The Buffalo Bills allowed a paltry ten points to the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams as the visiting team. That sentence is kind of insane to type. Now clearly this must mean they took away the Rams’ most effective offensive weapon right? Not really. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp had a really good day. Kupp had 13 catches on 15 targets, for 128 yards and the Rams’ sole touchdown. Was the defensive dominance a mirage? Or is something else at play? Let’s take a look.
There are two points to make here. First, there was a concerted effort to try and get physical with Cooper Kupp and disrupt timing for his routes. Second, despite a lot of different methods employed to try and mitigate what Kupp did he still had a good deal of success. Buffalo had a plan for Kupp but that’s not the same thing as “negating” him. They didn’t do that second thing.
A lot of what Buffalo did was mitigation based. I came away with the notion that they felt he would get his catches and yards, but if they could limit the explosive plays and lock down the rest of the skill players for the Rams they’d come away with a win. Here they’re clearly counting on the safeties to bail them out in case of a big play.
And here’s what it looks like when the safeties did in fact bail them out. The key here is again mitigation. They’re fully aware that Kupp might catch the ball. As long as he doesn’t get the first down, everything is peachy. While you could attempt to cover him with the somewhat untested corners, there are also two amazing players at the safety spots who can help out. Jordan Poyer makes sure the Rams don’t get close to a conversion here.
With a pretty immobile quarterback like Matthew Stafford, the Bills have the luxury of seven players in coverage. That means you can square up evenly with the skill position guys for a 5-on-5 and still have a couple extra set of eyes on the play. Here the Bills have Tremaine Edmunds floating back and reacting to the play. Kupp makes the catch, but doesn’t get far after.
The Bills made sure to have help whenever possible to avoid disaster. Kupp was at no point forgotten about. Above we have safeties covering the top to limit gains. Here we see that Buffalo also tried to place defenders in the shallow zones to discourage Stafford from looking toward Kupp by clogging passing lanes.
While Kupp is part of the duo circled at the pause, take a real close look at the play. Stafford has several potential spots to deliver the ball throughout the play. He doesn’t because he’s too busy being on the turf after a sack. The Bills had success in the pass-rush department, which translates to lost opportunities for the Rams.
It’s pretty weird to look at a single player who had 100+ receiving yards and conclude that the defense did well against them, but here we are. The Buffalo Bills had a game plan for Cooper Kupp that focused heavily on avoiding scoring plays. While this did concede yardage on 13 occasions, it only led to one score. Being fair, if I were to ask defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier, I’m assuming he’d tell me that the preference was to also avoid giving up the yards. But when it comes to picking your poison, Buffalo seems to have done a good job.