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DEFENSE PUTS EAGLES IN SHUTDOWN MODE

The Buffalo Bills' defense had such a good day Sunday that defensive end Phil Hansen had more scoring opportunities than the Philadelphia Eagles' offense.

Hansen recovered a fumble at the Eagles' 9 and almost made it into the end zone -- getting pulled down at the 5.

The Eagles never got inside the Bills' 20 -- and only crossed midfield on two of their 12 possessions.

The 26-0 Bills victory was the first Buffalo shutout in seven years, since a 38-0 win over Indianapolis in 1992.

"That's pretty big for our defense," Hansen said. "It's a nice accomplishment. It's very hard to do in this league."

The Bills used a stifling run defense and some big plays to shut down an Eagles offense that ranked 30th in the NFL in 1998 and was 30th after the first two weeks of 1999.

Eagles running back Duce Staley, who averaged 94 yards a game rushing and receiving last year, managed just 25 against the Bills. He carried 10 times for 6 rushing yards. Overall, the Eagles gained 22 rushing yards on 12 carries, and half of their rushing plays went for negative yards.

"They got away from their running game," inside linebacker John Holecek said. "They tried to bounce it outside and Sam Rogers and Gabe Northern played it real well, keeping it inside.

"We had a few blitzes that worked real well and shut them down early," Holecek said. "They didn't have much hope on the ground, so they just went away from it."

That opened things up for the Bills' pass rushers, and they consistently put heat on Eagles quarterback Doug Pederson. He was sacked twice and hurried often.

The first Bills' sack was by Northern, who forced the fumble Hansen recovered near the goal line. Bruce Smith broke free through the middle of the Eagles' offensive line and forced Pederson to his left, where the quarterback ran into Northern and coughed up the ball.

"I have to give credit to John Holecek because he had good coverage on the backside and they didn't have a chance to throw the ball," Northern said. "Somebody flushed him (Pederson) out of the middle and he ran straight into me."

"I'm a pretty conservative guy, and I like to fall on the ball just to make sure we get it," Hansen said. "But it bounced just right."

That first-quarter turnover led to a field goal.

Hansen had a second fumble recovery in the second quarter. Smith beat a double-team and sacked Pederson, forcing the fumble. Hansen picked it up at the Bills' 33 and had an open field in front of him. He ran 19 yards before being caught from behind by Staley.

"Thurman (Thomas) told me he would give me exclusive (running) lessons," Hansen said. "But first he wants me to buy his video tape (on rushing)."

The Eagles used a fairly conservative pass offense, usually dumping the ball short and into the flats.

"They did a lot of things to slow down the rush," Hansen said. "They threw a lot of screens and did a few draws and the sprint out."

"We made some big plays, we got some pressure on him, but we gave up some big ones, too," Northern said. "Ted (Cottrell) said before the game if we eliminate the big plays we'd win."

The Bills yielded a 35-yard pass to receiver Charles Johnson and a 27-yarder to tight end Luther Broughton.

The defense came up with its second straight dominating effort. Last week, it allowed just 190 yards in the 17-3 win over the New York Jets.

This was the first time since 1988 the Bills have gone two straight games without allowing a touchdown. The 169 yards allowed to the Eagles were the fewest by the Bills since a 1995 game against Carolina.

So the defense has rebounded well from its poor showing in the season-opening loss at Indianapolis.

"Indy was quite a wake-up call for us," Hansen said. "It's kind of a cliche-type word. But we've played much better since then."

The Bills also are well aware they will need to play just as well, if not better, in next Monday's showdown with the Miami Dolphins.

"I don't want to think about Dan Marino tonight," Cottrell said. "I'm going to sleep good tonight. The rest of the week I might not sleep much."

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