- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - For someone who made interceptions look easy last season, Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd is far from happy with his lack of production so far this year.

Zero is not an acceptable number for a player whose nine interceptions _ as a rookie, no less _ last season earned him a Pro Bowl selection and a share of the league lead.

“I know my responsibility and what they’re counting on me for, and I shoulder that,” Byrd said. “I know what I’m capable of, and it’ll come around. But right now, we do have issues.”

Byrd’s too much of a team player to point fingers or come right out and say what those “issues” might be on a struggling defense that’s taking the brunt of the criticism for the Bills (0-5) getting off to their worst start in 25 years.

His teammates, led by linebacker Andra Davis, are quick to come to Byrd’s defense by accepting the blame as the Bills return from their bye week to prepare to play at Baltimore on Sunday.

“It’s not Jairus Byrd’s fault,” Davis said after practice on Wednesday. “For me personally, I think our secondary is the strength of our team. And we’ve got to put those guys in a position to be the strength. And that falls on us.”

Davis was referring to the Bills‘ front seven, and its inability to stop the run or apply consistent pressure. Those are two key deficiencies which have essentially rendered immaterial a deep and talented defensive backfield that returned intact this season.

“In your story, make sure you address the fact that it’s all hand in hand,” Davis said. “We’ve got to get those guys an opportunity to get picks. And when you’re last in rush defense in the league, why would any team come in here throwing the ball?”

That’s a pertinent question, and one that won’t change until the Bills prove they’ve finally plugged the holes on a run defense that’s allowed an NFL-worst 912 yards this season, including 200-plus yards in each of its past three games. Opposing quarterbacks are having an easy time either simply handing off the ball or catching the Bills off guard by passing in run situations.

And forget about a pass rush. The Bills have six sacks _ half the number they had five games into last season _ in showing they’ve yet to replace top pass-rusher Aaron Schobel, who was released in August after he refused to report to the team while contemplating retirement.

“It all works together,” coach Chan Gailey said, lamenting the team’s lack of interceptions. “You can’t pick out one thing in this game and say, ‘Wow, this is the one problem.’”

Gailey even placed blame on the offense for its failure to consistently move the ball in order to pin opponents deep in their own end. Three of Buffalo’s past four opponents each had average drive starts at their own 37 or better, including Jacksonville which had seven drives start at its own 42 or better in a 36-26 win on Oct. 10

That’s a lot for a defense to overcome and a reason why Buffalo ranks last in the league with one interception _ Davis got it off a pass tipped at the line against the Jaguars. And the defense is tied with Dallas for last in having secured four takeaways.

That’s a significant drop for a defense that finished tied for fifth in the NFL with 33 takeaways, and second with 28 interceptions last season.

It was a turnover-happy unit that was led by Byrd. The second-round draft pick caused a stir by setting a team record with a five-game interception streak. It was a run during which he had two interceptions each in three straight games, becoming the first player to do so since Dave Baker in 1960.

Byrd doesn’t shy away from the expectations he’s set.

“I want to set the bar as high as possible because you can’t settle for less,” he said. “Trust me, I’m not settling. I’m still reaching. I’m trying to look for ways that I can create turnovers and try to do things to help my team. Right now, we are where we are.”

The best he can do is remain patient.

“For a lot of people this isn’t a patient game, it’s ‘Produce now,’” Byrd said. “I’m patient. I truly believe that it’ll come.”

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