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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Buffalo's off-season defensive moves have yet to pay off

The Bills' defense has somehow gotten worse and is ranked 31st in the NFL. In the last two games, Buffalo has given up 1,201 yards.

Sam Farmer

2:50 PM CDT, October 13, 2012

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After all that buzz about Buffalo's rebuilt defense, all those millions spent in free agency, the Bills are ranked 31st on that side of the ball.

In the last two games — losses to New England and San Francisco — the Bills have surrendered 1,201 yards, the most in consecutive games since the New York Yanks gave up 1,227 in 1950.

So where is Mario Williams, the most coveted defensive player in free agency? Where is the sun-blotting defensive tackle tandem of Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus? Where's corner Stephon Gilmore, the 10th pick in last spring's draft?

Somehow, the Bills have gotten worse on defense.

We've seen this movie before. Philadelphia couldn't buy a championship with the so-called "Dream Team," nor could those star-studded Washington teams, no matter how wide Redskins owner Daniel Snyder opened his wallet.

To this point, the biggest disappointment for the Bills is defensive end Mario Williams, the former No. 1 overall pick and Houston Texans standout who signed a six-year deal worth as much as $100 million. He has 11 tackles and 11/2 sacks, and the most noise he's made so far has either been about replacement officials not making hands-to-the-face calls, or about his sore wrist, which hasn't appeared on the injury report.

The defensive end on the other side, Mark Anderson, is out indefinitely with a knee injury, proof that not all of the underachieving is due to poor performance on the field.

Still, the secondary has been repeatedly burned, the linebackers are uninspiring, and new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt has to be wondering how things have gotten so bad so quickly. In his years as a coordinator or head coach, he's never had a defense finish with a ranking lower than 20th.

"The inconsistency has been the most frustrating thing for all of us," Wannstedt told reporters after practice Friday. "We came out of preseason feeling good. There was a transition with new players and a new system and got into the season and felt good even into halftime of the New England game. We've had a game and a half of disappointment to put it bluntly.

"Now the good news is it's basically the same guys we played with earlier in the year. We had a good week of practice, we're refocused. We have to come out here and play as good as we can play this week. And I expect us to. I think we'll play good. I really believe that."

Buffalo has a chance to start the turnaround Sunday, against Arizona's 31st-ranked offense and a line that's had all sorts of protection leaks. What's more, the Cardinals have lost running backs Ryan Williams and, for the moment, Beanie Wells.

But, as Tim Graham of the Buffalo News put it, Buffalo's defense is at a crossroads: the intersection of Do Street and Die Avenue.

From coast to toast

Inspiring as that come-from-behind win by Indianapolis was last Sunday, it highlighted what has become a problem with Green Bay. The Packers lack a killer instinct.

Although it's not often they're going to blow a 21-3 halftime advantage the way they did against the Colts, the Packers tend to get overly conservative when protecting leads. They take their foot off the accelerator, dabble with the run, get away from what Aaron Rodgers does best.

It's getting to the point where Green Bay fans have to get a knot in their stomach when the Packers take a two-touchdown lead in the first half. Often, games that look like blowouts-in-the-making wind up unnecessarily close.

Hurry-up offense

Sure hope Washington rookie Robert Griffin III is completely back to normal Sunday if he's going to be taking snaps against Minnesota.

The Redskins were very quick to deem him recovered after last Sunday's concussion — one that caused him to forget the quarter and the score.

With its heightened emphasis on player safety, the NFL requires that players who suffer concussions be cleared by an independent neurologist before returning. Griffin didn't sit out any practices this week. Maybe he's fine. Here's betting that if he weren't such an essential player, the Redskins would have given him more time to ease back into action.

Family tradition

Like all NFL teams, the 49ers embrace the one-game-at-a-time philosophy, that no game is as important as the next one. But Eddie DeBartolo, the team's former owner, is thoroughly convinced San Francisco is going to win the Super Bowl.

"They're better than anybody they're going to play," DeBartolo said this week from his Montana ranch. "There's not a team out there that's better than San Francisco, and I think they're considerably better than the next team.

"Truthfully, I don't see a weakness. … I don't think there's any question that they're going to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. And I don't think there's a team in the AFC — and that includes New England — that can stay with them for 60 minutes."

That sets the bar pretty high for 49ers Chief Executive Jed York, DeBartolo's nephew.

Then again, hey, what's family for?

A need for speed

The New England Patriots leaned heavily on their no-huddle offense in a 31-21 victory over Denver last Sunday, running 89 offensive plays, an especially high number when you consider the Patriots weren’t trying to come from behind. By way of comparison, the fastbreaking Oregon Ducks have averaged 82 plays over their last three games.

If the Patriots keep up this pace, don’t be surprised if opponents begin feigning injuries -- especially in the red zone -- just so they can get the right defensive personnel groupings on the field without burning timeouts.

Texas tall

No one is standing taller these days than 6-foot-5 J.J. Watt, defensive lineman for the 5-0 Houston Texans. More impressive than his AFC-leading 71/2 sacks are his eight pass deflections.

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