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Applying what Buffalo’s defense did against the Chiefs to the Patriots

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The Bills defense showed some new wrinkles on Sunday. We break them down and discuss how they will be used against New England.

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

After three straight games of defensive ineptitude, Leslie Frazier and his defense turned things around and produced an excellent performance in Kansas City on Sunday. The run defense was spectacular holding Kareem Hunt under 20 yards. The pass defense was just as good holding Alex Smith under 200 yards passing and then putting the clamps on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to a combined 10 catches for only 80 yards. I want to look at three things the Bills did on Sunday and then relate them to facing Brady and the Pats on Sunday.

Coverage deception

The Bills were excellent in their late defensive rotations vs the Chiefs. They did an excellent job hiding their true coverage until the very last moment. You will be able to see this in pretty much all of the GIFs but the following ones were my favorite examples.

The Bills show some type of 1-high coverage with five defenders lined up over the five offensive linemen in a pressure look. In actuality, the Bills only rush three and drop into a Tampa-2 coverage with Lorenzo Alexander spying Smith. Being able to confuse the QB with his coverage reads is a huge advantage which can lead to turnovers and holding onto the ball for an extra second which can lead to sacks.

Tom Brady is a master of reading coverages pre-snap and getting rid of the ball quickly for positive yardage. The Patriots often use motion and split their tight ends and running backs out wide to help Brady decipherthe coverage before the ball is snapped. If the Bills can keep up this level of deception against the Patriots, it will be a great help to the defense.

This one even has Alexander showing blitz pre-snap, then faking a drop into coverage, and then actually blitzing. The Bills show a quarters look but after the snap switch to a Cover-3 coverage with the safety buzzing down into the hook zone. Alex Smith drifted backwards into pressure here; something that Brady rarely does. Against Brady the Bills can use more overload pressures because of his lack of mobility, but they must also make sure that he cannot easily step up into the pocket because that is the best way to negate outside pressure.

Press coverage

One thing I noticed from the Bills on Sunday was they were in press coverage a lot more than they had been in previous games. The Saints took advantage of the Bills playing off early in their game and the Chiefs are known for their screen game to their receivers, as well. This is something that I spoke with Sal Capaccio about on twitter and he said that he specifically asked Frazier this and Frazier said it was something that they did use more against the Chiefs because of those reasons. He also thought it put them in better position to make tackles, as you can see below.

Normally, I would expect something similar vs. the Patriots passing game. However, this year they have become much more vertical with the addition of Cooks and the loss of Edelman. So, while I do think the Bills will hope to confuse Brady and throw off his timing, I’m not sure that they will be as press-heavy as they were in Kansas City.

Strategic Blitzing

Finally, I want to talk about blitzing. While Gaines was injured it seemed like the Bills really dialed back their pressure packages in deference to their coverage. Now with Gaines back, the Bills certainly have been able to be a bit more creative in their blitz packages. McDermott has been known has a guy that uses double-A gap pressure, but what the Bills showed a lot against Kansas City was double-B gap pressure with a 3-man defensive line. I liked that plan by the defense as it also allowed them to drop eight into coverage easier, something that was very successful last week and something that teams have had success with against the Patriots. One of the key guys to this plan was Lorenzo Alexander. Alexander has shown the ability to be a hybrid DE/LB in that if he feels at home on the edge in a four-man defensive line, but also can be used as a linebacker (as he is here) and drop into coverage, while showing blitz. Obviously, he isn’t a “coverage” linebacker, so you have to be careful getting him matched up on a speedy guy in zone coverage, but he did a great job in pass rushing, zone coverage, and spying Alex Smith.

Blitzing is something that I think needs to be used sparingly against New England, but still needs to be used. While, coverage is important, history has shown that teams that can get to Brady and hit him are the ones that do the best. Therefore, it is vitally important that there is a pass rush that is affecting the quarterback and sometimes the best way to do that is to confuse the offensive line with blitzes and exchanges.

Overall, it was a fantastic effort against the Chiefs. Run defense and pass defense worked hand-in-hand to hold an explosive offense to 10 points. They will need an equally impressive effort this Sunday against New England. Football is a symbiotic sport in that points are scored by different guys than try to stop the opponent from scoring. It doesn’t matter if you win 34-31 or 13-10, the ultimate goal is to score more than the other team.

As a quick statistical note, the Bills offense has scored over 24 points in just two games this season. While the Patriots offense has scored 24 points or under in only 4 games this season. If the Bills want a chance to win on Sunday, they need a great defensive effort, and will have to make it game number five for Brady and company this season.