It would have been tough for Jerry Hughes to dream up a better start in his first home game as a Buffalo Bill.
Hughes sacked Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder on the first play from scrimmage Friday night, setting the defensive tone in the Bills’ 20-16 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” said Hughes, who started at right defensive end in place of Mario Williams, who sat out so that the Bills could rest him. “I’m happy football season is back.”
Hughes also looks plenty happy to be in Buffalo after coming to the Bills in an offseason trade with Indianapolis. Last week against the Colts in the preseason opener, he made a pair of tackles and broke up a pass.
“One of the things this week I told him: A lot of times people play well against the teams they were on prior to,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “I said, ‘It’s going to be interesting to see this week who you are.’ Are you going to be able to play with that same intensity, play with that same production? He probably played with more production.”
Hughes blew by Matt Kalil on the first play from scrimmage to wrap up Ponder. He got to the quarterback again in the second quarter for an 8-yard loss on a third-down play, stripping Matt Cassel of the ball. The Bills racked up four sacks as a team.
“I felt like the secondary did a great job of making the quarterback look for his secondary reads,” said Hughes, who finished with three tackles. “With that being said, the guys up front, we gotta do our job and help them out. I was just trying to do my part. They did an excellent job, so I just tried to pay them back.”
Hughes is being counted on to play a big role in the Bills’ defense this season. He’s the team’s most experienced pass-rusher behind Williams. The team thought enough of him to release veteran Mark Anderson before the start of training camp.
The Buffalo defense held Minnesota’s starters to just three points in the first half and registered a defensive touchdown.
“That’s what we’ve been practicing the past few months,” Hughes said. “Since minicamp, from training camp practice, we’ve been practicing being stingy. Everybody flying around to the ball, creating havoc. So with us practicing like that, it’s great to see it put on the game film.”
As for whether the Bills are holding anything back in the preseason, Hughes played coy, directing those questions to defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
“He’s like a mad hatter back there,” Hughes said. “He’s creating the plays; we just go out there and execute.”
If Friday was any indication, there will be plenty for fans to get excited about.
“It was fun. The crowd brought great energy,” Hughes said. “The fans throughout the entire game were rowdy and really helped us feed off that. We just wanted to go out there and play for them.”