Inside The Bills

Rex: I challenged our defense on purpose

Posted by Chris Brown on August 30, 2015 – 10:28 am

Bills head coach Rex Ryan wasn’t overly concerned about his team’s pass defense against Pittsburgh Saturday. While he wasn’t thrilled that they gave up big plays he said going into the game he purposely challenged them on the back end with play calls and a lack of blitzing.

Ryan said the plan was to force his secondary to communicate more to prepare them for stressful times in the regular season.

“I put us in a lot of situations again challenging us,” said Ryan. “I was going to challenge us with different coverages and make them communicate and quite honestly we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. We’ll learn a lot off of tape, but you can’t just go out there and say, ‘I’m a great player.’ And not communicate. I think it was a great thing for us. Now we challenged our guys in the second half and they responded. That (Pittsburgh) team is talented now. That kid from Clemson was killing us.”

Ryan was referring to Martavis Bryant who had three catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Mind games for Bills defense

Posted by Chris Brown on August 21, 2015 – 8:59 am

Rex Ryan is supremely confident that he has an elite defense, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to rest on his laurels as a coach because he has a unit blessed with great talent. That’s why Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman put in some multi-faceted adjustments on the fly for their first team defense Thursday night.

“When you have a good defense or an elite defense you challenge them mentally to do things,” said Ryan. “Dennis and I were talking and we put on some checks, some audible checks, calls they never heard and we said, ‘Make it work. Here are the two things we’re going to combine and just based off formation.’

“So we challenged the heck out of them mentally as well. You make adjustments in this league. I want our guys to understand it’s not just one or two defensive calls. We’re very multiple in what we do and we do it for a reason. We take advantage of what we’re seeing and what we’re getting, protections and so forth and we’ve got to be ready to go with it, but I thought they did a nice job and responded well to it.”

Ryan not only has high end talent, he’s got veteran talent that can adjust to mixing play calls in their scheme among other things. Buffalo’s head coach insists they still haven’t shown much of their defensive concepts for the regular season, but it won’t keep them from throwing adjustments on the fly at their players.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Rex ranks his Bills ‘D’ vs. his others of the past

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2015 – 2:57 pm

Bills head coach Rex Ryan has been hesitant to compare his new Buffalo defense with that of other defensive units he’s coached in the past. A former player of his however, put him to the test as NFL Network’s LaDainian Tomlinson asked him to compare his Buffalo defense to those that he had in Baltimore and New York.

“We’ll see. I think in the Baltimore days, obviously that 2000 defense probably is a little different, and you go with the 2006 defense which led the NFL in more categories than any defense in the history of the game. That’s similar to what we have here,” Ryan said. “When I look back on them – my first year with the Jets we led the league but I think this is a more talented group than that. No slight to them but I believe that we’re more talented here.”

Buffalo’s defense finished fourth in the NFL last season overall. Ryan has stated repeatedly that it’s their intention to finish number one.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Being No. 1 ‘D’ easier said than done

Posted by Chris Brown on July 28, 2015 – 10:07 am

As ambitious as head coach Rex Ryan has been when it has come to claiming his defensive unit in Buffalo will be number one even he knows how hard it is to achieve the league’s top ranking.

In our Camp Countdown we examined just how feasible it will be for Buffalo’s defense to finish first in the league this season. But even Ryan knows what a tall order that is.

“The Bills did have an outstanding defense last year,” said Ryan. “I guess my expectation is set much higher. When you talk about leading the league in defense, that’s obviously the goal that we’ll have as a goal as a team…and it’s easy to say, it’s hard to get to.

“I’ve been there a few times. It starts with just eliminating all mental mistakes. That can’t exist. If you’re going to have that kind of defense, you have to have great communication. Obviously you need to have great skill and great talent which we have but it’s that communication eliminating the mental mistakes but make that opponent play us physically. Now you take our physical talent with an outstanding group of talented players and quite honestly an outstanding scheme so I think when you combine those things, we’ll see where we end up.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 2-27

Posted by Chris Brown on February 27, 2015 – 11:39 am

NFL free agency is just over a week away. The Bills are expected to be players. For now let’s get to this week’s edition of questions from you the Bills fans on email at and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

My question is- What veteran quarterbacks do you feel that could be available to help the Bills immediately? Definitely not Cutler, the Bills have already proven once you get under his skin he’s done competing!  Maybe Sanchez?  Do you think he can turn the corner in his leadership and playing ability?

Kevin E.
Colorado by way of Hamburg, NY

CB: Josh McCown is the obvious target right now. I think the Bills will see if any veteran quarterbacks that don’t have a future with their current clubs are released in salary cap moves prior to the start of the new league year before pouncing on another free agent target. Rest assured they are dead set on adding a veteran quarterback to their roster in some way.


