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Pollock: Suddenly, the Commanders aren’t a ‘soft foe’ for the Buffalo Bills

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Washington Commander wide receiver “Scary” Terry McLaurin holds a box of his new plbse.com Crunch Time Flakes. McLaurin, a fifth-year receiver has seven catches for 85 yard and a TD this season.

A column by CHUCK POLLOCK

This was supposed to be sort of a break week for the Bills … a soft opponent before  hosting Miami, a Sunday from now, then a “home game” in London against ascending Jacksonville.

But apparently nobody told the Washington Commanders.

You see, this team with years of a dysfunctional front office before making an ownership change is off to a 2-0 start. And, yeah, beating Arizona and Denver, isn’t exactly like topping the 49ers and Chiefs, but both those wins were on the road and of the comeback variety.

On Sunday, at the NFL’s worst Stadium, FedEx Field, the Commanders entertain the Bills (1-1), who followed a dismal performance in losing to the Jets in overtime at the Meadowlands in the season opener with a near-perfect effort in dispatching the Raiders in Orchard Park.

Oddsmakers favor the Bills by a touchdown, but this is a game with several interesting sidebars.

START WITH the fact that Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott and Washington counterpart Ron Rivera are long-time friends. They worked together under Andy Reid in Philadelphia and when Rivera was hired to coach the Panthers, he brought McDermott with him to Carolina as defensive coordinator.

In spoiling Sean Payton’s Denver home coaching debut last Sunday, rallying from an 18-point  second-half deficit, Rivera got his 100th overall victory, including playoffs.

Meanwhile, Sunday will mark McDermott’s 100th regular-season game as an NFL head coach.

More on that later.

THERE’S LITTLE question the Bills have the more talented roster, top-to-bottom, but Washington has its own strength.

The Commanders likely own the NFL’s top defensive line. Tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen and ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat are all first-round draft choices.

And while two games in a 17-game schedule is a small sample size, Washington has 10 sacks — getting seven on the Broncos’ Russell Wilson — tied with Dallas for the league lead and has generated 20 quarterback hurries and 10 QB Hits.

In short, Buffalo’s offensive line, which looked horrid in the opener then rebounded with a solid performance last week, will need to duplicate that effort against one of the NFL’s elite defensive lines.

As McDermott noted, “There’s a lot of former first-round picks up on that front  and they had seven sacks last week. It’s impressive. We’re going to have to do a good job and it’s not just the offensive line, it’s got to be everyone involved … trying to manage that as much as we can.

“The talent is what jumps off the page right away … the twitchiness of their defensive line … and they’re deep. That’s how you build good defenses … it starts up front.”

He added of the Commanders, “Any time you get off to a 2-0 start and they’ve also come from behind in both games, those are things you learn about your team early on. So I’m sure they’re feeling very confident about their situation.”

AS FOR his pal, Rivera, McDermott pointed out, “Ron just won his 100th game as a head coach and that’s a heckuva accomplishment in and of itself let alone with everything that’s been going on (with the franchise) and I don’t even pretend to know everything.

“He’s just a great leader and a great head coach, all the accolades he’s received, Coach of the Year twice, he’s deserving of all the attention he gets.”

Of his own relationship with Rivera, McDermott, 63-36 heading into his 100th regular-season game, said, “You learn from those around you and try to take the best from what you see. I’ve learned a lot from being around coach whether it be in Philadelphia for those years working under Andy Reid, both of us, or in Carolina working under Coach Rivera. 

“When you get a job (as an NFLcoach), you’re never sure how long it’s going to last, especially in this day and age, regardless of what the job is. I’m grateful for the people who have been around me and helped me and my family and some great players as well. Ron and all the people I learned from … you can get into this job sometimes but it comes and goes rather quickly if you’re not prepared, so I’m thankful to those like Ron who helped me be prepared.”

AS FOR QUARTERBACK Josh Allen, who reversed a dreadful performance against the Jets to earn a team-record 11th AFC Offensive Players of the Week honor versus the Raiders, McDermott said, “It was just a solid performance … he needed to make the plays he needed to make, where he was really spectacular … but overall for the bulk of the day he just played really good solid football.

“That’s the thing he, and we, need to take out of that game, from time-to-time. You kind of put it on your shelf and it’s a good trophy because it’s a reminder that you can do it, playing a certain way and in some ways be spectacular but also play really high-level winning football.”

Bills 24, Commanders 20

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at cpollock@wnynet.net.)

Get caught up with the latest from Chuck Pollock!

• Why Week 2 has the makings of a must-win

• The new look AFC East after one week

• Pollock on the Week 1 loss

• Bills season prediction

• A pre-season final win erases memories of the Steelers loss

• Where were the tight ends in the preseason win?

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