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Jerry Sullivan: A dual defensive crisis in Pegulaville

Column as I see 'em, Week 12:

When Sean McDermott was hired by the Pegulas last January, the move was quickly embraced by Bills fans. McDermott's greatest virtue was that he wasn't Rex Ryan. He came without the bluster, and he was sure to repair a defense that had gone to pieces in Rex's two years in Buffalo.

But with the Bills mired in an ugly three-game losing streak, it must sting to know that Rex is out there laughing at his former employers. Ryan ripped the quarterback switch on his national pre-game gig Sunday, calling it "ridiculous" to pull Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman.

Rex turned out to be right about that one. No doubt, he's also gaining satisfaction from the demise of McDermott's defense. The Bills have allowed 135 points in the last three games, the most in franchise history. Hard as it is to fathom, the D is actually worse than it was under Ryan, and they're getting 11 men on the field on a regular basis.

The carnage in Carson dropped the Bills' D to 25th in the NFL in yards per game. They finished 19th last season. They're allowing 25.0 points a game, which is 23rd in the league. They allowed 23.6 points a contest a year ago under Ryan, which ranked tied for 16th in the league.

It's been a rough patch for Buffalo's two major pro teams, which combined to lose seven games in a row over a 10-game stretch from Nov. 10-19, including consecutive weekends when the Sabres lost on Friday-Saturday and the Bills put the cherry on top by getting blown out on Sunday.

We're looking at parallel crises for the Pegulas, who entrusted their franchises to first-year coaches with defensive backgrounds and have seen both teams regress defensively. The Sabres tied for 20th in goals-against a year ago. They enter Monday's game in 28th under Phil Housley at 3.55 a game.

Something tells me Dan Bylsma has enjoyed a chuckle or two at their expense, too.

The Chiefs must be salivating at the chance to take on the Bills' defense this weekend. Their offense, which was so potent during a 5-0 start, has struggled mightily in the five games since. They've lost four of five, though they still hold a two-game lead in the overrated AFC West.

KC's offensive decline has directly paralleled the Bills' collapse on defense. In the first five games, the Chiefs averaged 32.8 points a game. Over the next five, it dropped to 19.6 points a game, culminating with Sunday's 12-9 overtime loss at the Giants.

Quarterback Alex Smith, an MVP candidate a month ago, has regressed to game manager status. Through seven games, Smith was 165-228 passing (72.4 percent) for 1,979 yards with 15 TD passes and no interceptions. He has completed 63 percent for 665 yards in his last three, with three TDs and three picks. His average per throw was 8.68 through seven games; it's 6.33 in the last three.

Rookie tailback Kareem Hunt's slump has been even more dramatic. In his first five NFL games, Hunt had 97 rushes for 609 yards (6.28 avg.) and 4 TDs. He has 76 runs for 264 yards since (3.47) and no TDs. Hunt had four 50-plus plays in the first three weeks. He hasn't had a 20-yard play via run or pass in a month.

The Bills' defense gave up only 74 points in the first five games, leading the NFL at 14.8 points a game. They've allowed 176 points in the succeeding five games, a staggering 35.2 point average.

Something has to give. I'd say there's more chance of the Chiefs jump-starting their offense than the Bills having a defensive revival.

Is He Owned? This week's featured fantasy player is Washington rookie running back Samaje Perine, who rushed 23 times for a career-high
117 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 34-31 overtime loss to the Saints.

Perine, a fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, had been a disappointment earlier in the season, averaging 3.2 yards on 66 carries. But he should get a full workload in a good offense with Chris Thompson (who broke his fibula Sunday) and Rob Kelly both sidelined by injuries.

One knock on Perine, who is a compact 5-11, 236 pouinds, is his tendency to fumble. He lost the ball on one run against the Saints, but was ruled down by contact. By the way, his name is pronounced "suh MAH jay/PEE ryne".


The Ravens pitched a shutout in Green Bay on Sunday, raising their record to 5-5 and drawing even with the fading Bills in the AFC wild-card race. Baltimore has the slight edge in the tiebreakers by virtue of their 4-3 record against AFC opponents. The Bills are 3-3 in conference games.

While Buffalo's defense has been unraveling, allowing a team record 135 points over the last three weeks, the Ravens' has been dominant. They have three shutouts, including two of their last three games. It's the most shutouts since they had four in 2000, when they won the Super Bowl.

The Ravens became the first team since 2006 to shut out the Packers at Lambeau Field. They forced five turnovers, tying them with the Jaguars for the NFL lead with 23 takeaways. They're fourth in fewest points allowed, third against the pass, eighth in overall defense and sacks.

“The defense, obviously, was off the charts,” head coach John Harbaugh said Sunday. “That’s about as good as you can play on defense.”

Baltimore has a favorable schedule the rest of the way. They host Houston next Monday night and have games against the Browns, Bengals and Colts. They host the Lions and still have to play at Pittsburgh.

Stats Incredible: The Bills have lost 16 in a row when they had five wins and a record over .500, a streak that goes back to 2002. They've been outscored in those games, 511-219 ... The Eagles have a four-game lead in the NFC East, which means there will likely be no repeat champ in the division for the 13th year in a row ... Cincinnati's Dre Kirkpatrick returned an interception 100 yards against Denver and didn't score. He fumbled and recovered at the 2. The Bengals scored a few plays later. It was the longest non-TD return in NFL history ... The Patriots have allowed 75 points in their six-game winning streak. They're now 13th in the league in defensive scoring and 32nd in yards allowed. It'll be the 15th time in 17 years that they finished higher in points allowed than yards. Three times, they've been top 10 in fewest points and bottom 10 in yards ... In 22 regular-season games since returning from his suspension last year, Tom Brady has 50 TD passes and four interceptions ...

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