After a strong start to the pre-season in Chicago, the Buffalo Bills fell flat defensively against the Denver Broncos. Chan Gailey and Nick Barnett caution that the drop-off may have been circumstantial.
"We wanted to see who could do what playing base defense," Gailey told reporters post-game. "That was one of the things going into the ballgame: let guys play base defense and see where we are. We didn't throw a lot of blitz at them. You're able to see more where your deficiencies are if you just play base, let them play, and then we can evaluate where we are."
Buffalo's first-team defense was on the field against Denver's ones for 15 pass plays, during which they had as many three-man rushes (two) as they did five or more. The Bills rushed a basic four players on 11 of those 15 throws.
"Pass defense starts with pass rush. We didn't have a good enough four-man pass rush tonight to help our pass defense," Gailey continued. "We've got to get better there... we've got a lot of work to do in pass coverage and pass rush without blitzing them every snap."
Barnett, meanwhile, echoed his coach's sentiments.
"We should be able to run our base defense and stop them," Barnett said after the game. "It's the pre-season, you're supposed to be able to go out there and play your base defense and make the plays. We came up a little bit short."
Buffalo gave up two scoring drives to Denver on the night, both of them capped off by Willis McGahee touchdowns. Kyle Orton completed 10 of 13 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo's very vanilla defense.
Clearly, Buffalo is not yet good enough in their base defense to play effective football, particularly against the pass - though one could argue that a healthy Shawne Merriman would've helped the cause last night. This does, however, put more pressure on coordinator George Edwards to make things happen schematically for a Bills defense that will continue to struggle rushing the passer unless Merriman explodes back onto the scene.