The Patriots are facing another tall task this weekend when the team travels to Orchard Park, NY and face an improving Buffalo Bills team on the road.
The task is compounded by the added weight of facing a Rex Ryan defense with the added crowd noise factor being weighed in. Ryan has done a good job of slowing down the Patriots offense for the most part during his time with the Jets. Now he’ll try to do the same thing with the Bills defense, which promises to be one of the better ones in the NFL.
It should be noted however that the Patriots record against Ryan coached teams was 9-4 while he was in New York so the team may have had to work offensively against his defenses, but more often than not they came out on top.
But getting back to the task at hand, while there is only game of film to watch this Bills defense under Ryan, he’s doing many of the same things that he did with the Jets. A look at the NFL Game Pass’ All-22 coaching film showed how they can be daunting for an offense that isn’t ready for the challenge.
In the first play, during the Colts first possession just about three and a half minutes into the game the Colts are facing a long 3rd and 23 conversion. That is an invitation for Ryan to dial it up with pressure and that’s just what they do.
The Bills show blitz with seven defenders lined up ready to bring pressure on QB Andrew Luck. The Colts go to max protect with a RB and a tight end in the backfield.
But at the snap, the right defensive end Jerry Hughes starts to rush then drops into coverage covering the flat. The left OLB drifts back and covers the short area. Then the Bills shoot a safety blitz inside.
The result of the play was a near interception and the Colts were forced to punt.
Later in the game, the Bills line up again showing six players coming on the pass rush with both inside linebackers on the line of scrimmage in a pass rush mode. Luck is lined up in the shotgun with a running back in the backfield to his right.
At the snap again, Hughes will drop into coverage shadowing the tight end that was lined up on his side. The Bills rush five but come crashing towards the middle of the OL, overloading the protection.
Luck was sacked on the play by the pressure coming up the middle.
One final play from the Bills game was another incomplete pass that shows the options that Ryan can bring to bear on the offense. In another obvious passing situation, the Colts line up with an extra offensive lineman with an unbalanced OL to the right side.
Luck is under center with a running back behind him. The Bills bring seven men up to the line and show blitz.
The pressure gets to Luck, who is knocked down on the play but does get the pass off but it falls incomplete. The running back, circled in the shot below had to stay in and block and was unable to provide safety valve help in time for Luck to use because of the pressure by the pass rush.
One way to take away that obvious advantage for Ryan’s defenses is to attempt to dictate to them. One obvious way to accomplish this is for the offense to spread out the defense and force them to declare.
A look at the Patriots game against the Steelers shows how effective this can be as well. QB Tom Brady lines up in the shotgun and the Patriots go five wide. Rob Gronkowski is lined up in the slot to the right. Pittsburgh is showing bringing pressure with five rushers.
At the snap, Brady immediately recognizes that Gronk is one-on-one with a LB. He beats the jam at the line of scrimmage and has a clear path down the seam. Brady connects with him and the results are a 52-yard gain.
While the Colts passing game is more vertical, the focus of Ryan and the Bills in that game was to force Luck into getting rid of the ball more quickly and force him into making mistakes…which they did. The average time from snap to pass for Luck was 2.26 seconds against the Bills.
The Patriots offense is different and is based on timing and quick reads and throws from Brady. Obviously the game plan that the Bills used against Indy won’t work against Brady. The average play from snap to pass against Pittsburgh was 1.8 seconds for Brady.
The Bills will be looking to disrupt the Patriots timing by flooding the middle of the field and forcing Brady to hold the ball for more than his normal reads. Then they’ll bring pressure with their front four on the young Patriots offensive line.
The chess match will be a fun one to watch as the Bills will probably see a lot of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola early in this one. It will be an exercise of physicality versus quickness and depending who wins that matchup close to the line of scrimmage will have a big factor in who ultimately wins that phase of the game.
The Bills corners Gilmore and Darby are aggressive and although Darby is only a rookie, he shows plenty of potential. He was a guy that I liked during the draft process this spring. Gilmore was quoted in the paper that he wanted to cover Gronk on Sunday. That’s a tall order for a 6’1, 195 pound corner but he may draw him on occasion.
Look for Brady to use play action a lot in this one, especially on early downs to try to open up a step on the linebackers. The Bills backers are aggressive and will be looking to crash down inside.
Is it Sunday yet?
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season Andrew Luck Bill Belichick Bills defense Buffalo Bills Danny Amendola Indianapolis Colts Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount New England Patriots NFL Patriots Rex Ryan Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady