It was rarely observed in 2012 as an ailing wrist led to surgery and essentially a lost season for Mario Williams. There was concern a nagging foot injury that surfaced early in training camp would compromise the pass rusher's effectiveness in 2013. After Williams Week 2 performance against Carolina those concerns were put to rest as effectively as the former number one pick was pressuring Cam Newton Sunday.
Williams' four and a half sacks in Sunday's win over Carolina (24-23) set a team record for most sacks in a single game. The last Bills defender to have four sacks in a game was Bruce Smith, who did it on Sept. 18, 1994 against Houston.
As Williams sees it his physical and mental health had a lot to do with his inspiring performance.
"I felt great. Physically I feel great and mentally I'm better than ever," he said. "I'm just going out there and playing ball, staying calm. I'm probably one of the calmest persons you'll ever meet. I just go out there and try to make it happen."
From the beginning of the game, Williams was doing just that. In the very first series of the game on a 1st-and-10 at the Bills 20-yard line, Leodis McKelvin slipped and lost coverage on Steve Smith. Cam Newton spotted Smith and was about to deliver the ball when Mario Williams pushed right tackle Byron Bell straight back into Newton, who had to pull the ball back down before eventually getting sacked by Buffalo's top pass rusher.
The very next series with Carolina facing a 3rd-and-2 at the Bills 48, Williams again overpowered his man and dropped Newton for another QB takedown.
Three series later for the Panthers, Williams stuffed DeAngelo Williams for no gain on a 1st-and-10 at the Bills' 49. On 3rd-and-10 of the same series Williams dropped Newton a third time to force a Carolina punt.
"I saw power in rushing that passer," said head coach Doug Marrone of Williams. "He was around. I told him afterwards, 'Hey don't dance with this guy early let's go and close the distance, make a move and go.' I thought he did a very good job of that."
Come the third quarter not much changed. Facing a 3rd-and-7 at their own 34-yard line, Newton was sacked by Kyle and Mario Williams as the two defensive linemen teamed up for a sack to give Mario 3.5 on the day. It also forced another Panthers punt.
"I think that when you get people behind in the sticks, that's where the pass rushing ability really takes a level up," said Marrone. "When they're not worried about run or pass and if you can get them in a situation, I think then those elite pass rushers really rise to the top."
Finally facing a 3rd-and-4 at the Bills six-yard line and ahead by three in the fourth quarter (17-14), Williams ran down Newton on a scramble down the right sideline to drop him for a one-yard loss to force a field goal and keep it a one score game.
"I was thinking: We can't let it go again," said Williams. "The most important thing is a 'W.' It boosts our morale for sure. It shows that we can believe in each other. Take care of business especially when it comes down to something that's been our Achilles heel before. To come out and do it in this fashion was great."
"He was obviously pretty good," said Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. "Four and a half sacks is the difference there, mostly because of knocking us back, keeping us from getting opportunities to put the ball in the end zone. That's the bottom line."
Shortly after the win, Williams had already pushed his quarterback takedowns aside. Buffalo's top pass rusher is more interested in tallying victories.
"I feel like the four and a half sacks are gone, but the 'W' is still in the win column," Williams said. "At the end of the year it's going to be about the 'W's and the losses."