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Scout's Eye

Bills' offense takes advantage of mismatch

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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki

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Posted Sept. 19, 2011 @ 2:50 a.m. ET
By Nolan Nawrocki

Holding a 35-31 lead with 18 seconds to play, the Raiders lined up DE Kamerion Wimbley in coverage over Bills WR David Nelson. It was a mismatch of great proportions, with Wimbley seldom being used in coverage and best moving forward with his hand on the ground. Wimbley not only let Nelson come inside him with a free release, but he turned and trailed RB C.J. Spiller flaring his way. Spiller also drew the attention of both CB Chris Johnson and MLB Rolando McClain, leaving the middle of the field wide open, where Nelson made the game-winning catch. Credit Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for quickly recognizing and capitalizing on the mismatch.

The Raiders showed very well in the first half defensively against the Bills, when they held Buffalo to a field goal. However, defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan looked very frazzled on the sideline in the second half, when the Bills became the first team to score a touchdown on every possession of the second half since 2007 in rallying from a 17-point deficit. Bresnahan has a reputation in league circles for drawing up overly complex schemes and might need to simplify the approach to avoid more collapses. 

• Fitzpatrick has started out the season on a strong note, as have Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell, but their success can be more attributed to playing under the tutelage of bright offensive minds (Chan Gailey, Mike Shanahan and Al Saunders, respectively) than it is the talent of any of the passers. Despite talks of preliminary contract discussions, all three have proven to be system products with little prior interest on the market.

• The Lions are the only team in the league yet to allow a sack this season, with the Bills and Raiders allowing only one. A big part of the three teams' success stems from the frequency they have run the ball, with all three taking more than 32 carries the first two games, ranking among the top five in the league. The Lions have not used a lot of max-protection schemes. Instead, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has placed more of a priority on getting rid of the ball quickly, and both Matthew Stafford and backup Shaun Hill have been quicker to release it and avoid negative plays. That is not to say Stafford has enjoyed a clean pocket. On successive plays late in the second quarter Sunday, Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali ran through or around OLT Jeff Backus with ease and left Stafford wincing after being hit. On the second occasion, Hali flushed Stafford outside the pocket. Later on the same series, CB Javier Arenas came clean right past ORT Gosder Cherilus on a corner blitz. Stafford keenly saw it, however, stepped up and escaped the pocket. Sometimes numbers can be misleading.

• After two weeks of action, the Bears lead the NFL in the same category that defined much of their season a year ago — sacks allowed. They gave up one more this week (six) than in Week One and have 11, which is on pace for what would be an NFL-record 88. They also lead the league in QB hits allowed with 18. The Seahawks, with 10 sacks allowed and 17 QB hits, field the only offensive line with numbers close to the Bears. Jay Cutler was clearly frustrated against the aggressive pressure of Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, compounded by the absence of starting ORT Gabe Carimi, who left with a right leg injury. Bears TE Kellen Davis also was beaten for a sack by Saints DE Turk McBride. The Seahawks’ line struggles showed up heavily against the Steelers, who controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The two former, no-nonsense head coaches overseeing the units, Bears OL coach Mike Tice and Seahawks OL coach Tom Cable, could be forced to shuffle the deck and scheme more chip help to maximize protection.

• League evaluators have not been impressed with the job that Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has done and blame Donovan McNabb’s very marginal showing the first two weeks on a lack of offensive creativity on Musgrave’s part. Having followed a defensive coaching track to the head-coaching job, Leslie Frazier’s most important hire was his offensive coordinator, who would be entrusted to run the offense with great autonomy. There's still time for adjustments to be made, but the Vikings are off to a very rough start. 

• The 49ers were well positioned to knock off the Cowboys in the fourth quarter, carrying a 10-point lead more than halfway through the quarter, but secondary miscues and a soft, passive-playing defensive approach allowed the Cowboys to roar back and force overtime. Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio looked more intent on not losing the game that he did trying to win it. The best way to cover up a struggling secondary is to dial up more pressure, and that’s exactly what Fangio might need to do at Cincinnati in Week Three. Expanding the role of first-round rookie DE Aldon Smith, who shucked Cowboys OT Doug Free out of the way with his trademark inside move, and pressured Tony Romo, also could be in the cards.

• It’s far too early to speculate that the Patriots might be able to run the table like they did during the 2007 regular season, but some savvy, veteran NFL evaluators already are posing the question of whether New England might do so after the way its defense handled the Chargers' offense, which one evaluator described as the league’s second-best attack. The only offense that has been more precise is the Patriots. Through two games, the Patriots rank atop the league in playing good, fundamental football, and there is no team that's a close second. The shortened season could play into the hands of the well-organized, highly disciplined Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who has his team executing in a class of its own.

• First Tony Moeaki, then Eric Berry. Now Jamaal Charles. It’s difficult to believe the Chiefs’ season could get much worse, but after losing its top defensive talent, the Chiefs will be without their most explosive offensive weapon. Lopsided losses to Buffalo and Detroit have left league evaluators questioning whether head coach Todd Haley will make it through the rest of the season. It’s difficult to write off a season two games in, but the Chiefs stand in a class of their own as the worst in football right now — a change that was not entirely unforeseen with a much more difficult schedule than last season and without respected offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.   

• New coordinator Wade Phillips' Texans defense has held the Colts and Dolphins to a combined two touchdowns the first two weeks. The litmus test for how far the Texans have come will be measured when they visit the Superdome next week to face the Saints, who feature one of the game’s top play-callers (Sean Payton), rhythm passers (Drew Brees) and explosive weapons (Darren Sproles). If the Texans can hold New Orleans to less than two touchdowns, they will make a statement that the defense is fixed.

• With how creative CB Antonio Cromartie showed he is with the ball in his hands, the Jets could benefit by adding him into a few offensive packages or even allowing him to return punts. He is very field-fast with the ball in his hands.

Matt Ryan never looked comfortable against an aggressive Eagles defensive line that had its way with Atlanta in the trenches. With Eagles DEs Trent Cole and Jason Babin screaming off the edge from a wide-nine position and Cullen Jenkins finally lining up at his most natural position inside, the Falcons’ offensive line was continually overmatched, even flat-out dominated at times. And it left Ryan resetting his feet and feeling pressure before it showed up. The Falcons' workmanlike offensive line is functional, but both OLT Sam Baker and ORT Tyson Clabo are heavy-footed for the edges and ORG Garrett Reynolds does not have ideal strength or agility to handle the blend of quickness and power that a player like Jenkins possesses.

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