5 Questions with Buffalo Rumblings
Perfect Execution Could Make It a Game
Brian G: It has, indeed, been sort of a crazy ride. My observations of Bills fans during that ride have been, I think, in league with the general rule of sports fans: if your team is doing well, you're doing well. At one point, fans had a clear opinion on who should start at quarterback; now the team is winning, and the general opinion is "we don't care who starts as long as we're winning". The team has been playing well and winning games, so there really isn't much negative talk going on amongst Bills fans from any angle, including quarterbacks, injuries, early-season woes and close losses. We're at the top of that roller coaster right now; when the Bills lose a game, however, that negative talk will resurface. We'll start hearing about the quarterbacks, the close losses, the coaching, etc. again.
tommasse: The Bills defense is 28th in yards allowed (359.7 per game), but the team is giving up just 18.4 points per game (9th). Part of that might be their 12 interceptions. What else are the Bills doing that's keeping teams from scoring?
Brian G: It helps that the Bills have played some awful offenses. Let's be honest -- the Jets (twice), Ravens and Dolphins are among the league's worst offenses/teams. Also keep in mind that 5 of those 12 interceptions came in one game against Tony Romo, and the Cowboys still scored 25 points in that game. The team has performed well against one good offense -- Cincinnati -- otherwise, they're just outplaying teams they should out-play.
Buffalo's Cover-2 scheme was also bred for such a statistical advantage. The Bills employ a control-first defense, rather than an attack-first defense; it's very similar to what the Colts run. They use speed to flock to the ball, and try to keep everything in front of them. That allows opponents to gain yardage between the twenties, but makes it difficult to score touchdowns once they get close.
tommasse: After a good start against New England's offense in September, Buffalo's defense couldn't stop the Patriots in the long run. What's changed since then and what will the Bills do to keep the score lower this time?
Brian G: Some of the reserves that were pressed into action during that first Bills/Pats game (most notably CB Jabari Greer and LB John DiGiorgio) have gained a lot of experience in subsequent weeks, and their play has been very solid. They should be better prepared to face a New England offense that handled them easily in Week 3; time will tell whether that extra preparation will help.
I'm not sure that the Bills have it in them to keep New England under 38. Two things will have to happen: our offense will need to move the chains and control time of possession, and much like Indianapolis did two weeks ago, the Bills will have to force Tom Brady to make mistakes. Neither of those things are very likely to happen, in my estimation, but if they do, the Bills stand a very good chance of making a game out of it.
tommasse: Is the ability to change up J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards an advantage that makes teams need to prepare for two quarterbacks? Who do you expect to play Sunday, and what's the game plan (especially if rookie sensation running back Marshawn Lynch isn't 100 percent)?
Brian G: Dick Jauron announced [Tuesday] that it will be J.P. Losman starting this Sunday night. Jauron likely made this decision based on the simple fact that since Trent Edwards got hurt against the Jets, Losman has led the Bills to 3 wins -- and made several big plays in doing so. He certainly wasn't effective in the Miami win, but he played well enough in the fourth quarter to produce the game-tying and go-ahead drives.
I think that the flip-flopping between J.P. and Trent has made it a bit more difficult for opponents to game-plan us to an extent, but that's about it. Jauron has never switched quarterbacks mid-game unless he's been forced to via injury, and that will continue this week -- even if Losman struggles. With Losman at the helm, I expect the Bills to play conservatively -- they absolutely have to control time of possession, so expect runs, short passes to the slot receivers and tight ends, and the occasional long shot to Lee Evans. This is business as usual for Buffalo's offense, but they need to execute it to perfection this week.
tommasse: I told you I'd ask you this again: What do you think of the job head coach Dick Jauron is doing?
Brian G: I told you 8 weeks ago that I loved the job Dick Jauron was doing, and I have yet to find a reason to back away from that claim. Though I've been openly critical of his handling of the QB situation, the fact of the matter is that Jauron has his team well-prepared, playing together and on a roll. Granted, we're not beating teams of much stature this season, but this is a young team that is banged up at a lot of important positions. The fact that we're in the playoff race at all speaks volumes on Jauron's -- and the entire coaching staff's -- ability to teach young players their scheme, and get the most out of their talent. I'm telling you, once this regime gets the players they really want on the field and the young guys get a little more experience, this franchise is ready to end its playoff drought. It just isn't likely to happen this season.
tommasse: Many thanks to Brian G who, despite being a raving loon (in a good way) of a Bills fan, has always taken the time to analyze the upcoming game and always talk football when it was time to talk football.
Be sure to check out my answers to Brian's questions at Buffalo Rumblings.