When the Buffalo Bills took on the Arizona Cardinals yesterday, everyone knew that a new play-caller would be taking over on the offensive end. After the game, it was revealed that the same thing was true of the defensive side of the ball.
In his post game press conference, Coach Rex Ryan noted that Dennis Thurman was the man in charge of executing the plan on defense yesterday. He was sure to mention that it was a total team effort, noting that his brother Rob was responsible for the red zone coverages (Rob studied two years worth of Cardinals red zone plays, according to Rex via Matthew Fairburn). After a week where the Bills were torched for 37 points and 500 total yards, they were able to hold the potent Cardinals offense to 18 points and 348 yards, while also forcing 4 turnovers and sacking Carson Palmer 5 times.
Another major difference this week was the addition of a lighter, defensive back-heavy package to counter Arizona’s excellent receiving corps. The Bills went with 7 DBs, 3 LBs, and 1 down lineman on most third downs, eventually switching to this look for the majority of plays while Arizona was looking to pass themselves back into the game. The package included 4 safeties at times, with Stephon Gilmore, Corey White, and Nickell Robey-Coleman playing corner. With Ronald Darby out, having safeties like Corey Graham and Aaron Williams undoubtedly helped the Bills to effectively run the lighter package. The other major key, according to Kyle Williams, was “winning on first and second down.”
Generating pressure with well-disguised coverages will be of tremendous importance if the team is to pull back to .500 on the year when they face off against the Patriots next week.