The linebacker becomes the third member of the Buffalo Bills to earn a Player of the Week Award this season.
Buffalo Bills linebacker A.J. Klein had to hold out for a little bit, but a special honor awaited him at the end of Week 12’s NFL action.
The defender earned the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Bills’ 27-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Klein led all defenders with 14 tackles (3 for a loss), 1.5 sacks, and a pass breakup. His most notable contribution of the afternoon came in the early stages of the fourth quarter, when he forced Chargers running back Joshua Kelly into a three-yard loss on a crucial third-and-one in the Buffalo red zone. The takedown forced Los Angeles into a field goal that kept the lead at a manageable 24-17 margin.
Klein, 29, is in his first year with the Bills, having signed a three-year deal with the team over the offseason after seven years with Carolina and New Orleans. He struggled in the early portions of the season, but has since come up huge with Matt Milano sidelined due to injuries. Klein previously came up big in Buffalo’s statement win over Seattle, when he earned five tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
“I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff. I go out and do what I need to do and try to perform to the best of my ability,” Klein said of outside criticism after the Seattle win, per Mike Sherry of The Post Crescent. “It’s a good feeling when you go out and perform like this. Big plays cover probably some mistakes from earlier in the first half, but I know I can play football.”
“I have all the confidence in myself and I really don’t pay attention to any outward or outside noise. That’s one thing in this league you can’t do. You just have to focus on yourself, focus on the process and get the job done on Sundays.”
In a report from Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier praised the improvement that Klein has shown in subbing for Milano.
“We didn’t know if A.J. could do some of the things that we ask Matt to do. But as we’ve gotten more comfortable with him and he’s gotten more comfortable in our system, we’ve seen him play some much improved football,” Frazier said. “That’s a credit to A.J. just sticking with it and making himself available and then when his number is called, making those plays that are there for him to make.”
Klein becomes the third Buffalo representative to take home a Player of the Week award, joining QB Josh Allen (Weeks 2, 9) and fellow defender Jerry Hughes (Week 7). Receiver Tyreek Hill of Kansas City took home the week’s offensive honor, while New England kicker Nick Folk earned the top mark for specialists.
The Bills return to action on Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers in Glendale Arizona (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags