Bills vs Rams | In the Red

10/12/2016
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The Buffalo Bills traveled to the west coast to take on a very talented L.A. Rams team last week. Most of the Rams’ talent is concentrated on the defensive side of the ball. The Rams have built a formidable defense — a unit that makes the Rams capable of playing with anyone, despite a relative dearth of talent on offense. This relative lack of offensive star power (Gurley notwithstanding), and an inability to convert in the red zone, is what cost the Rams this game.

The Rams’ offense didn’t have too much trouble moving the ball between the 20s on Sunday, but once they got into the red zone, the Bills’ defense rose to the occasion. The Bills’ defense only allowed one red zone TD, forcing field goals on four other red zone possessions. Going into the game, the Bills were ranked the NFL’s 3rd best defense in points allowed in the red zone (Football Outsiders) and 4th best in TDs allowed in the red zone.

It was apparent that the Bills’ defense wore down at times Sunday afternoon. The travel, heat, and Rams’ time of possession clearly took a toll. The Rams controlled the clock for 35 minutes and 24 seconds: well over half of the game. They tested the defense immediately by putting together a 12-play, 60-yard drive, but the Bills’ defense didn’t waver. The drive netted only a field goal for the Rams.

 

The defense did a fantastic job by clamping down and holding the Rams to a field goal. The offense held up their end of the bargain by putting together a successful first drive. The Bills’ first drive, a 12-play, 76-yard drive, ate up 7 minutes and 9 seconds. It was a drive where the offense overcame a mishap by Tyrod Taylor, after he inexplicably lined up behind guard Richie Incognito in the shotgun formation. Thankfully, Taylor made up for his mistake with an incredible scramble on third down.

 

The scramble extended the drive, but this play put the Bills in the green zone. As good as the Rams’ safeties are, pass coverage is not an area in which they excel. The Bills get a cover 1 look and exploit it.

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2nd and 10

 

This set up the first target, reception, and touchdown for newly signed free agent Justin Hunter. One thing to note is that the Rams’ best player, Aaron Donald, was not on the field. The long drive forced him to the sideline. This, in conjunction with a three-man rush, gave Taylor all day to make a play!

 

On the Rams’ next drive, the Bills defense worked together to force a turnover. Here, Zach Brown reads the run and gets downhill. He meets the puller in the hole and doesn’t give ground. This closes the hole and McCray forces the fumble.

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Rex Ryan’s defense is only as good as his offense is. It’s an attack defense that uses a lot of its players’ energy. He needs the offense to put together drives and capitalize on their opportunities. The defense gives the offense the ball and Shady flips the field in the Bills’ favor.

 

One play later, Anthony Lynn uses the speed option out of a pistol formation to get TD Mike into the end zone. The play was ingeniously designed to get Clay an angle to block down on Mark Barron, and to get a well-placed cut block by Jerome Felton.

 

Partway through the second quarter, the Rams got into the red zone after a 31-yard pass to WR Tavon Austin. Stephon Gilmore was expecting help over the top, but he was mistaken. There was no help to be had. Corbin Bryant got called for a penalty on the next play, and before you knew it, the defense was on its toes and the Rams were in the red zone.

1st and 10

1st and 10

On 1st-and-10, the Bills play cover 1 against the Snag Concept run by the Rams. The staff has done a good job of keeping Preston out of man coverage all season, and this play is no exception. As the #1 WR runs the snag, Preston relays to Darby to slide out to cover the swing route by Gurley. Good communication!

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After a 5 yard run by Gurley, the Rams try getting the ball to Austin. On third down, they line him up in the backfield and try running a swing screen. Darby and Robey-Coleman recognize the play, so they hold contain as best they can. The pursuit by Preston Brown and Jerry Hughes end the play. At this point, the Bills are up 13-3 with about 9 minutes to go in the second quarter: not an ideal scenario for a missed opportunity by the Rams.

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The Bills’ next four offensive drives only netted a field goal, and the Rams looked to have taken the momentum after scoring a touchdown before the half and a field goal after it.

On the second drive out of the half, with the score tied at 16, Nickell Robey-Coleman picks off the pass by Case Keenum. Keenum tries hitting the out route to the slot wide receiver, but the problem is that he throws it from the left hash, all the way across the field. This gives Coleman an extra moment to undercut the pass.

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Rather than having Gilmore chase Austin through the box, the Bills had LBs cover any crossers on this play.

