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Why Bills might sack less, but be a better defense


Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan is inheriting a defense that led the league in sacks last year with 54.

For the laid back fan, a simple equation likely follows: Expert coach plus already sack-happy defense equals record-breaking numbers, right?

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Marcell Dareus, the team's Pro Bowl defensive tackle, would certainly agree.

But let's give a listen to defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, who gave a recent interview with the team's website. He makes a lot of sense.

"It's not necessarily the number," Thurman said of sack totals. "A lot of it has to do with the timing of the sacks, when they come. Just like turnovers, there are teams that get a lot of turnovers, a high number but how crucial are they? At what points in the game do they come?"

Not often, but sometimes, high sack totals are simply the product of a few blowout games during which an opponent was forced into obvious passing situations for more than a half of football.

For a Thurman/Ryan defense, it has never been about sack totals. Those are glamour numbers like RBI in baseball. It has always been about simulated pressure leading to sacks in key moments.

Unfortunately, this is part of Ryan's genius that few understand. People simply look at his sack totals as a defensive coordinator -- his highest finish was sixth in 2014, with 45 -- and assume he's just a snake oil salesman when in reality, it's like calling a baseball player below average because he doesn't hit a lot of home runs.

It would be a reasonable bet Buffalo won't finish with a higher number of sacks in 2015. It will be reasonable, however, to bet that they'll be a better defense.

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