Opposing quarterbacks can count on hitting the ground — hard — multiple times a game.
When the Buffalo Bills take the field, quarterbacks are left staring down the likes of Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, Mario Williams and other defensive linemen. With a combined linemen weight of 2,107-pounds, they average out at 301-pounds each.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons felt every pound of the Buffalo defensive line Sunday in Toronto.
"I think every time that we were able to knock them out of rhythm a little bit, we were able to take advantage of it," head coach Doug Marrone said.
Buffalo enjoyed that advantage six times, but it wasn't enough to win in a 34-31 overtime loss.
Hughes led the team with two sacks Sunday, with Dareus, Manny Lawson and Corbin Bryant each chipping in an additional quarterback takedown. Mario Williams also added his 12th sack this season, marking 75 career sacks for the eight-year-veteran.
For the first time in 2013 Atlanta allowed six sacks in a game and Buffalo's defense under Mike Pettine has propelled past teams of Buffalo's past. The team has more sacks in 12 games than it did in an entire season since 2004 when the defense racked up 45 sacks under Jerry Gray.
Captain Kyle Williams said opponents plan on getting sacked, and adjust their game plans accordingly.
"I think it was obvious they had a game plan where they were going to get the ball out of his hands," Williams said. "They were doing some different things protection wise that we had seen them do. When they brought in the extra O-lineman, they used him for protection. And when they weren't, when they went five-man protection. He was getting the ball out, getting it out quick."
It's impossible to get a sack after the quarterback releases the ball, and Williams said that's frustrating.
"He was able to get the ball out quick," Williams said. "There were a few times where me and other guys, you can't win any rushes when the ball is already gone."
Williams said he and other defenders bided time for their chance to hit the quarterback. Buffalo added two quarterback hits, which brought Ryan to the ground a total of eight times.
"With a guy like that, you just have to stay patient and not get frustrated and stay at it," he said. "And at the end of the game, we got some good pressure on him."
Buffalo pressures most quarterbacks it faces. In 12 games, the team accrues 3.5 sacks per game. That's what again has them atop the league on their own with 43 sacks.
In 1995 Buffalo set the current franchise sack record at 49 sacks, — a record that could be knocked off in two games at the current pace — but the NFL only began recognizing sacks as a statistic in 1982.
Despite the sacks, the mood in the postgame locker room was subdued, as the defense couldn't stop the Falcons from a 423-yard-game. Captain Kyle Williams said while six sacks looks good on paper it doesn't come close to guaranteeing a win.
Williams said Atlanta adjusted to their protections as the game wore on Sunday to give Matt Ryan a chance to deliver the ball.
"I think they did some different things protection-wise that we haven't seen them do, trying to get extra guys on people and chipping and getting you sliding a certain way," he said. "With him when you put him in a 3rd-and-4 situation that's exactly where he wants to be because he gets rid of the ball really quick. There were multiple times where me and countless other guys win clean on a rush and you can't rush any better and the ball is already gone. We knew he was that kind of guy."
With now-deflated playoff aspirations after falling to 4-8, Williams said he won't let his team get down about the loss, especially in spite of a positive performance by the defensive line.
"Well, you don't want to let that happen any time but no matter what you got to bounce back from it," he said. "At the end of the day, the teams are going to make some plays. And really, it's just about how you respond."