2 – Chris,

Thanks again for the great coverage of our Bills, my question revolves around the defense going back to a 3-4. How do you see the front seven shaking out? Is Dareus the nose tackle or do we go with him and Kyle Williams at defensive end and add a big bodied space eater? I’m also curious about the linebackers, I’d think you’d put Alonso and Brown inside, Mario on one side and then I’m lost. If Hughes stays in the fold does he play the other side? Where does this leave Bradham who emerged as a solid player? I look forward to your input thanks again.


CB: With respect to the defensive line you have to remember that Ryan’s system is not a traditional 3-4 with a true nose tackle. They don’t have a true two gap, head up on the center nose. They play more of a shade alignment with two defensive tackles. I think Mario Williams will split time at defensive end and outside linebacker depending on the down and distance.

Manny Lawson will shift to strong side linebacker much like he did in Pettine’s defense two seasons ago. If Jerry Hughes is back he’ll presumably rotate in and out with Lawson and likely flip back and forth between and end and outside linebacker role.

As for the full-time linebackers I think it will be a feeling out process for the defensive staff. They have 2013 tape of Kiko Alonso in this defense, but they do not have any feel for Preston Brown in that system. They also don’t have the current version of Nigel Bradham in this defense aside from perhaps the last two games of 2013 when he began to show flashes of his true ability. So how they align those three will take shape through the course of the OTA practices.

The secondary obviously remains largely the same with the decision of free agent Da’Norris Searcy being the only possible departure.


3 – Chris,

Has Shane Carden from ECU been on anyone’s radar at OBD? I live in the Carolinas so we get more coverage about this guy. He’s playing in the senior bowl as well. He has reputation for being an accurate thrower (to me this should be the top consideration for a QB). Maybe a steal in the mid/late rounds. Thoughts from the insiders?


CB: Obviously the Bills scouting department is aware of Carden. He was a throwing quarterback at the NFL Combine last week. Carden set all kinds of records at East Carolina, but my concern lies with his throwing mechanics and arm strength. I don’t think he has the arm to cut passes through the wind that we often find here in Buffalo come November and December.

A lot of his passes float and hang in the air too long. He also has a propensity to throw off his back foot. There’s no debating his career was a very productive one. He broke all of David Garrard’s passing records at ECU, but I’ll be surprised if he’s taken before the seventh round. At best he’s a career backup in the league by most accounts.


4 – Hello Chris,

Thank you for all your hard work keeping those of us away from Buffalo updated on the best team in the NFL!

While I do not dismiss Rex Ryan’s abilities as a coach or motivator, my defining image of his tenure in New York was the newspaper cover image of a Jets clown car with coach Ryan at the wheel.  Traditionally the team has eschewed flamboyant personalities in the past.  Has the team discussed this with him, or can we expect the seemingly endless diatribe of controversy, arrogance and inanity that plagued the Jets?


CB: I think you can probably take his handling of his press conference with the NFL media at the NFL Combine as an example of what to expect. He sidestepped several opportunities to be bold with a prediction or two for the 2015 season. He also dodged loaded questions about his former team. So I’m anticipating a little more self-restraint from coach Ryan this year. We’ll see.


5 – Chris
It seems that with the restrictions in the NFLPA agreement, it is difficult to work with players except during certain dates in the offseason ?
If we had some interesting players, could a team rather than sign them to a contract, perhaps open a Football Training School with free tuition and room and board to develop their skills? Those popping out would be offered a contract etc. don’t use team coaches, rather qualified instructors with experience in positions we have a need.

Jim in Florida

CB: Unfortunately I don’t see the NFLPA agreeing to that in any way. The players fought for time away from the game to reduce the pounding on their bodies through the offseason with limitations on padded practices and live hitting. They’re not going to agree to do that in a separate training academy. Most players do that on their own.

I suppose there could be street free agents interested in that kind of arrangement, but who is paying for it? NFL owners are not going to incur another cost to make that happen. I just think it’s unrealistic.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

MMQB gives Bills ‘D’ MVP honor

Posted by Chris Brown on December 15, 2014 – 4:14 pm

Buffalo’s defense handed Aaron Rodgers the worst single game performance of his career. Their play also earned them an MVP nod from Monday Morning Quarterback from the early games on Sunday.

Here’s what MMQB’s Chris Burke wrote about the Buffalo performance.

