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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills at Commanders | Week 3


When it rains, it pours and the Bills poured it on in the fourth quarter against the Commanders, running away with a 37-3 victory. It's Buffalo's largest margin of victory on the road since winning 35-0 at Miami in Week 2 of the 2021 season. 

The Bills move to 2-1 and host the undefeated Dolphins next week.

Here are the top three things we learned from Buffalo's win:

Terrel's Trifecta

Simply saying Bills LB Terrel Bernard had a career day is underselling the remarkable performance turned in by the second-year player. Bernard became the first NFL defensive player with 2+ sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery in the same game since the 2007 season. The last player to do so was Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher.

"It was fun. That's the name of the game, making plays," Bernard said. "So going out there and doing everything that I could to help this team win. I had a great time."

Bernard was everywhere on the field for the Bills. He got pressure on the quarterback, he dropped back in coverage, and he tracked down Washington's ball carriers several times in open space. Through three games, Bernard leads the defense in tackles with 24, five more than the next closest player on the team.

"With the scheme and what we're doing every week with Coach McDermott — he's putting us in great positions," Bernard added.

The emergence of Bernard in the middle of Buffalo's defense is one of the pleasant surprises of the season so far. Bernard, a third-round pick in 2022, won the starting middle linebacker job ahead of the regular season despite missing all of the preseason with a hamstring injury.

Prior to the 2023 season, Bernard had made just one career NFL start. Through three starts this year, he's been one of the team's best defensive players. 

"Just building confidence that I can do it," Bernard shared. "Coming in, you don't really know, to be honest with you. Going day-by-day trying to stack days, get the confidence in my teammates, get the confidence in myself, get the confidence with the coaches."

His teammates notice the same thing.

"Just the vibe and the confidence that he gives off, it's infectious to that defense," said QB Josh Allen, who was shown on the broadcast during the game giving Bernard a big high-five on the sideline after his interception.

McDermott has been particularly impressed with the way Bernard approached the offseason from a work ethic standpoint to show he was capable of leading the defense.

"Incredible grit, endurance, mental endurance. He works extremely hard as well and I mean he works when no one else is working," McDermott said.

Everybody eats

If you take a look at Buffalo's defensive stat sheet, prepare to see a lot of names.

  • Micah Hyde, Tre'Davious White, A.J. Epenesa and Bernard all had interceptions.
  • DaQuan Jones, Ed Oliver, Leonard Floyd, Greg Rousseau, Bernard and Epenesa all had sacks.
  • Taron Johnson and Matt Milano had five tackles each.

The entire Bills defense balled out, creating five turnovers, sacking the QB nine times and allowing just 230 total yards. They've given up under 300 total yards in three straight games to begin the season.

"Felt the guys really stood up when they got in the red zone," McDermott said. "Those were big momentum shifts if you will, and keeping them off the scoreboard was big for us there."

The Bills defensive line and pass rush once again stood out as they were in the backfield and near the QB on nearly every play. According to Next Gen Stats, the Bills pressured QB Sam Howell on 27 of 39 dropbacks (69.2%), the 2nd-highest pressure rate in a game in the NGS era.

Seven different players contributed with four or more pressures and DT Ed Oliver paved the way with seven pressures.

Following a Josh Allen TD run in the fourth quarter, the Bills put the game away with A.J. Epenesa's first-career pick-six. It's the first INT returned for a TD by a Bills defensive lineman in 14 seasons.

"So far, yeah, I'd say so," Epenesa laughed when asked if it was the best play of his career.

Epenesa, who also had one of the nine sacks, said the front seven came in with the mentality that they wanted to be aggressive and get the Commander's offense out of rhythm.

"Just attack, attack, attack pressure, be physical, make them uncomfortable," he said. "That's our comfort zone when we're playing around and we're playing aggressive like that. That's just us as an identity."

Slamming the door shut

The final score is deceiving of the fact that Washington was only down two possessions (16-0) at the start of the fourth quarter. Granted the Bills had the ball in Washington territory to begin the final frame, but the outcome was far from decided.

That was until the Bills put their foot on the gas and scored two touchdowns in a 36-second span.

With the Bills driving deep into Commander's territory, Josh Allen had a wide open running lane clear up in front of him and he took it in for his first rushing TD of the season to put Buffalo up 23-0 with 10:37 to play.

Untouched bolting to the end zone, Allen leapt up into the air to celebrate and flicked the ball up with his wrist. The ball bounced on top of his helmet as gravity propelled him back down.

"Our offense came out and we did what we had to do but our defense balled out today," Allen said postgame.

Moments later, A.J. Epenesa came through with the pick-six and Buffalo suddenly had a four-touchdown lead.

"A.J. is notorious for doing that in practice," Allen said. "He's tall and lanky and he just finds a way to make plays like that. He's done that to us in practice so many different times so it was good to see him go out there and do it in the game and then go finish in the end zone and celebrate with his teammates."

Up 30-0, the Bills QB1 got the rest of the game off as backup Kyle Allen subbed in. In his only full drive, Kyle Allen engineered a 9-play, 64-yard drive capped off with a Latavius Murray 2-yard run.

James Cook ripped off a 30+ yard run during the scoring drive that helped him clear the 100+ yards from scrimmage mark for the second consecutive game. The Bills out rushed Washington 168-105; Buffalo is 49-11 under Sean McDermott when it gains more rushing yards than its opponent. 

Over their last two games, the Bills are outscoring their opponents 75-13. That's an exceptional point differential through eight quarters, but their Week 4 opponent may be more impressive.

The Dolphins ran up and down the field beating the Broncos 70-20 on Sunday and now boast a +62-point differential through three games. 

Next week's AFC East matchup in Buffalo will be must-see TV.

Check out the best photos from the field and locker room after Buffalo's victory in Washington.

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