The Buffalo Bills are coming off of their second straight win to open the 2008 NFL season, and since it's Tuesday, it's time for another Buffalo Rumblings Film Session to get into the finer details of Sunday's game. The Bills' defense performed quite well for a second consecutive week; let's break down the performance right now.
In two games, the Buffalo Bills' defense has given up just 26 points, held its opponents to under 100 rush yards in both contests, and been active enough to shut down two offenses that were quite good in 2007. This, folks, is no longer your read-and-react defense; it's now read, react and lay the bleeping lumber.
Poor tackling not a concern going forward
We noticed it during the game and it was just as ugly to watch again: Buffalo's tackling was sub par in this game. I counted a dozen badly missed tackles, and seven of those occurred in the Jaguars' offensive backfield. All twelve of those missed tackles came from guys who played in the front seven, and none of them were from Keith Ellison. No one guy was to blame; everybody (again, except Ellison) had a bad play or two. The team made up for it, however, with outstanding play in the secondary; more on that in a moment.
I'm not particularly concerned with this development because of the circumstances. I don't think we give David Garrard and Fred Taylor enough credit - they were able to wiggle out of some sticky situations because they're just really good players. It was also hot, so I'm chalking up a few of those misses to fatigue. It was ugly, but these are good football players that were missing these tackles - they'll turn it around.
Secondary the strength of D in Jacksonville
I can't overstate just how excited I am about Buffalo's secondary. There weren't any missed tackles by the six guys who saw the most playing time, and all of them were aggressive and hit hard. Obviously, Ashton Youboty got the most credit - he had three huge plays in this game, including two big tackles in the open field that stalled potential Jaguars touchdown drives. Jabari Greer also played well, contesting a lot of passes against much bigger receivers and hitting hard for a second straight week.
Donte Whitner, Ko Simpson, Bryan Scott and Terrence McGee all made big hits (and in McGee's case, big plays) in victory as well. This is not the same defensive backfield we watched last season, folks; schematic changes and a more aggressive nature have led to much more aggressive play through two games. Hits are made immediately after the catch (in fact, outside of a couple of screen receptions by Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jags probably had less than 10 YAC yards). The cushion that Perry Fewell prefers his corners to give is smaller. This unit saved Buffalo's defensive effort on Sunday, and as it's the deepest part of the defense, they should only continue to get better.
Confusion enough to keep Jags at bay
Buffalo went into this game with the idea that they would use stunts and disguised blitzes to confuse the Jaguars' makeshift interior offensive line; to an extent, it did the job. Buffalo recorded two sacks on the day (bringing their season total to 7, over a quarter of the total they had in 2007), and Garrard was forced to scramble on four occasions. As expected, Marcus Stroud was able to collapse the pocket several times from the middle of the line, but Buffalo's blitzers were not as effective getting to the quarterback as they were against Seattle.
The real purpose of the confusion, however, is to keep Jacksonville's offense off-balance - and that's exactly what it did. Fewell's scheme was once again excellent (so good it overcame poor tackling, in fact), and Garrard made only a handful of good throws downfield, most of them coming in the third quarter when Buffalo's defense was running on fumes. The Jags didn't come close to moving the ball effectively for much of this game, and when they did, the Bills made plays at the right time to snuff out drives. It wasn't a very pretty effort, but it was effective - and that's all they needed to pull out the win.