MVP: The Buffalo defense

Not often does a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, with an offense as potent as Green Bay’s, look as out of sync as he did Sunday. Several times, Rodgers fired to … well, nobody in particular, with his receivers going anywhere but where thePackers’ quarterback expected. Even Jordy Nelson dropped a couple balls, including one that may have gone for a 94-yard touchdown.

Still, the majority of the credit here belongs to the Bills defense and coordinator Jim Schwartz. Buffalo sacked Rodgers just once, but they pressured him constantly and worked aggressive coverage downfield. The secondary came up with two interceptions, both by safety Bacarri Rambo, while the Packers’ receivers were left looking for flags repeatedly.

The final nail in Green Bay’s Week 15 coffin came courtesy of Mario Williams, who swung around the left side of the offensive line to swat the ball from Rodgers’ hand, forcing a safety.

“They really get after you with their four-man rush, which is the typical Jim Schwartz defense,” Rodgers said earlier this week. “He’s a very talented coach and always has some schemes that put pressure on the offense.”

Rodgers had thrown multiple interceptions in just one other game this season: a 44-23 loss in New Orleans. (He’s still yet to throw one at Lambeau Field.) He was just 8-of-24 for 70 yards in the first half, his quarterback rating dipping from 42.2 at the break to 34.3 when all was said and done. That’s the lowest mark of his career.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Graham: We’ve set the standard now

Posted by Chris Brown on December 15, 2014 – 8:52 am

The Bills defense has played well all season long, but over the last two weeks holding both Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers without touchdown passes and picking off four passes has been downright unthinkable. We cover Buffalo’s defensive prowess in depth in our feature story on But veteran CB Corey Graham, who always believed this kind of play on their side of the ball was possible now says they’ve set a standard they have to meet every week moving forward.

“We have to obviously continue to play like that but once we do that, now the mark is set,” said Graham. “Now you got to expect that every week from everybody and that’s what we got to do. We’ve got to make sure we’re locked in and ready to go every week.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

The suffocation of the Browns offense

Posted by Chris Brown on November 30, 2014 – 6:41 pm

The Bills defense gave up a good bit of yardage in the first half to the Cleveland Browns, but just three points. Come the second half Buffalo’s defensive unit closed like a vice on the Browns’ attack as evidenced by Cleveland’s second half possessions.

Following their missed field goal drive in the second quarter here is how the next seven possessions played out for the Browns.

Drive start           Plays     Yds gained          Yds Pen                                Net yds                      Result
CLV 33                              3              0                              0                              0                              Punt
CLV 24                              4              11                           0                              11                           INT
BUF 30                             3              -8                            0                              -8                            Punt
CLV 20                              1              -2                            0                              -2                            Fumble
CLV 20                             3              4                              0                              4                              Punt
CLV 16                              3              14                           -15                          -1                            Punt
CLV 20                             2              9                              -5                            4                              INT

The totals on those seven possessions from late in the second quarter to the time Johnny Manziel came in the game were 19 plays, 8 total net yards, four punts, two interceptions and a fumble return for a touchdown.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Watkins, Bills ‘D’ make PrimeTime’s Countdown

Posted by Chris Brown on October 28, 2014 – 8:32 am

Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders does his weekly PrimeTime Countdown and the Bills got a dual nod.

Checking in at number eight on his top 10, Buffalo’s defense with six takeaways and Sammy Watkins with his three-catch 157-yard, one touchdown performance earned the kudos on the countdown.

You can watch PrimeTime’s Countdown right here or on NFL Network every week

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills ‘D’ top 10 in handful of key categories

Posted by Chris Brown on October 27, 2014 – 2:11 pm

The Bills defense has put together a heck of a first half of the season. Under new coordinator Jim Schwartz they lead the league in sacks with 28 and rank first in total takeaways and first in interceptions. They also rank in the top 10 in a few other key defensive categories. Just don’t expect the players on the defensive unit to pay it much thought.

“For our defense it really doesn’t mean anything because we’re still trying to build our identity up and we’re not where we want to be as a team, so as a defense we’re just steadily doing what we’re supposed to do,” said Marcell Dareus, who leads the team with seven sacks. “When it’s time for us to go out there and our number is called we’re going to go out there and do the best we can, go as hard as possible until we get off the field and do the same thing when we’re called on again. We’re just busting our butts and not even thinking about it.”

Schwartz’s unit also ranks eighth against the run, sixth in third down defense and seventh in points allowed.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

NFL talent evaluators bullish on Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on October 3, 2014 – 7:59 am

The Bills may have dropped two straight games and made a change at quarterback, but according to FOX Sports there are scouts in the league that believe Buffalo’s roster is littered with talent and not far off from being a true AFC contender.

Here’s part of what was written on the Bills.

