Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey had a message for his sack-starved defensive players once they got a double-digit lead on the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
"Coach Gailey on the sideline said, 'Go have some fun; this is where you can pin your ears back and get after the quarterback,' " said Bills linebacker Chris Kelsay.
The Bills got after it like it was 1964, which for all you non-Bills historians was the best pass-rushing season Buffalo has ever seen.
Buffalo finished with nine sacks in a 23-0 rout of the overmatched Redskins.
The sack total was the second most in team history and the most in 47 years -- since Tom Sestak & Co. terrorized the AFL in that '64 championship season. It was Buffalo's first shutout since 2006.
The term "blood in the water" was on the Bills' minds as they were chasing after Redskins quarterback John Beck.
"Once you feed those piranhas they want some more food," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "So the guys got some sacks, and we wanted to keep coming with the pressure. Our front seven just got after them up there against the run and the pass."
The victory, coupled with New England's loss at Pittsburgh, put the Bills (5-2) in first place in the AFC East, by virtue of their head-to-head win over the Pats (5-2).
The Redskins (3-4) proved to be the perfect tonic for a Bills team that entered the game with just four sacks, the worst total in the league. Washington was missing five offensive starters, including two offensive linemen.
The Redskins' middle three on the offensive line -- guards Will Montgomery and Chris Chester and center Eric Cook, who was playing just his third NFL game -- were no match for the Bills' interior rushers.
With veteran Kyle Williams out, the Bills moved rookie Marcell Dareus to nose tackle, and he dominated, getting 2 1/2 sacks.
"He played unbelievable," Kelsay said. "He made the plays that needed to be made. He's a force to be reckoned with."
"I kind of took it personally myself because I didn't think as a front we've been doing a good job getting to the quarterback, putting as much pressure on the quarterback as needed," the 340-pound Dareus said. "It was Giff (Smith), our D-line coach, who really put a lot of emphasis on keep your motor running, staying low and getting after the ball. Don't look in the backfield. Work your man and make your move."
Dareus even chased Beck all the way to the sideline for a sack on a fourth-down play from the Buffalo 44 in the third quarter.
"You can't find a big guy that runs like that," Barnett said. "You see that play where Beck scrambled to the sideline. The way he took off, flipped his hips and went after him. There aren't a lot of big guys that can run like that. Very impressed."
Dwan Edwards had 1 1/2 sacks. The others came from Kelsay, Spencer Johnson, Kirk Morrison, Jairus Byrd and a shared sack by Arthur Moats and Barnett.
Byrd's sack was especially timely. It came in the second quarter with the Bills ahead, 7-0. Byrd came unblocked off left tackle on a six-man rush and dropped Beck for a 9-yard loss. On the next play, the Bills blocked a 49-yard field-goal try. Most of the Bills' sacks came on four-man rushes, not blitzes.
"The majority of our sacks today were non-manufactured sacks," Barnett said. "It was good rush up front, but we also had some good calls with blitzes that got home, too. All year we've been close to the quarterback, and finally we got him."
A crowd of 51,579 at the Rogers Centre saw Redskins coach Mike Shanahan suffer the first shutout in his 24 years as an NFL head coach or offensive coordinator. The Bills held Redskins back Ryan Torain to just 14 yards on eight carries. Beck passed for 208 yards.
"We stopped the run early," Byrd said. "The front seven did a great job. And we got some points early. So it works hand in hand. We got up to a good lead and they had to play catch-up."
The beat went on for the Bills' offense.
Running back Fred Jackson rushed for 120 yards on 26 carries and caught three passes for 74 yards. He became just the second Bills player to reach 1,000 yards from scrimmage after just seven games (joining O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas). Jackson has 1,074 yards rushing and receiving.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21 of 27 passes for 262 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Both scoring passes went to tight end Scott Chandler, for 20 and 15 yards.
The Redskins had blitzed a lot this season but showed the Bills plenty of respect. They rushed four men most of the time.
When they did blitz, Fitzpatrick burned them.
Late in the second quarter, Washington sent a five-man rush, and linebacker London Fletcher slammed into Fitzpatrick's side just as the quarterback released the ball. Jackson caught the pass and raced down the left sideline for 46 yards. It set up a 44-yard Rian Lindell field goal, which gave the Bills a 13-0 halftime lead.
Fitzpatrick had the wind knocked out of him, and the Bills had to call time out to allow him to get ready for the next play.
"I think everybody on offense and the whole team had a collective gasp when they saw him down there trying to suck air," Jackson said.
"I thought, 'Boy, Toronto really doesn't like me,' " quipped Fitzpatrick of the fans' cheers. "Because I didn't know he broke the tackle and ran down the sideline. So I said, 'That's a lot of excitement for a quarterback getting hit.' "
Another Fitzpatrick-to-Jackson pass beat a Redskins blitz for 24 yards in the fourth quarter.
"I don't want to talk about that," Fitzpatrick said, laughing. "Fred screwed up, and I don't want to talk about it and give anything away to anybody else. Fred really lucked into one because he screwed up and I was mad at him."
That's the way the day went for Buffalo. Even their mistakes worked.