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Crumbling their cookies: How the Buffalo Bills should attack the Arizona Cardinals


Every week, I write an opinion column on a few general game-planning tactics I like for the Buffalo Bills to use against their upcoming opponent—ones I think have a chance to be successful based on personnel usage and scheme along with the strengths and weaknesses of each team. These may take many forms, though I typically try to come up with at least one tactic on offense and one on defense.

After a thrilling win against an NFC contender last week, the Bills are hoping for another dip into that well as they face off against the Arizona Cardinals this week. Reining in budding star quarterback Kyler Murray is a tall task (pun intended), so what can the Bills do to see to it that they roll into their bye week 8-2? I have some thoughts:

Kyler Murray is not Russell Wilson; he’s a matador

“Shorter quarterbacks with live arms and great athleticism”—the phrase could be used to describe both Seahawks Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson and Cardinals second-year signal caller Kyler Murray. However, do not be mistaken; the method by which you attack each quarterback cannot and should not be the same.

Kyler Murray is a matador. He wants the defense to come directly at him, so space can be opened for him to do damage. Don’t give him the bullfight he so clearly desires. Blitzing Kyler Murray didn’t go well for the Carolina Panthers and it didn’t go well for the Miami Dolphins. The Panthers were fortunate they only did it a few times and were able to minimize his impact by keeping their blitzing to a minimum. Although Murray’s effectiveness suffers under pressure, trying to achieve it through blitzing is not the way.

A.J. Klein blitzed 17 times last week. I would not encourage the Bills to duplicate that defensive game plan, lest the lack of athleticism and tackling trouble Klein has had this year contribute to big gains for Murray and the Cardinals offense.

Cardinals might do the thing that defenses shouldn’t do

The Cardinals run Cover-1 45.4% of the time (fifth most in the NFL), asking their cornerbacks to play man with only a single high safety as backup.

Josh Allen also happens to have spent the better part of 2020 shredding defenses that have played a heavy dose of man coverage.

Although Arizona could very well divert from those tendencies against the Buffalo Bills (and were I on their coaching staff, I would highly recommend they do so), they have not shown any inclination to make changes to scheme on that side of the ball and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph doesn’t have a history of leading highly rated defenses throughout his time in the league. If the Cardinals do what the Los Angeles Rams, Las Vegas Raiders, and Seattle Seahawks did before them, Allen and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll need to go back to doing the thing they’ve been the best at this year: throwing the ball. Have a quick trigger on the screen game because Budda Baker will be all over the field and Josh Allen taking another seven sacks this game would be less than ideal.

...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday and Friday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!