There are some around the league who believe this roster is overflowing with talent.

“I evaluated their defense up and down, and I think it’s as good as it gets,” an NFC scout told “They are all solid football players. D-line depth is legit. They’re an undercover team. If they keep the group together and if they stay healthy, this defense will be one of the best for the next six to seven years.”

Attrition on defense could take its toll, though. With defensive tackle Kyle Williams and linebacker Nigel Bradham undergoing MRIs earlier this week, the front 7 undoubtedly could be affected.

In July, budding superstar linebacker Kiko Alonso underwent season-ending surgery for a torn ACL. Alonso, though, is coming along nicely and is actually ahead of schedule, a source close to the linebacker told

Despite Alonso’s absence, third-round rookie Preston Brown has been a very bright spot, logging plenty of snaps and leading the Bills in tackles (40). 

General manager Doug Whaley and his staff deserve plenty of credit for building a unit that is garnering league-wide approval, and this certainly isn’t the first time the idea of Buffalo’s defense being very good has been floated.

Former Ravens and Browns scout and current NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said two weeks ago on his “Move The Sticks” podcast that when he watched the Bills in training camp 21 starters stacked up with those on any team – it was just a matter of Manuel (and now Orton) as the 22nd guy.

For Marrone and Co., that part will need to get figured out in a hurry as the team is changing hands in ownership and must prove this thing is headed in the right direction.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone on how he’d handle Bills’ ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on December 5, 2013 – 11:08 am

Bills head coach Doug Marrone has been pretty pleased with the sack production his defense has put up thus far this season. He has said in the past that he values hits on the quarterbacks in total, not just sacks. Being a former offensive coordinator and very well versed in protection schemes, he was asked how he would counter the effectiveness of his defense.

“I think I’d look at the match‑up situation, who I don’t match up with well if I was on the offensive side of it the whole time and I would set the protections that way,” said Marrone. “And I think because people are multiple and we have guys with multiple sacks that can get that done, it’s a little bit more difficult.

“I think you’re always looking to see what sacks are being created from in terms of pressure and how many sacks are being created from the standpoint of four‑man rush. I think at the end of the day you create more of a four‑man rush even though sometimes that’s not the case.  I think that gets evaluated quite a bit.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills ‘D’ had the clamps on

Posted by Chris Brown on November 3, 2013 – 10:13 pm

Buffalo’s defense had been susceptible to giving up the big play through the first half of the season. That disappeared on Sunday.

The Bills allowed a total of 210 net yards to the Chiefs, the fewest in a loss since they gave up just 193 in the infamous 6-3 loss to Cleveland back on Oct. 11, 2009.

The longest play surrendered by the Bills was a 20-yard pass play from Alex Smith to Anthony Fasano. No other play went for more than 12 yards in the game.

On 10 total possessions, the Chiefs gained more than 35 yards on a drive, just once, their 42-yard field goal drive in the third quarter. That was also the only Kansas City drive that reached the red zone.

“I think we’ve got a good defense,” said Stephon Gilmore. “One thing their defense did, they got turnovers and scored. That’s what we needed as a defense. I just feel like we needed a play on defense to turn the game around for the offense. But we never got that.”

The closest they came was on Jerry Hughes strip sack, but Leodis McKelvin was unable to come up with the loose ball.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why Bills should expect some read option

Posted by Chris Brown on September 15, 2013 – 10:13 am

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton is one of the better read option signal callers in the league. He only had a handful of carries last week against Seattle, but there’s a good chance he has more against the Bills today. Here’s why.

Recent evidence has likely shown Carolina offensive coaches that the read option can have success against Buffalo. The last two examples come from late last season and this past preseason.

Exhibit A is Seattle QB Russell Wilson. Facing the Bills in Toronto last season in Week 15, Wilson rushed for 92 yards on nine carres (9.2 per rush) and three touchdowns. They came from 14, 25 and four yards out in a 50-17 victory over Buffalo.

Then this past preseason, read option quarterback and fourth-stringer Pat White for the Washington Redskins had success running the read option against Buffalo. Though he only had three carries in the game they totaled 26 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown run (8.6 per carry).

Even though Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Schula is known as a conservative play caller, he’s expected to give Newton his opportunities with the read option against a Bills defense that has to prove they can stop it today.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Defensive snap counts

Posted by Chris Brown on November 26, 2012 – 4:59 pm

Here are the defensive snap counts from Sunday’s game in Indianapolis courtesy of ProFootballFocus in order of greatest to least.

