ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — In the absence of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, the Dallas Cowboys defense suffered its worst game of the season from a run stoppage perspective, as they allowed 266 yards on the ground — the team's most since 2012.
While Hankins' absence was attacked in the A-gap, Buffalo Bills running back James Cook found success all night around the edges as well on his way to a career-high 179 yards.
"They got on our edge a bunch," head coach Mike McCarthy said postgame. "I know [defensive coordinator Dan Quinn] and the guys were very impressed throughout the week. They performed that way. They broke contain, they broke tackles, they won the bend-back battle. They were better at it today."
The defense itself saw it as a group effort in allowing Cook to find so much production from start-to-finish, as the rushing attack allowed Buffalo to dominate the time of possession battle and, in essence, the entire game.
"Hank's important, but I think it was everyone all across the board," Micah Parsons said. "It wasn't one individual or one particular thing. I think it was a group effort."
The previous two games for the Cowboys going into the game against Buffalo had been increasingly physical — two games that the Cowboys won — but the physicality lacked on Sunday evening which allowed the Bills running game to perform the way it did.
"We weren't physical enough," Stephon Gilmore said. "They were more physical than we were today."
The preparation during the week highlighted Cook as a potential game-changing player, and he did just that on his home turf to give the Bills a much-needed win towards their playoff hopes.
"Just thought he did a great job of being patient," Parsons said. "He was explosive, making people miss. He's been a good back all year. He did a lot of great things tonight."
The Cowboys will look to regroup from the worst run defense performance under Dan Quinn when they travel to Miami next week to face the two-headed rushing attack of Raheem Mostert and Devon Achane.
"We gotta be better," McCarthy said. "They ran the ball way too effectively. Our run defense needs to do much better, without a question."