second level with six tackles for loss and two recovered fumbles. Micah Hyde was two interceptions so far, joining five other Bills players with a pick through just four games.

Going into Sunday’s game against Houston, the Buffalo defense was No. 2 in the NFL in Pro Football Focus’ expected points allowed per play metric, which has surely only improved after another shutout victory. PFF’s Sunday recap also showed love to Ed Oliver and Jerry Hughes on the defensive line, linebacker Trumaine Edwards, and defensive backs Damar Hamlin, Cameron Lewis, and Hyde in the secondary.

Yes, four games is a small sample size, but the Bills are accomplishing things defensively that few teams ever have.

It all gets put to this test this Sunday night against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship. But so far, not only does the league’s best defense reside in Western New York, but something historically special could indeed be brewing at Highmark Stadium.