Jairus Byrd – 75
Stephon Gilmoe – 75
Leodis McKelvin – 69
Nick Barnett – 65
Mario Williams – 61
Kyle Moore – 58
Marcell Dareus – 54
Kyle Williams – 51
Justin Rogers – 49
George Wilson – 49
Bryan Scott – 44
Nigel Bradham – 31
Kelvin Sheppard – 31
Da’Norris Searcy – 27
Spencer Johnson – 24
Alex Carrington – 21
Shawne Merriman – 18
Ron Brooks – 11
Chris Kelsay – 9
Arthur Moats – 3

Posted in Inside the Bills

Points per game home vs. road

Posted by Chris Brown on November 25, 2012 – 10:15 am

When it comes to points scored and points allowed by the Bills thus far this season there are some disparities between home and the road.

Heading into today’s game Buffalo has averaged 10 more points per game at home (29) than on the road (19).

Flipping it over to defense it’s almost identical. Buffalo has given up an average of 29.5 points per game at home. On the road that figure is slightly higher at 30.2.

The sample size for the road is larger (6 games) than for home (4 games), but a 10 point difference in offense is pretty significant.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Barnett: Bills ‘D’ could be best

Posted by Chris Brown on June 5, 2012 – 3:42 pm

Nick Barnett is a veteran linebacker. He knows you don’t prove anything in June, July or August, but what he’s seen of his defensive unit to this point has him very, very encouraged that the Bills defense could be one of, if not the best in the NFL.

“Well I think we could be as good as the best defense in the NFL if we do what we are supposed to do,” he said. “I definitely think that we have that potential, we’ve got great pass rushers, great interior linemen, and we’ve got young hungry linebackers. I mean I am getting a little long in the tooth, but I still consider myself young and we also have some good defensive backs that look good. So, we have a lot of potential to be one of the best defenses in the NFL.”

In addition to the pure talent the Bills have added defensively, Barnett also sees value in that talent having a wealth of experience with Mario Williams and Mark Anderson the two primary examples.

“It definitely helps that you have guys that know the game of football at this level,” he said. “Bring in free agent players, good players with good attitudes and good mindsets. I makes us mover faster along and help the younger guys to. When you have veterans in front of them it helps them improve and challenges them.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Munchak liked Bills 2nd half ‘D’

Posted by Chris Brown on December 5, 2011 – 2:24 pm

Titans head coach Mike Munchak felt fortunate to escape Buffalo with a win Sunday. He thought the Bills second half defense put their opponent in a good position to win.

“We made it hard on ourselves,” said Munchak. “Give Buffalo credit in the second half – we had chances where we had good field position, and they were able to get us off the field. They made some adjustments, made some plays, and put us in some long down situations. That led to the nerve-racking ending of the game. If you can take care of those things in the third and fourth quarter, you can avoid those types of situations.”

Buffalo held Tennessee to 134 total yards in the second half and just two third down conversions. The Titans had just a pair of 2nd half field goal drives.

Posted in Inside the Bills

More 4-3 ahead?

Posted by Chris Brown on November 26, 2011 – 11:58 am

The Bills went predominantly to a 4-3 front against the Dolphins last week and their run front fared better holding Miami to a 2.7 yards per carry average. So will that continue in the weeks to come?

Head coach Chan Gailey offered the following response.

“Well, some of it has to do with who’s healthy and who’s not, who we think can play, what we think the best matchup is as far as run game vs. tight end throw vs. back out of the backfield,” he said. “You take all of those things in consideration, it’s never just one thing. But we do feel like last week that gave us a good matchup and we’ll look and see what’s the best matchup this week for us.”

Basically the team is just looking for what might work best against the opponent that week along with who they have available to play. So at this point the Bills defense is a hybrid between the 3-4 and 4-3.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Preseason stat barometer

Posted by Chris Brown on August 23, 2011 – 12:01 pm

Not a whole lot of stock can be taken in the preseason stats for NFL clubs. Their best players are not on the field for most of the game and coordinators aren’t running their best regular season stuff. Still they’re interesting to examine. Here’s a look at some of Buffalo’s defensive statistics through two preseason games and where they rank.

Total defense – 15th (311.5 yds/gm)
Points per game allowed – 13th (17 ppg)
Yards per play allowed – 14th (4.9)
3rd down defense – 23rd (44%)
Time of possession allowed – 16th (30:28)
Run defense – 26th – (132.5)
Pass defense – 11th (179)
Sacks – 1st (11)

Buffalo’s total defense last season ranked 24th in total defense, 30th in 3rd down defense and last in run defense. They were also 28th in points per game allowed. They also ranked 27th in sacks. Again just preseason numbers, but they could be further indication that they’ll be improving in several categories.

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Posted in Inside the Bills