I’m writing this opinion piece with nervous fingers. The Buffalo Bills, after much consternation and hand-wringing, are scheduled to play the Tennessee Titans Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. EDT. The ride to get this far in the process has been a roller coaster and there are no guarantees it won’t take another drop before game time.
For the purposes of this article, we will assume the game happens on Tuesday as scheduled and that means the Bills will have a stiff challenge in front of them from a 2019 AFC playoff team. How can Buffalo improve to 5-0? I have some thoughts...
Remember the Rams
In many ways, the Los Angeles Rams and the Titans are similar case studies in the affect that a play-action-heavy passing attack can have on a quarterback. Rams quarterback Jared Goff and Titans signal caller Ryan Tannehill both were considered busts before they were placed in offenses with play-action passing games, and both have flourished since that occurred. The Bills were unable to slow down the Rams’ attack when the two teams faced off in Week 3 (especially in the second half) but hopefully they’ve learned from that game plan because although Ryan Tannehill is a better athlete than Jared Goff, the similarities might be greater than you think. Tannehill and Goff share very similar average time to throw (2.72 seconds for Tannehill and 2.75 for Goff) and percentage of throws into tight coverage (14.4 for Tannehill, 13.2 for Goff). Stylistically, the deeper drops allowed from bootlegs and other play-action calls allow them to attack the second level of the defense with a preference towards crossing routes. With Matt Milano out for the Bills, it will be challenging, but proper use of “slice” calls (where a safety crashes down to take away an in-breaking route) and proper back side discipline up front can keep someone in the face of the Titans’ newly-minted franchise quarterback and force him to hold the ball longer than he’d like.
Keep the same DT rotation that worked against Jacobs
The Bills’ run defense took a notable step forward last week in large part to the defensive tackle rotation finally getting settled after the removal of Star Lotulelei from the equation due to his 2020 season opt-out. Harrison Phillips played well at the one-technique spot alongside Ed Oliver and Quinton Jefferson looked much more comfortable at three-technique next to Vernon Butler.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Bottling up the 2019 NFL rushing champion in Derrick Henry is hard enough ask for a Bills team that has not been a great tackling team since head coach Sean McDermott took over without introducing another unnecessary variable into the equation. Keep doing what you’re doing at the defensive tackle position.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday and Friday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!