Take a look at the communication by Zach Brown and the defensive backs. They are much more prepared, and they seem to expect Austin to run the drag across the middle.

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Dennis Thurman’s defensive unit then came back onto the field and forced a quick three-and-out. However, the Bills’ offense couldn’t get any more points onto the board, and were forced to punt.

At this point, the score was 23-16 in Buffalo’s favor, and the Rams started their next drive at their own 7 yard line, after a fantastic punt by Colton Schmidt. Schmidt had probably his finest day this year, pinning the Rams inside their own 20 several times. The Rams’ offense proceeded to methodically move the ball down the field and enter the red zone yet again. But as they entered the “green zone” (inside the 10), the Bills tightened up and forced another field goal. Here is how it all unfolded:

 

This was the most critical stop of the game. The Rams kicked another field goal, leaving them trailing 23-19.

This brought the Bills’ offense on the field, but they couldn’t get anything going. They were forced into a frustrating three-and-out. Colton Schmidt flipped the field again with a 50 yard punt, pushing the Rams back to their own 18 yard line. It was a beautiful kick, as it was angled to the sideline, leaving the Rams no chance at a return.

The Bills defense, and particularly Lorenzo Alexander, smelled blood in the water. Alexander finished the game with 3 QB sacks, 1 QB hit, 1 QB hurry, 4 tackles and 6 stops. He has been Rex Ryan’s do-it-all player throughout much this season. He played 44 snaps in the game on Sunday. The staff has done a tremendous job of spelling him with Lerentee McCray, especially in the third quarter. This saved Alexander’s energy for the fourth quarter, which paid off for Buffalo — Alexander was the star of the last two drives.

On 1st down, Alexander drops into the flats and holds Gurley to a three yard gain. If he doesn’t make the tackle, Gurley has some green up ahead.

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Alexander didn’t wait long to make another play. Two plays later, on 3rd down, he lines up in a two-point stance outside the guard (3 technique). He rushes wide and bats the pass down.

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On 4th down, the Bills got a big special teams stop, as Head Coach Jeff Fisher called the fake punt. Fisher hoped that his defense could hold the Bills offense to a field goal, which would still give them a chance to tie the game with a touchdown. Ron Darby does a great job of wrapping the runner-up, forcing a crucial turnover-on-downs.

Mccoy takes the handoff and makes LB Forrest look silly. Lesean Mccoy finished the game with 18 carries for 150 yards, forcing 5 missed tackles.

 

Three plays later, Tyrod Taylor hangs tough in the pocket and delivers a perfect ball low and away to put the Bills up by two possessions.

The free agent pick-up who currently leads the league in tackles helps close out the game on the Rams’ final possession. Here’s the 3rd down play.

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3rd and 10

 

The Bills run a “game” between Alexander and McCray. Alexander is usually the “jam rusher,” who tries to bring the guard and tackle with him, so that Mccray can loop over the top, creating pressure up the middle. The guard’s power, in conjunction with Alexander’s tenacity, catapults him outside and in a great position to attack the QB. He gets his third sack on the day.

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Finally, it was only fitting that the last play by the Rams was a hit on the QB by Alexander. This led to an errant throw by Keenum. The last ditch effort by Keenum led to an interception: the second of the day by USC Trojan Robey-Coleman.

 

The win gave the Bills a three-game winning streak, with some winnable games coming up.

Offensive Coordinator Anthony Lynn’s passing offense struggled this game. The offense only compiled 305 total yards, 112 of which were through the air. That is alarming, even with the win. The Rams were missing three of their four starting defensive linemen. The play-calls by Lynn in the run game put Shady in a position to be special, and he did not disappoint. Lynn and the offense took advantage of the Rams miscues. They scored on the forced fumble by Lerentee McCray and the turnover-on-downs late in the game to clinch it.

Though McCoy looked great in this game, the game ball has to go to the defense. They gave up more yards than they expected, but when it came time to make a play, they did. The Bills allowed 245 yards through the air to a QB they expected to shut down, but once the Rams got into the red zone, the Bills made the necessary plays to force field goals. This has been their M.O. so far this season. Great defense, an effective rush game, and good special teams is the recipe that Rex wants to win with. Both sides of the ball are complementing each other really well right now. The team now heads home to take on Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers, a team that they should beat.

 

 

 

 

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