“We took it as a challenge.” Defense answers bell by slowing down Lamar Jackson

Sports

Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Addison (97) sacks Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson (8) during the first half of an NFL divisional round football game Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Munson)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – All week long the Bills defense heard about Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. There was a lot of talk about whether or not they would be able to contain the dual-threat QB, but they answered the doubters on Saturday night.

“We took it as a challenge,” defensive lineman Jerry Hughes said. “So when we see the guys on TV talking about how they don’t play defense in Buffalo, and we’re going to give up 30 points, yeah that’s a challenge that we all see. We take it as a challenge and we accept it, so we went out there and played like we had something to prove and that’s how you’re supposed to play football at your house, especially in the playoffs.”

This defense held Jackson to 34 yards rushing, and 162 yards passing. Despite a few key runs, he was not as much of a factor in the game.

“We pressured a lot, we were extremely aggressive tonight and it showed,” safety Jordan Poyer said. “We were able to make some plays in the backfield and then we were able to make some different looks on the back end to try to confuse him and make plays on the football.”

Buffalo managed to bring the Ravens quarterback down four times in the divisional matchup. Jerry Hughes had a pair of sacks on the night.

“Jerry‘s Jerry, man,” Poyer said. “He’s been doing that for a long time. He comes to play every weekend he had a hell of a game tonight and he was definitely a difference maker.”

A lot went into the preparation for dealing with Lamar Jackson. The Bills used wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie as a scout team quarterback to mimic Jackson in practice during the week.

“…I think that gave us an excellent look,” Hughes said. “Somebody with the right amount of speed, because he’s probably just as fast if not faster than Lamar. He’s quick, so throughout the week of practice it allowed us to really gauge our sights on how fast this quarterback would be and what he could do with his arm. Fantastic job of just doing what he just does best, being fast and agile and allowing us to get that get that speed. I think that helped tonight. It showed with Trent Murphy making a huge play on a zone read where he’s able to shuffle at the end of the year, shuffle down to the hip of the tackle and tackle the quarterback. Anytime you can tackle Lamar in open space, man, that’s a huge play. That’s just the kind of team we have, man. We want to feed off each other, we want to make each other better.”

It wasn’t a perfect defensive effort, but they were able to shut down Lamar and keep a lid on the Ravens offense as a whole.

“It takes all 11 guys to be able to have a chance to contain Lamar,” head coach Sean McDermott said. He’s a special player and he’s not the only player that they have that’s really good. [Marquise] Brown and [Mark] Andrews and then the stable of running backs that they have is, you can’t just ignore those guys. I thought again it was a good team effort on defense and fun to watch.”

“We just stepped up to the challenge,” linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said. “[Jackson’s] a good player, I take my hat off to him, but as a defense we stepped up for the challenge and we look forward to the challenge and the guys, everybody around me just did a good job. I try to lead those boys out there so I appreciate them for trusting me and like I said, take my hat off to the coaches, they had a good game plan for us and we did a good job executing.”

They also came up with the critical turnover late in the game when Taron Johnson intercepted Jackson and returned it 100 yards for the touchdown. That ultimately was the difference in the 17-3 win.

“To hold a team in the playoffs in the divisional round to three points is tough to do, especially an offense with the weapons that they have,” McDermott said. “…just a really  gutsy performance by them and they were disciplined. We knew they had to be disciplined. Those guys play disciplined and they played hard throughout the entire game.”

This Bills defense has been overlooked for most of the season, but they once again proved they can handle a top-tier quarterback.

“…I feel like no one was talking about our defense going into this game,” safety Micah Hyde said. “It was all about their defense, their offense, our offense versus their defense and not much was said about our defense so we knew that we’re trending in the right direction . We are continuing to play better. We feel like we gave up some things in this game we shouldn’t have and at the end of the day we gave up three points.”

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