Reed could be in for a big game against San Diego (Associated Press)
What's the secret to being - and beating - a good football team? The answers are varied, and depend largely on circumstance. Therefore, considering the circumstances of this weekend's matchup between the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers - good weather, an inconsistent Bills rushing attack, and a highly potent Chargers offense - there's an easy way for the Bills to be, and beat, a good football team on Sunday.
Do unto San Diego what Arizona killed you with.
Buffalo needs to keep the ball out of San Diego's hands for as long as possible. The Chargers are susceptible to being controlled in this area of the game - in fact, they've held the ball for at least 30 minutes in just two of the six games they've played this season. They're 2-0 in those games, and 1-3 in all other contests. The Bills have a golden opportunity to continue that trend against San Diego. They should do it through the air.
Ball control via air, not ground
When the Bills dropped a 41-17 decision to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5, Buffalo should have noticed that the Cardinals were providing them with the offensive blueprint that could allow the Bills to handle the Chargers. They controlled the clock, and thus the flow of the game, through the air.
Kurt Warner completed a whopping 33 of 42 passes, none of them for a gain longer than 18 yards. That plan, coupled with efficiency in the red zone (Warner threw two touchdowns, and Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower rushed for three more), allowed the Cardinals to wear out the Bills' defense simply by keeping them on the field. That opened up the Cards' ground game - which pounded out 113 yards on the day - and the efficiency allowed the Cardinals to chew up over 36 minutes of possession.
The formula worked to perfection. The Bills have the pieces in place to execute such a scheme. For a plethora of reasons, the Bills should make every effort to employ it in just over two days' time. That type of attack has been a weakness for the Chargers for its first six games this season.
Controlling San Diego
The way to beat the Chargers isn't to "pressure Philip Rivers" or "shut down LaDainian Tomlinson" or "contain Antonio Gates". The key to beating those three - along with the other explosive offensive weapons the Chargers possess - is to keep the ball out of their hands. For as long as possible. The ball control passing game does just that.
The Bills have struggled to run the ball. So have the Cardinals. They used a controlled passing game - with enough runs thrown in to keep the Bills honest - to open up their own rushing attack later in the fourth quarter. The Bills have diverse weapons at running back, so the duo of Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson should be emphasized in each facet of the game. They can contribute to a controlled passing attack, as can Josh Reed, James Hardy and - yes - even Lee Evans.
Trent Edwards' health is paramount. Getting the ball out of his hands quickly increases his chances of survival. It also reduces the pressure on Buffalo's pass protection, which has struggled. And hey - if the Chargers decide to sit on the short game, it's their loss. The Bills can beat them deep with a certain Mr. Evans and his 27 yards per catch.
Being scared of San Diego
Bills fans, for the most part, like to err on the side of caution. Thus, when we look at the Chargers, we tend to mess ourselves a little when we see names like Rivers, Tomlinson, Gates and Chambers. It's not unwarranted - clearly, San Diego has an explosive offense.
What gets lost in the shuffle of "ooo-ing" and "ahh-ing" over San Diego's weapons is the fact that the Bills match up very well with San Diego in the remaining two phases of the game, particularly when we have the ball. In reality, San Diego's offense is the wild card of this game - and Buffalo's defense certainly has its hands full. But so does San Diego's defense and special teams.
Don't forget the East Coast advantage. Don't forget that the Chargers are crossing the Atlantic after this game. But most especially, don't forget the most important factor of Sunday's contest - the Chargers have team weaknesses that the Bills are equipped to exploit. Taking into account the raucous crowd that is sure to be at The Ralph this Sunday, I'm unusually confident that the Bills are going to find a way to pull out a W. Call me crazy (and I'm coming close to doing it myself) - but if the Bills can control the flow of the game off the arm of Mr. Edwards, their chances of winning are quite good.