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Bills' pummeling of Raiders shows their success is sustainable

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Statements don't get a whole lot louder than the one the Buffalo Bills made Sunday.

They didn't merely beat the Oakland Raiders. They pummeled them, 34-14.

They extended their home record to 4-0, something they haven't done since 1995. Their defense had four takeaways, the fourth game in a row with at least three, which is the longest active streak in the NFL and the Bills' longest since 2004.

It all speaks to sustainable success.

And at 5-2, the Bills are moving ever closer to a point where ending the dreaded playoff drought could actually be something that more than their truest believers can actually dare to dream about.

"It's a big win, I think, as far as just continuing to separate yourself from the rest of the pack," wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. "Because a lot of teams have two losses, three losses. There's only one team with one loss, so at this point in the season you can start really setting yourself up if you can just continue to stack these wins.

"When you're sitting at 4-2, 5-2 is a lot different than 4-3. It just looks a lot better. I think it gives guys way more momentum going into a short week."

The Bills have almost no time to savor what they accomplished on a damp and chilly afternoon at New Era Field. They start cramming Monday for a Thursday night AFC East rematch against the New York Jets.

It's hardly unrealistic to think that 5-2 could very well become 6-2 in a matter of days. After all, the Jets are 3-5 after Sunday's 25-20 loss against Atlanta and in last place in the division. The Bills also beat them in the season opener.

There was plenty of reason for Buffalo's players to feel good about themselves Sunday. But you didn't see a whole lot of back-slapping or wide grins in their dressing room. You didn't hear much laughter.

It was, for the most part, a businesslike atmosphere. You got the feeling that the players not only expected the outcome but fully expect the winning to continue.

"You want to go to the playoffs, you've got to beat playoff-caliber teams," linebacker Preston Brown said.

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The Raiders, who fell to 3-5, were a playoff team last year. There was plenty of hype that they'd be a Super Bowl contender this season, especially with Derek Carr recovered from the broken leg that kept him out of the 2016 postseason — and likely kept the Raiders from playing for the Lombardi Trophy.

Carr had numbers that are consistent with his career: 31-for-49 for 313 yards and a touchdown. But many of the yards, which were on short and intermediate throws, and the TD came when the game was out of reach.

As has been the case all season, the Bills' defense provided a winning foundation. The offense was far from explosive. However, LeSean McCoy provided a season-best 151 rushing yards — including a 48-yard scoring run — to perfectly complement another defensive masterpiece that came two days after the Bills shipped the highest-paid player on the team, Marcell Dareus, to Jacksonville.

"We don't really care how many yards (the other team gets)," Brown said. "We just try to get the ball away and then limit their points. And that's what we did (Sunday)."

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The Bills did it despite being without two starters in their secondary, safety Jordan Poyer and cornerback E.J. Gaines. Trae Elston, who took Poyer's place, had an interception. So did the Bills' other safety, Micah Hyde, his fifth of the season.

Cornerback Leonard Johnson forced a fumble with a hit on running back DeAndré Washington that rookie linebacker Matt Milano, starting in place of injured Ramon Humber, returned 40 yards for a touchdown. Even kicker Stephen Hauschka, who had two field goals, forced a fumble that Mike Tolbert recovered.

"At the end of the day, it just shows the resiliency of a lot of these guys," Matthews said. "The next man up is somewhat cliché-ish to people, but we really take that to heart. And everybody here is unselfish and just trying to go out there and get the win."

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Nothing that happened Sunday or at any other point of the Bills' strong start, which has caught much of their fan base and the rest of the NFL off guard, comes as a surprise to Johnson. He joined the Bills in the offseason as a free agent from Carolina, where he played while Bills rookie coach Sean McDermott was the Panthers' defensive coordinator.

"And if there's one person I believe in, it's him," Johnson said. "I had another opportunity to sign back with Carolina, but I called Coach personally and told Coach, 'Hey, man, I want to be a part of what you got going on. I know it's going to be special, and I want another shot to play for you.'

"I'm proud of the success we've had as a team. It doesn't surprise me one bit, where we stand, just knowing the moves that were made for the better of the team."

That is the definition of the Bills' strength, a true unified group from top to bottom.

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Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is an 11-year NFL veteran who has seen it all. He believes what he's seeing from the Bills is hardly a fluke.

"We are a team to be reckoned with, as long as we play four quarters," Alexander said. "But we're never satisfied, because there's a lot of things out there that we can continue to work on. But it was a great job of the guys for four quarters out-executing them and never really letting up. Last year (in a 38-24 loss at Oakland), we kind of let up and they came back. I think this year, it's just a mindset of closing out games, and that's a sign of a good team.

"We have a lot of grinders, a lot of blue-collar guys. I was talking on the sideline with another guy that came from another place, there's no egos on this team. Everybody's out to get a W and whatever that means, if it means me sitting on the sidelines allowing some other guys to rush and staying fresh, we're up for it. If that means (someone's) not going to get the ball as a receiver and we're going to hand it off to Shady, they're OK with that. If we've got to pass the ball, Shady's OK with not getting the ball as long as it's going to get to a win."

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