He doesn’t lead the team in sacks, he’s fifth in quarterback hits and he’s still working to become a better run defender, but in two short weeks
Moats has appeared in 12 games this season, but he was serving primarily on special teams until he was moved from inside linebacker to outside linebacker after the bye week in mid-October. Buffalo needed more of a pass rush presence with the Bills near the bottom of the league in sacks and takeaways, and used Moats in passing situations.
Still, his time on the field defensively was limited. His opportunity to shine really didn’t present itself until veteran
With his snaps increasing significantly, Moats has provided a sudden impact to Buffalo’s pass rush, and turnovers have been the result.
His hit on Brett Favre on the third play from scrimmage in Week 13, not only ended the legendary quarterback’s 297-game start streak, but more importantly led to an interception. He followed it up with a sack and a forced fumble on Jake Delhomme, which was recovered by Buffalo and converted into an important late field goal in a seven-point victory.
“That’s what we harp on in practice is get turnovers,” said Moats. “We always are taught when rushing the passer get the sack, but get the forced fumble as well. So that’s what I was thinking when I got my opportunity and everything worked out.”
Buffalo now has seven takeaways in their last two games, as they’ve more than doubled their interception total from the first 10 games (4) in the last two weeks (5). The Bills forced five fumbles Sunday, with Moats responsible for one, recovering two of them.
“The guys are starting to understand the whole scheme of things and we’re getting better and they’re hitting the guys and knocking the ball loose,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “It’s not they’re just dropping on the ground, we’re knocking the ball loose and that’s good.”
For Moats the recent spike in playing time was unexpected, but he was determined to make the most of it.
“You’re always ready, but in your first year you’re not expecting to play much outside of special teams,” he said. “Seeing my role increase as a pass rusher on the team is a big thing for me. Just the fact that I’m getting more opportunities is a blessing.”
Rushing the passer is nothing new for Moats, who won the Buck Buchanan Award as the Defensive Player of the Year in the FCS as a college senior last year. Moats had 11 sacks and led the nation with 23.5 tackles for loss at James Madison in 2009.
Still there was an adjustment process as he went from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he credits the coaching staff and his teammates for helping him with the transition.
“You saw at the beginning of the year we were kind of struggling, but the past couple of weeks guys have turned it up and they’re teaching me some things,” said Moats. “I feel like everything is about to turn.”
“I love his motor, I think his quickness is really good,” said Gailey. “I think he’ll get better with experience every time he walks on the field. He’s like the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going and staying after it. You get a guy that can keep going like that – he’ll get better.”