The Bills D giveth; and then takes it away
So long as the Buffalo Bills keep winning, coach Chan Gailey won't complain too much about the alarming number of yards his defense is allowing.
He'll gladly trade those ballooning numbers in exchange for how adept his opportunistic unit has been in producing turnovers.
''If we keep getting four and five turnovers a week, you can discount a few of those yards,'' Gailey said, Monday. ''It would be lovely to have both, but you don't get that all the time. You need to have one or the other.''
In a season in which the Bills have given up plenty, they've proven capable of taking it away, too.
Just ask Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who was hurried and knocked around in throwing a career-worst four interceptions in a 31-24 loss on Sunday. Along with linebacker Nick Barnett's 31-yard interception return for a touchdown, Buffalo converted five takeaways (including a fumble) into 17 points.
That more than made up for the 489 yards offense allowed, extending Buffalo's streak to a franchise-worst four straight games of giving up 450 yards.
''You don't want to give up those yards,'' linebacker Shawne Merriman said. ''But if we're taking the ball away from teams and putting our high-powered offense back on the field, it'll put us in the best possibility to win the game.''
It's an equation that's working for the Bills (4-1), who will face the New York Giants (3-2) at The Meadowlands on Sunday.
Though there's been much attention paid to Buffalo's ''No-Name'' Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense over the past month, the defense is starting to earn recognition for its rope-a-dope resilience.
Despite giving up nearly 422 yards a game, the Bills lead the league with 16 takeaways and 12 interceptions - one more than Buffalo had all of last season.
''I don't even know what happened last year other than the 0-8 start,'' safety George Wilson said, when asked to compare the interception totals. ''The only stat that matters is the `W.' As long as we continue to get the victory, as long as we have more points than the other team at the end of the game, that's all that matters.''
Wilson, who broke into the NFL as a receiver before making the switch to safety in 2007, has not lost his pass-catching touch in leading the Bills with three interceptions.
''It means nothing,'' Wilson said, downplaying both his performance and the Bills record. ''Don't believe the hype. We're still proving it.''
Hype or not, the turnovers have played a difference for a team that's already matched last year's win total and has matched its best start since 2008.
The 16 turnovers have led directly to 79 points, which is nearly half of the 164 point the Bills have scored this season. That includes the defense returning an interception for a touchdown in each of its past three games, a streak that's one short of matching the franchise record set in 1960, the former AFL team's inaugural season.
''I couldn't be more thankful,'' running back Fred Jackson said. ''The more times we get the ball, the more chances we have to put up points. And if we continue to get turnovers like that, we'll be a hard team to beat.''
It's a solid start for a revamped defense that's already encountered a rash of injuries to its secondary, and still attempting to find its identify after being overhauled this offseason.
Wilson's starting in place of Donte Whitner, who left in free agency. Barnett replaced another free-agent loss, Paul Posluszny. And veteran cornerback Terrence McGee has missed all but a few plays this season after hurting his hamstring in the opener.
Though Buffalo's registered only five sacks, it has managed to apply pressure.
Vick's first interception came when Alex Carrington batted up a pass attempt, which was caught by cornerback Reggie Corner. Wilson had the second interception, which came after Vick was hurried by linebacker Arthur Moats. And Barnett had an easy interception, which Vick threw just as he was being pressured by linebacker Kelvin Sheppard.
Barnett then sealed the win with a second interception, grabbing the ball out of the air after cornerback Drayton Florence stripped it from receiver Jason Avant's arms.
''We're getting the breaks,'' linebacker Andra Davis said. ''I don't really believe in luck. But whatever it is, we'll take it.''