Dick Jauron is not big on statistics. He likes to keep things simple. More than once this season he's said, 'Points are the thing.' Buffalo's head coach isn't breaking any new ground in emphasizing points scored and points allowed, but the message has been received by his defense thus far this season.
Through nine games Buffalo's defense has held five opponents (Jets twice) to 15 points or less. The Bills are 4-1 in those games this year and 8-1 overall in two seasons under Dick Jauron.
Over the last six weeks Buffalo has shaved more than a touchdown off their points allowed per game average. After three games the Bills defense was surrendering over 26 points per game (26.3). Following Sunday's win over Miami, Buffalo is allowing just over 18 points per contest (18.4) to rank ninth in the league in that category down from 24th just six weeks ago.
"We're pretty pleased," said John DiGiorgio. "We were really disappointed when they scored on us last week. It's a pride thing where we try to keep teams out of the end zone. We don't look at the averages. We have a set goal for every week and that's to hold a team to 17 points or less."
As far as Jauron is concerned their success has been rooted in the fundamentals and the determination of their players, and it was on display again last Sunday.
"They really did a tremendous job (Sunday) and kept us in the game," said Jauron of his defense. "It's a 3-0 game, then it's a 3-2 game. They just play. They play hard. Perry (Fewell) and the staff do a terrific job preparing them. They generally tackle well and fit well. They're getting better at all of those things. They're a tough group and they like to play."
Buffalo's cover-two scheme is designed to prevent the big play, which is ultimately the goal of a lot of defensive schemes. But that wasn't happening earlier in the season. DiGiorgio has a theory as to why that was the case.
"Early in the season we had a lot of injuries and we had a lot of guys that hadn't played together and they weren't comfortable yet," said DiGiorgio. "We're on the same page now and fitting things up well."
Over the last three games the biggest play allowed by the Bills was a 43-yard reception by Cincinnati running back Kenny Watson in the win over the Bengals.
"You don't want to give up big plays or fast scores in this league," said Jauron. "They've done a nice job."
Where Buffalo's defense has been particularly effective of late when it comes to holding opponents off the scoreboard is in the fourth quarter. In the last three games the Bills defense has shut their opponents out in the final frame. It has led to a 38-0 point scoring advantage for Buffalo over the last three weeks in the fourth quarter, and has been instrumental in enabling Buffalo to come from behind to win their last two games.
"We didn't want to let history repeat itself," said Donte Whitner. "We have to learn from the mistakes that we made earlier in the season, losing to Dallas and Denver on last-second field goals. We're getting off the football field."
Last Sunday was perhaps their most impressive effort. Having been on the field longer than any other game this season (36:59), and dealing with 80-degree heat in Miami, Buffalo's defense got four stops on a short field knowing a field goal could have tied the game.
"Defensively I don't feel it was one of our better games," said Angelo Crowell. "But ultimately we kept points off the board and that's the most important thing."
This week Buffalo faces the team that made their points allowed ranking look so poor in the first place in the undefeated New England Patriots. The Bills are very familiar with what the Patriots are capable of after they hung 38 on Buffalo in week three.
"When we played them, and I noticed that coach (Joe) Gibbs said the same thing, it's hard to find a weakness," said Jauron. "You look at them and all their tape, they are really good. They're really talented personnel-wise in every area. They're really well coached and at the critical position they're very, very good. (Tom) Brady is good. He directs them and they have great confidence right now, and there's no reason they shouldn't. They've scored 355 points. At this point in the season that's unbelievable."
Buffalo kept their first game with New England close through the first two quarters as the Bills trailed by 10 at halftime (17-7). Having the opportunity to face them at home has them encouraged, especially in light of how well they performed against the league's second highest scoring offense in their last prime time game a month ago.
Buffalo's defense had six takeaways against Dallas and scored two touchdowns of their own. They realize the chances of that happening twice in one season are somewhat remote, but coming to understand there are different ways to win on their current four-game streak has them only concerned with posting a victory.
"I don't care if they look good or not," said Whitner. "I just want to win them. When you look at our record it's not going to say how we won it, how we did it, how many yards they rushed for or anything like that. It's a win and that's all that matters."