The Buffalo Bills officially have a top-five defense in the stat that matters most.
Through six weeks, the Bills are giving up 17.2 points per game. That ranks fifth in the NFL.
The defense’s performance Sunday in a 45-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at New Era Field should not get lost in the offensive explosion.
“We feel pretty good about where we are defensively,” coach Rex Ryan said. “We just want to play and coach our guys to the best of our abilities, put them in plays to be successful and that’s what we’re doing as coaches. Our players are doing an unbelievable job. They’re the ones who get all the credit.”
In five of six games this season, Buffalo has allowed 19 or less points.
“Our goal is 17. We feel like if we can hold teams to 17 points, we should have a chance to win just about every game,” inside linebacker Zach Brown said.
They accomplished their goal Sunday after a few shaky moments in the first half. San Francisco gained 191 yards in the first two quarters, but then just 109 after halftime.
“This is what good teams do,” defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “We were able to withstand their first surge. … I think it was the turning point of the game. We talked about it on the sideline: They wen out, they struggled that first series (after halftime), had a couple penalties and we just said, ‘listen, we are not going to start like that. We have to put the foot to the gas and get going here.’ ”
The focus for the defense was on limiting the rushing attack of the 49ers, which quarterback Colin Kaepernick plays a big part in.
“We had to make sure we stopped the run,” Brown said. “Make him one dimensional. If he did happen to get out, we made sure to tackle him and made sure he felt it so he knows not to run next time.”
The Bills stuck mainly with a four-man rush, electing not to blitz much or spy Kaepernick.
“We believe we’re fast enough to get to him,” Brown said. “We’ve got speed on the edge, and our big guys are not slow big guys.”
Two weeks, two catches, two touchdowns.
That’s been Justin Hunter’s contribution to the Bills. Hunter scored a critical touchdown in the third quarter of Sunday’s win on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
“I had an inside corner route and he played outside and I just tried to beat the safety with speed,” Hunter said of his score, which put the Bills up, 24-13, after the extra point. “Tyrod told me right before the play, if he plays this type of way, he’s going to throw it up. He did it.”
Hunter joined the Bills via waivers on the same day the team put receiver Sammy Watkins on injured reserve. He made his debut in Week Four at Los Angeles and caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in that game.
“I’m feeling pretty comfortable, but I still need to learn certain things,” he said. “But coming along good. You know, coach is on me, studying extra and all that. It’s going to come.”
Bills coach Rex Ryan did indeed give Hunter a bit of a message through the media in the week leading up to Sunday’s game, pointing out the receiver had dropped passes in practice that he needed to have.
“I thought he did pretty good,” Ryan said. “I was like, ‘there’s my guy’ after he caught it. What happened in the week, he missed two vertical balls. I’m like, ‘You have to get those, man. I mean, that’s why you’re here.’ Big dude, big target.”
Tight end Charles Clay suffered an ankle injury and did not return. Rookie cornerback Kevon Seymour also did not come back after suffering a shoulder injury.
Receiver Robert Woods had a walking boot on his right foot in the locker room after the game. Woods went to the locker room shortly before the end of the first half, but returned to the lineup after the break and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
“I was just running, putting pressure on it, and I ended up tweaking it a little bit, but I was able to get back out there,” he said.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus missed his second straight game because of a hamstring injury. That means the Pro Bowler is still waiting to make his 2016 season debut after sitting out the first four games because of an NFL suspension.
The Bills also made the following players inactive: left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle), quarterback Cardale Jones, center Gabe Ikard, right tackle Seantrel Henderson, center Patrick Lewis and tight end Gerald Christian.