By John D'Onofrio
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Now that's more like it.
Kyle Williams and fellow members of the Buffalo Bills' high-priced defensive line were feeling much better about themselves on Monday, a day after showing what a little more oomph and urgency can do.
"Obviously, from what you saw yesterday, it is a lot better. It's a lot better for us. It's a lot better for our win-loss column," Williams said. "You have to go out and make things happen, and I think we did a lot more of that yesterday."
The veteran tackle was referring to the line's dominant outing in a 35-17 win over Kansas City in Buffalo's home opener. The Bills had five sacks, forced three turnovers and limited the Chiefs to 3 points and 184 yards offense through three quarters, when the game was effectively over with Buffalo up 35-3.
While running back C.J. Spiller has Buffalo's offense up and running with an NFL-leading 292 yards rushing and 364 yards from scrimmage, the revamped defense finally began showing glimpses of its potential in preparing to play at Cleveland (0-2) this weekend.
And it was a significant turnaround after the defense failed to make a dent — no sacks, one tackle for a loss — in a season-opening 48-28 loss to the New York Jets a week earlier.
"The first game was bad," Williams acknowledged. "But I think we knew we could do it. We knew the players that we had. And we just had to go out and do it."
Williams led with two sacks. Fellow tackle Marcell Dareus, defensive end Alex Carrington and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard had a sack apiece, while Mario Williams recovered a fumble. Veteran linebacker Nick Barnett made a momentum-turning play at the end of first half, when he forced running back Peyton Hillis to fumble at the Bills goal line to preserve a 21-0 lead.
"We know we can play football with the guys that we have and the talent that we have. Now to actually go out there and do it, it feels good," Barnett said. "But it's still Week 2, so I'm not jumping around like, 'Ah, we're the best defense in the world.' We've still got some things to work on. But we can be pretty good when we're firing on the same cylinders."
The Bills spent considerable attention and money on upgrading their defense in free agency by signing Mario Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract and Mark Anderson to a four-year, $27 million deal. And then they used the No. 10 pick in the draft to select cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The moves were made in an effort to improve a defense that had been among the NFL's worst last season. It was a unit that allowed a franchise-worst 5,938 yards, gave up 434 points (the second most in team history) and had difficulty generating a pass rush. Buffalo finished with 29 sacks last year, 10 of which came in one game.
And there were growing concerns of how much improved the defense was after the dud against the Jets.
In retrospect, defensive end Chris Kelsay believes the Jets game — and the criticism that followed — might have been a positive.
"It definitely didn't turn out the way we had foreseen it or expected it to turn out, but you know what, we worked hard all week. And we transferred it onto the field," Kelsay said. "If we can continue to do that, and have a sense of urgency, then good things are in store for this team."
The five sacks are one more than Buffalo had six games into last season. And the Bills were able to get the Chiefs off the field. After the Jets converted 10 of 14 third-down chances and punted only twice against Buffalo, the Chiefs went 5 of 14 and punted seven times.
It helped, too, that the offense was far more productive and efficient. The Bills scored touchdowns on three of their of their first five possessions, and didn't lose the ball a week after four turnovers — including three Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions — led to the Jets scoring 24 points.
Fitzpatrick regards the game against Kansas City as a blueprint for Buffalo's success.
"I think that's a great winning formula," Fitzpatrick said. "Looking at what we did this offseason, that's something we wanted to do: Limit turnovers. And you saw with the so many additions we made, we have a dominant defense, which I think we've got a good shot at doing that.