Former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards, now an analyst with ESPN, wrote a lengthy column today in which he tried to discern what's wrong with the Buffalo Bills defense. In it, he offers a (very brief) hypothesis on what needs to be improved, and cautions fans not to "bury" the defense quite yet.
"The problem was that the Patriots already had found the Bills' weakness - spread Buffalo out and get it into nickel with an up-tempo offense, and you gain a big edge," Edwards writes.
Essentially, Edwards noticed the same thing everybody else noticed - that the Bills chose to match up with New England's personnel in its nickel defense, and said defense could not defend either the run or the pass on Sunday. Edwards notes that when the Bills started putting an extra man in the box later in the game to help shore up the run defense, the Patriots started hitting Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski on shorter passes to loosen things back up.
"New England may be able to do it better than any team int he league, but if you spread the Bills out, they become a lot weaker," Edwards concluded.
As a fix, Edwards notes that the team's four defensive linemen need to rush the passer better, noting that when Mario Williams is double-teamed (which he claims happens a lot, contrary to other published reports), the trio of Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mark Anderson have not yet consistently shown that they can beat single teams to create pressure, specifically in the A gaps.
"The Bills have young cornerbacks in (Stephon Gilmore), (Justin Rogers) and Aaron Williams, who are going to take their lumps," Edwards writes. "But it also means that the front four must apply pressure, because blitzing will leave those young corners on an island, where they are really susceptible to big plays."
Finally, Edwards points out that in both of the Bills' losses this season, early deficits have led to mistakes from the offense and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (sounds familiar), which puts the gelling defense in a bind.
"The Bills' defense has talent, but that talent is mitigated when the opposition can use the whole playbook while playing from ahead," says Edwards. "The Bills' offense simply has to make fewer mistakes.
"Last week's defensive struggle was more a case of a bad matchup and a bad performance by Fitzpatrick than it was evidence of something inherently wrong with the defense," Edwards concludes. "Don't bury the Bills' defense just yet."