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Position-by-position grades

Trent Murphy led A-plus effort for Bills' D-line vs. Steelers

Trent Murphy was a monster at the point of attack in Sunday night’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Buffalo Bills’ veteran defensive end produced a forced fumble, a sack, two hurries on the quarterback and had two other key run stuffs in the 17-10 victory.

It was the strongest game of the year for Murphy on a night when the Bills’ defense dominated the line of scrimmage.

The defensive line leads this week’s position-by-position grading of the Bills, based on video review and on a scale of 0 to 5:

Defensive line (5.0): The Steelers averaged just 3.5 yards a carry. After James Conner’s 15-yard run on their opening play, they managed just 2.5 yards on 14 carries. Pittsburgh tried to power up with an extra offensive lineman as a tight end or two backs on six runs. No dice. They managed just 10 yards on those plays against the Bills’ base 4-3 front. Murphy dominated tight end Nick Vannett on an early wildcat run and blew up the wildcat to force the fumble deep in Bills territory. Shaq Lawson also was fierce at the point of attack. Lawson’s lone sack was created by a great bull rush by rookie Darryl Johnson on left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. A bull rush by Ed Oliver created Jordan Phillips’ first sack. Phillips was too quick for guard Ramon Foster on a twist to get his second sack, which was aided by a Lawson bull rush. Beefy Vincent Taylor had two run stuffs in 11 snaps.

Linebackers (5.0): Tremaine Edmunds had 11 tackles and continues to be used as a weapon by Leslie Frazier. Edmunds blitzed and pushed Conner into the QB’s face to help force the Jordan Poyer interception in the end zone. Matt Milano showed his closing speed on a 7-yard tackle for loss on a swing pass to Conner. Frazier blitzed on 12 of 42 drop-backs. Devlin Hodges was just 5 of 11 for 51 yards on those plays.

Defensive backs (5.0): Tre White showed his quick closing speed on the interception he returned 50 yards to set up a field goal. White had help from Micah Hyde deep and anticipated the throw, which was too far inside. White’s first pickoff was easy, thanks to a wounded-duck pass. Levi Wallace missed a tackle on Conner’s TD but was sound in coverage and made the final INT. Poyer had double coverage on that play and was in great position.

Quarterback (2.5): The passing numbers don’t merit a 2.5 grade, but Josh Allen delivered in the clutch in the fourth quarter. He read the defense perfectly and stepped up in the pocket to hit Tyler Kroft for the TD. Allen’s footwork was off on the overthrow for an open Cole Beasley in the second quarter and the miss to Patrick DiMarco in the flat in the third. The interception for Beasley was a tad too high. The Steelers were worried about Allen’s scrambling. They blitzed on 10 of 30 drop-backs and used a spy a handful of times. Allen was 5 of 9 vs. the blitz. He did just enough against a top defense.

Running backs (2.0): Two fumbles spoiled a good day for Devin Singletary, who rushed for 87 yards and 4.1 a carry. He made a couple Steelers whiff with wicked cuts. The Bills were ultra-conservative on the last two drives, running Singletary and Frank Gore a combined five times for 6 yards. Obviously, Sean McDermott was confident his defense could stop Hodges.

“You have to get a feel of the game and how that’s going,” Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said, “and it starts with the directing of the head coach, who did a great job last night on how both sides are playing, how all three units are playing, when we need to take points, when we need to be aggressive.”

Receivers (2.0): Fortunately, the Steelers did not have a lock-down corner who could contain John Brown, who produced 99 yards. He also made a heads-up fumble recovery two plays before the winning TD. The Steelers used Mikah Fitzpatrick to jam Beasley a few times, and even T.J. Watt lined up in the slot to jam Beasley. He was held to one catch. Besides his TD catch, Kroft had a nice block on Mark Barron on Allen’s TD run and on two other good run gains.

Offensive line (2.5): A smart game plan helped the tackles weather the Steelers’ storm. Cameron Heyward was a handful for the interior of the Bills’ line, getting five pressures on Allen. Quinton Spain blocked up linebacker Devin Bush on Singletary’s 15-yard run before the Kroft TD. Dion Dawkins had a nice seal block on Allen’s TD run.

Special teams (2.5): The good news is Corey Bojorquez hit three great punts, two pretty good ones and one poor one on which Siran Neal bailed him out with good coverage. The first two punts were 4.93 and 4.94 hang times. With 5:21 left, he hit a 52-yarder with a 5.1 hang time. One semi-shank came when the Steelers put on an all-out rush. The downside was there were two penalties on returns that cost the offense precious field position.

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