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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Mario Williams was doubly frustrated after his inauspicious debut with the Buffalo Bills.
Williams was credited with just one tackle in the Bills' 48-28 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. He hit Mark Sanchez just once, after the Jets' quarterback had released the ball.
That's not what the Bills or Williams expected when the team signed him to a six-year contract in the offseason worth potentially $100 million, the richest ever given to a defensive player in NFL history.
If that were not bad enough, he had to deal with what he called constant illegal play from Jets right tackle Austin Howard, who was making just his second career start. Williams took his complaints to the replacement officials, to no avail.
"Pass blocking doesn't include hands to the face," Williams said. "When somebody tells you that you're 5 yards away from it and you walk away like you don't see him telling you you're getting punched in the face every time, then that dictates somebody like myself has to take care of that on my own."
Williams wasn't finished.
"You tell somebody from the very beginning of the game," he said. "And it happens, one time, that's on me. But when it's multiple times and I tell you and you honestly act like you don't even hear me throughout the whole game, I think that's a real big problem.
"It's not something that's really going to dictate something, but what are you going to do about it? You're getting off the ball and getting punched in the face - literally, not an accident - just about every other time. That's a penalty, unless they changed it with the new [Collective Bargaining Agreement] or something, but last time I checked it was a penalty."
The replacement officiating crew was led by referee Robert Frazer. He's a 26-year veteran high school official from the Dallas area.
Williams was asked later in his interview what he thought of Howard.
"I think I've already said that, but it's fine though. I know definitely what to expect," he said. "He's definitely a hands-to-the-face guy and they don't call it, so he's going to continue to do it until someone stops him. So that's fine, we'll deal with that."
Howard disputed Williams' claim, telling ESPNNewYork.com: "If that was an issue, I think they would've thrown some flags. I didn't see any flags out there."
Jets coach Rex Ryan also had a different take on Howard's play.
"I thought the offensive line did a tremendous job protecting the quarterback. Buffalo has some serious pass rushers, especially with Mario Williams. Austin Howard played a tremendous game," Ryan said. "Maybe he made a name for himself today."
Williams admitted to being surprised by how quickly the Bills found themselves in a deficit. Jeremy Kerley's 68-yard touchdown on a punt return gave the Jets a 21-0 lead just a couple minutes into the second quarter.
"For us, as a defense, we definitely have to step it up in the turnover game," Williams said. "When you're down 21 at the flip of a switch, we've got to come back and get turnovers. We've got to get turnovers, we've got to get touchdowns off of that, because it's very difficult in that situation."
Williams said Sanchez negated the Bills' rush with quick throws.
"He was getting back there and just getting the ball out," he said. "They definitely had real good timing as far as him and the receivers and even the running backs.
"We've got to get there. We have to get there and get the strip. Get a turnover on the sack. That's the most important thing when you aren't winning the turnover battle."
The Bills intercepted Sanchez on the Jets' first drive then turned the ball over four times.
"Whenever things are going down like that, we need to bail each other out. Whether it's the offense bailing us out, or it's us bailing them out," Williams said.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com