He said that getting his wrist injury surgically repaired gave him a morale boost and a whole new outlook on his first season with the Bills. That was seven weeks ago. Since Buffalo's bye week, Mario Williams has been a much better representation of the player everyone expected. With three games to play he's also quickly climbing the Bills single-season sack list.
This past Sunday, Williams posted a sack and a force fumble on separate plays giving him a sack in each of his last four games. It's the second longest sack streak of his career. Currently fourth in the AFC in sacks this season with 10.5, he already has the first double-digit sack season for the Bills since 2009 when Aaron Schobel posted 10.
If Williams continues at the pace he's set in his previous four games, he will finish the 2012 season with 14.5 sacks. That would be the fourth highest single-season total in team history behind only Bruce Smith's franchise record 19 in 1990, Bryce Paup's 17.5 in 1995 and Smith's 15 in 1986. It would also be a personal single-season best, with his previous career high being 14 (2007).
Williams points to Buffalo's vastly improved run defense as a big reason for the spike in his own production.
"The number one thing you've got to do in this league is stop the run, then get after the pass," he said. "I think the biggest thing for us is we've been able to do that here lately and we've got to just try to keep it going."
In the second half of the season Buffalo's run defense is tied for first in the league in yards per carry allowed (3.1) with Tampa Bay. It has translated into more long down and distance situations, which has allowed Williams and company to more effectively rush the passer.
"I think what has happened is if you look at it since Arizona our defense has continued to get better and better," said head coach Chan Gailey. "We had two awful halves of football early in the season. But since that Arizona game we've gotten better and better defensively. I think it's because Mario is playing better. I think it's because we've got tighter coverage in our secondary. Everybody is playing more consistent."
Williams has nine of his 10.5 sacks on the season since that Arizona game in Week 6. Getting his ailing left wrist surgically repaired in the bye week however, proved to be the biggest help.
"It definitely took a lot off mentally and made me feel better and more comfortable when I'm out there playing," said Williams. "My morale and preparation and things that I can do are all better. We've just got to keep it going."
Unfortunately for Williams a lot of his big plays on the pass rush have come in losses. All three of his sacks at Indianapolis in Week 12 came on third down and forced punts, but Buffalo lost 20-13. His sack last week led to a punt on a third and long, and his forced fumble also came on a third down and forced a punt, but the Bills lost to the Rams as well 15-12.
"All I want to do it go out there and play ball and just try to help us get in position to win," he said. "There are 11 people on the defense, obviously one particular effort helps, but we need all of them."
"He seems to make a play or two every week right now," said Gailey. "That is huge for our defense. I tell our guys and you all have heard the statement before—there are five or six plays that make the difference in a game. He's made a lot of things happen versus the run and the pass."
The playoffs are all but mathematically out of the picture for Williams and his teammates, but that isn't going to slow the veteran pass rusher down.
"We've got to go out and keep playing," he said. "It's all about pride at this point. No matter what happens, who knows how this thing could end up? But we've definitely got to go out and play with pride and make it happen. We're nowhere near trying to fold or point fingers or anything like that. We've just got to keep competing."