Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier has been been in charge of the team’s defense since the 2017 season. Buffalo’s lackluster performance on defensive during the divisional round of the playoffs against the Cincinnati Bengals has left some wondering if he’s at fault. Well, let’s review some tape from the game to see what we can learn.
Bills’ defense unable to stop the Bengals’ run game
This play represents a microcosm of the biggest issue the Bills faced on defense. Quite simply: they were dominated in the run game as the Bengals rushed for 172 yards. At the start of this play defensive tackle Ed Oliver was blown off the ball and linebacker Matt Milano coudln’t get off his blocks. In fact, you can see Cincinnati’s entire offensive line pushed Buffalo’s entire front backward as Joe Mixon ran for a first down. This was an issue because teams can’t load the box against a Bengals team so loaded at the receiver position.
Jordan Poyer vs. Ja’Marr Chase
One of the biggest issues the Bills had was not winning their one-one-one matchups. Based on how the tight end blocked cornerback Kaiir Elam, it signaled receiver screen — and a play designed for receiver Ja’Marr Chase. When quarterback Joe Burrow threw the ball to Chase, the receiver turned and ran upfield as Poyer came downhill to make the tackle. This is exactly what you want on a screen: one defender free who can make the tackle. The problem here was that Chase ran through Poyer.
Bills counter Bengals’ attack using speed
This was a good play call by Frazier. It was 3rd and 7 with Burrow operating out of the gun. Frazier countered this by putting Linebacker Matt Milano in the game in the place of a defensive tackle, putting more speed into the defensive lineup. Burrow ended up flushed out the pocket and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds covered the running back leaking out. This left Burrow with nowhere to throw and nothing left to do but run once he broke the pocket. What put the Bills in such an advantageous position was having their fastest and best sideline-to-sideline linebacker (Milano) versus a running Burrow — which resulted in the stop.
Certainly there’s plenty of blame to go around even in the ashes of this defeat, but there were much bigger issues than the defensive game called by Leslie Frazier. Still, what do you think both Fraizer and perhaps head coach Sean McDermott could have done differently on defense? Were the Bills’ struggles on defense as simple as not having superstar edge rusher Von Miller?