The Buffalo Bills' defense knew that stopping running back Shaun Alexander was the key to slowing down the Seattle Seahawks.
But the defenders weren't satisfied with that. Their goal was to put a muzzle on the Seahawks' entire offense.
They were successful on both counts.
The Bills' defense was downright stifling Sunday during a 38-9 victory over the Seahawks in Qwest Field. Take away a late touchdown by Seattle and it was a near-flawless performance.
The Bills held the NFL's seventh-ranked offense to 230 yards, most of which came after the game was no longer in doubt.
"I'm not surprised we shut them down," said Bills cornerback Nate Clements. "That's what I expect out of us. We practiced hard all week, watched a lot of film and got some good tips on them. With the players we've got, I wouldn't expect anything less."
Few teams have been able to stop Alexander, who entered this week's NFL schedule as the league's leading rusher.
But Alexander was never a factor. The Bills held him to just 39 yards on 13 carries.
"The big thing was we wanted to stop Alexander," said outside linebacker Takeo Spikes. "If you can't make a West Coast offense one-dimensional you're going to have a long day, and we realized that from the beginning. We were fortunate enough to do that. The offense was able to give us some points early, and that put them behind the 8-ball."
Indeed, the Bills' suddenly potent offense helped the defense by establishing a big lead, which limited the amount of opportunities Alexander got to run the ball.
But Alexander could do little on the touches he did get.
"They were talented and we knew that," Alexander said of the Bills' defense. "We knew it was going to be tough for us to just go out there and rip them up. They played well, like I thought they would and I knew they would, and they capitalized on our weaknesses. That's what great defenses do, and they showed it."
Buffalo's defensive line got the upper hand on a Seattle offensive front that features a pair of Pro Bowlers in left tackle Walter Jones and left guard Steve Hutchinson. The Bills, led by defensive tackles Sam Adams and Pat Williams, got off blocks quickly and shut off the running lanes.
"We had to come to play," Adams said. "They have a good offensive line, but we weren't going to be denied today. Alexander is the best part of their offense, and we took that away from them."
By taking Alexander out of the offense, the Bills forced the Seahawks to rely on their passing game almost exclusively. That didn't work too well, either.
Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck completed 19 of 38 passes for just 185 yards. Many came late in the game. Seattle's receivers didn't help, but Hasselbeck often had trouble finding anyone open against the Bills' tight coverage.
The Bills had just one interception -- by cornerback Terrence McGee -- but got their hands on six other passes. Spikes had three tipped passes and one of the team's two sacks.
The Seahawks are generally a good passing team, but everything is predicated on running the ball with Alexander. Without their top gun, the Seahawks couldn't fire anything at the Bills that worked.
"As a defense when you can take their No. 1 threat away, they have to make some adjustments that maybe they aren't used to," said Bills strong safety Lawyer Milloy. "They have a good offense, but we were able to do some things that took them out of their comfort zone."
The Bills' defense has righted itself since the New England Patriots rolled up more than 400 yards two weeks ago. For the second straight game, the Bills stopped a top-10 offense in its tracks.
Milloy promises there is more to come.
"We're coming together as a team and as a defense," he said. "The last seven weeks have been great for this team. Besides the New England game, which I think everybody wanted too much instead of relaxing and playing our game, we've have a good couple of months. I think you're going to see this defense get better, and we have to if we want to make a run at the playoffs."