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It’s pretty clear defense will have to carry season

In accordance with the 24-hour rule, Doug Marrone allowed his players a full day to enjoy their last-second victory over the Vikings. It was an ugly win with a pretty finish for the Bills considering how poorly their offense played and the odds against them scoring on their last drive.

History will show Kyle Orton hit Scott Chandler for 24 yards on fourth-and-20, Sammy Watkins for 18 on 3rd-and-12, Chris Hogan for 28 yards to the 2-yard line with the clock winding down, and finally Watkins again for the winning touchdown. Their final march was something to watch.

The Bills’ offense overcame laws of probability Sunday, let’s be honest. Their defense won the game after allowing only 276 yards and one touchdown despite four offensive turnovers. They forced the Vikings out of field-goal range with two of their five sacks on Minnesota’s final series.

And they restored faith after their horrid display against the Patriots. Now it needs to continue this week against the Jets.

“That’s how we’re going to win,” Kyle Williams said after the game. “We have to play well on defense. If they can get going” on offense “and we’re playing well off of each other, we’re going to be in a lot of football games.”

Sure, it was the same defense that allowed 158 yards rushing to a team that was without Adrian Peterson. The Vikes have the 10th-rated rushing offense but are last in passing yardage. The Bills were determined to prevent big plays by a rookie quarterback making his first road start. They begged Minnesota to run.

Buffalo is eighth in points per game allowed, 11th in yards allowed per game, fourth against the run, first in sacks, tied for third in interceptions and third-down defense and sixth in fewest plays allowed of 20 yards or longer. The defense enabled them to win three games by a field goal or less.

The harsh reality: Orton showed the poise, intelligence and leadership Buffalo needed, but he’s a mediocre quarterback at best. The Bills are without their top two running backs. If they’re going to reach the postseason for the first time in 15 seasons, their defense needs to carry them.

Looking for their identity? There you go.

Granted, the Bills’ D benefited from opposing offenses that were compromised. The Bears were without star receiver Alshon Jeffery with the game on the line. The Dolphins lost Knowshon Moreno on the first snap against Buffalo. The Lions missed Calvin Johnson and lost Reggie Bush.

People can be critical, but they shouldn’t be hypocritical.

The Bills have been without Kiko Alonso all season. Kyle Williams was injured in the loss to Houston. Da’Norris Searcy was hurt against the Chargers. Aaron Williams missed the Patriots’ game, leaving their reshuffled secondary exposed to one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

And that leads me to the Tom Brady Factor, an important variable in the equations that should not be discounted.

Despite rhetoric predicting otherwise, Brady did what he often does when he comes to Buffalo. He left the town in ruins and traumatized its people. He shredded the Bills for 361 yards and four touchdowns, reaffirmed his authority over the AFC East and returned to his palace.

But lost in the Bills’ blowout loss was the game being tied, 7-7, with two minutes left in the first half. The Patriots scored three touchdowns over the final two quarters. Buffalo hasn’t allowed more than two touchdowns to any other team in an entire game this season.

You can’t remove an event and pretend it never happened, but it should be kept in perspective. It was one game among 16. Brady’s performance against Buffalo should be placed in proper context over the first seven games. Analytics would confirm how one game can skew statistical measure, if not sway public opinion.

Let’s examine BD-NE=X, or Bills Defense minus New England. For example, Buffalo is 11th in yards allowed per game (328). But when using the BD-NE=X formula, the Bills are allowing only 316.6 yards per game. It would propel them into sixth in that category.

Take away Brady, and the Bills would jump from 19th to 11th in passing yards allowed per game. Take away the Patriots, and Buffalo is allowing only 17.5 points per game. It would be fourth in the league and good enough to win enough games to make the playoffs.

Buffalo’s other one-sided loss was a 22-10 defeat to San Diego and MVP candidate Philip Rivers. The Chargers scored 30 points or more in each of their other four victories, including 30-21 over defending Super Bowl champion Seattle. Added up over seven weeks, Buffalo’s defense has done its job.

It should contain Geno Smith and a Jets’ offense that has struggled most of the season. Chris Ivory had 107 yards against the Patriots last week, four days after gaining 8 yards on seven carries against the Broncos. New York has lost six straight. The Bills’ defense has played well in six of seven.

Geno Smith isn’t Tom Brady, and the Jets aren’t the Patriots. The Bills need to keep playing like the Bills on defense and hope their offense shows up sooner or later before they run out of time. As we learned Sunday, sometimes it means waiting until the last second.


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