Shawne Merriman is back in Buffalo after the Bills re-signed the free-agent pass-rushing star to bolster their banged-up defense.
The Bills (3-3) announced the signing Monday, after returning home from an extended West Coast trip, and a day after a 19-16 overtime win at Arizona worked them into a four-way tie for first place in the AFC East.
"You can never have too many guys that we believe can rush the passer," coach Chan Gailey. "We'd rather not go into a game with just three defensive ends."
Merriman returns to the Bills two months after the team cut the three-time Pro Bowl selection in part because it wanted to develop several younger players. Buffalo's priorities have since changed after the team's depth has been depleted at defensive end. Veteran end Chris Kelsay said the adjustment will be easier since Merriman knows the territory.
"Shawne's a great dude," Kelsay said. "He's a guy who came right in and fit well (with) a great personality. We don't have a lot of egos on this team and he fit right in, so it's good to have him back."
Mark Anderson is out indefinitely after he required surgery last week to repair a left knee injury. Veteran defensive line Spencer Johnson has missed the past two games with an ankle injury.
The 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Merriman earned the nickname "Lights Out" while generated 39 1/2 sacks through his first three seasons before injuries slowed his production. Merriman combined for just six sacks, playing in just 23 games over his past four seasons.
The Bills that take the field will have momentum on their side despite scrapping their way through an ugly road win in Arizona. Left for dead in the desert after two blowout losses in which they were outscored 97-31 overall and allowed a combined 1,201 yards over the two-game stretch, Buffalo battled back to .500 against the Cardinals and further crowded to top step of the division.
"We all played hard, that's the biggest think to look for," defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said. "We're working towards being a better team. Just finishing the game for the most part."
The much ballyhooed pass rush lived up to its preseason hype Sunday, sacking the Cardinals six times and keeping quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and John Skelton on the run. Mario Williams had received considerable heat for a slow start after signing a $100 million contract in the offseason, but turned that temperature on the Cardinals with 2 sacks and a number of hurries.
"That was the best game our defensive front has played all year," Gailey said. "I really believe that if we can keep working, we can create those types of problems for people week in and week out."
"They really gave us the freedom this game to just line up and play," he said. "We had a really simple game plan. We knew what we had to do."
The Bills needed the strong defensive performance after a questionable Wildcat passing play for Brad Smith yielded an interception late in regulation that allowed the Cardinals to drive for a game-tying field goal.
"We thought we had a chance to hit the home run and ice the thing right there," Gailey said. "In hindsight? Bad call."
That's all in the past as the Bills prepare for a Tennessee team that is 2-4 and should be well-rested after beating Pittsburgh late Thursday. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson said the opponents aren't the issue. It's the Bills' effort that will dictate their success.
"When we play a full game, we can play with anybody," Johnson said. "It was an ugly win.
"But we got it."
NOTES: In addition to the Merriman signing, Buffalo also resigned safety Delano Howell and released defensive tackle Jay Ross and center David Snow. ... Gailey said Monday that Spencer Johnson and starting right guard Kraig Urbik both have chances to be available Sunday. ... The Bills will welcome fifth-round draft pick and cornerback Ron Brooks back to practice on Wednesday from the injured reserve list. ... The win at Arizona was Buffalo's second on the road this season. They won just two total away from home last season.
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