After an early-season hiccup, the Buffalo Bills are on a roll. In the team’s last three games, they’ve outscored their opponents 118-21. While the offense has looked great in these contests, it is the defense that is doing something special. In fact, what the defense is doing has only been done by two teams in NFL history, and that should make Bills Mafia incredibly excited.
The Buffalo Bills defense has overshadowed the star-studded offense in 2021
The Buffalo Bills skyrocketed to NFL relevance in 2020 thanks to a high-powered offense. Led by quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the O led the Bills to their first AFC East title since 1995 and the organization’s first trip to the AFC Championship Game since 1993.
The offense struggled out of the gate in 2021, only managing 16 points in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. Allen and company have come around, scoring 35, 43, and 40 points in the next three weeks.
Even with these gaudy numbers, it’s the defense that is the most impressive Bills unit so far.
Pittsburgh scored 23 in the opener, but seven of those came on a blocked punt return. The ensuing games saw the Bills D give up 21 points to the Washington Football Team and shut out the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans.
In only allowing 37 points all year, the Bills D is ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed (847) points allowed (44), yards per play (4.0), takeaways (11), first downs allowed (48), passing yards allowed (595), and expected points contributed by all defense (66.16).
So, how good has the Bills defense been?
That last stat, expected points contributed by all defense, is an advanced stat that factors in things like field position, 3rd down defense, and red zone defense. At 66.16, the Bills are one of only seven teams in the league with a positive number in that category (that’s good!), and the second-place Denver Broncos D is lightyears behind at 22.59.
The last two NFL teams to do what the Bills D has done have won the Super Bowl
What the Bills defense is doing in 2021 isn’t just impressive. It’s historic. Only two other defenses have pitched two shutouts in the first four games of an NFL season.
The most recent was the 2000 Baltimore Ravens D. The unit included boldfaced names like Ray Lewis, Rod Woodson, Tony Siragusa, Jamie Sharper, Peter Boulware, and Chris McAlister. In Week 1, they blanked the Steeler 16-0 and, in Week 4, they blew out the Cincinnati Bengals 37-0.
The first team to do it was the now-Washington Football Team in 1991. That D was also stocked with talent that included Darrell Green, Wilber Marshall, and Charles Mann. Washington dismantled the Detroit Lions 45-0 in the season opener and then did the same to the then-Phoenix Cardinals in Week 3, 34-0.
What do these two legendary defenses have in common?
They both helped their teams reach and win the Super Bowl in the years they started with two shutouts.
The 2000 Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 to win the Lombardi Trophy, and the 1991 Washington team beat — wait for it — the Buffalo Bills, 37-24.
The Bills have their Week 5 opponent to thank for their improved defense
If the 2021 version of the Buffalo Bills is truly on its way to the Super Bowl, the next game will be another good indicator.
In one of the most hotly anticipated matchups of the year, the Bills travel to Arrowhead for Sunday Night Football to take on the Kansas City Chiefs.
In a way, the Bills actually have the Chiefs to thank for their No. 1 defense this season. After losing to Patrick Mahomes twice last season, including in the AFC Championship Game, the Bills brain trust realized they needed an upgraded pass rush and a better overall defense to take down the kings in KC.
To that end, four of Buffalo’s first seven picks in the 2021 NFL Draft were defensive players. This included drafting two pass-rushing defensive ends (Greg Rousseau and Carlos “Boogie” Basham) with the organization’s first- and second-round picks.
Rousseau has been especially effective so far this season. He’s started two games and chipped in with 2.0 sacks, three tackles for losses, and 13 tackles.
If Buffalo hopes to continue the historical trend started by Washington and Baltimore, the road to the Super Bowl has to go through Kansas City. On Sunday night, we’ll see how the improved Bills D measures up.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference