When your top three tacklers in a ball game are your safeties, it's usually an indication that your opponent is running the ball well and getting into your secondary often or that they're passing on you at will. Neither proved to be the case however, as Buffalo's top three safeties put one of their best combined efforts together in Sunday's blowout win at Kansas City.
Starters George Wilson and Jairus Byrd, along with subpackage hybrid safety/linebacker Bryan Scott were active defensively throughout the game and were instrumental in keeping one of Kansas City's biggest offensive weapons under wraps with Jamaal Charles accounting for just 65 total yards from scrimmage.
"What that tells you is that everybody else was in their spot because the safety is the extra guy in run support," said head coach Chan Gailey. "So everybody else was filling their gap. They had nowhere to go, but to go back to the safety when they were trying to run the football.
Kansas City's first possession of the game was a four-and-out thanks in part to a sack by Scott on 3rd-and-6 forcing the Chiefs to punt from their own 30 for an early field position advantage.
The Chiefs second series on offense was much the same again with one of Buffalo's safeties getting the third down stop. Byrd flew up to the line of scrimmage on a swing pass out to Jamaal Charles in the flat and dropped him for a six-yard loss to force another punt.
In the second quarter George Wilson put his shoulder on the football on a first down carry by Charles off right end to force a fumble that was recovered by Buffalo at the Chiefs' 21-yard line, ultimately leading to a Bills field goal.
The Buffalo safeties however, were more apt to tip their hat to defensive coordinator George Edwards.
"I think more of it can be attributed to coach Edwards' game plan," said Byrd. "He did a real good job of just preparing for them and what they like to do. It put us in position to make a lot of plays against their run plays. It put us in position to do our jobs and make tackles."
Early in the third quarter Wilson dropped Cassel for a four-yard loss after he caught his own pass that was batted back at him by Buffalo's defensive line. On the very next play Scott made a great open field tackle to drop tight end Leonard Pope for a two-yard loss, which brought up a 3rd-and-16 that Kansas City could not convert.
Later in the quarter Scott capably handled Chiefs' wideout Keary Colbert holding him to a short three-yard gain, and followed it up with another open field tackle on a reception by Charles taking him down for a one-yard loss to force another third and long situation.
Whether it was covering a tight end in the flat or corralling Charles in space, Scott was seemingly everywhere.
"He'll play inside of the linebacker. He can go deep if we need him to go deep. He can play backside of the backfield or on tight ends," Gailey said. "He'll even cover a wide receiver when they cut underneath and came in his zone. He's a versatile player. He played very, very well for us yesterday and was sideline to sideline and was good. Last year he was playing in a similar spot and he hadn't done it a lot. He's a lot more comfortable doing it this year."
By game's end Scott was Buffalo's leading tackler with eight in the game, three of which went for loss including a sack. Wilson had five tackles with one for loss and a forced fumble, and Byrd chipped in five tackles as well including one for loss.
Sure tackling was a major factor in their success and again Byrd felt the coaching they got leading up to the opener was critical to their success.
"Coach Catavolos gets the credit for that," he said. "They put us through tackling circuits. Coach does a tackling drill with us every day. I give a lot of credit to them. Our effort out there was a reflection of how they coached us.
"That with film study and knowing tendencies all we had to do was go out and make tackles. The stats are great and everything, but that's what we're here for. If that's your play you go make it."