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Extra Point: History is made out west

October 10, 2012

If Taylor Swift was a Bills fan, she would have a limitless collection of material. She probably could have written a few songs based on Sunday’s performance.

Buffalo shot out to the West Coast for their second-straight game against a member of the NFL elite and came up with their second-straight black eye. While the team is only 2-3, the way they have gotten to that record has been cause for concern – or outrage, depending who you are.

There is no reason to rehash the numbers from Sunday’s loss. Any and all media members will be pounding those numbers down your throat in a similar manner that the 49ers run game pounded the football on Sunday. However, the second-straight historic let down is nothing to ignore.

Entering the year, the defense was expected to be the strong point of the team. As of now, even the new-and-improved front four have been invisible. There were some who saw the linebackers as a major weakness and others who had lingering questions about the secondary. Some even had fears that both of those units would be the downfall of the defense. As of week five, everyone is right.

Not only have the corners been underwhelming – and in some cases awful – but the safeties have offered little support and the linebackers have been making plenty of tackles past eight or ten yards on each play. Not to mention that none of the linebackers on the team are capable of covering a Tupperware container. Well, Aaron Williams probably couldn’t either.

Point being, the defense has failed across the board. This isn’t a problem that has been cause by Mario Williams not getting the three sacks a game that everyone expects, nor is it simply a problem perpetuated by the lack of talent at linebacker or lack of experience at corner. These past two games have, quite literally, been a complete systematic failure by the defense.

The Cardinals could potentially provide the Bills with something of an elixir to what ails them. However, they could also torch Buffalo with a steady diet of Larry Fitzgerald. Who knows?

Entering Sunday’s game the persistent problem is two-fold. The Bills defense hasn’t been able to figure out how come up with stops and the coaching staff has appeared to be over their head. That much was more than evident against San Francisco.

Not only were the Bills incapable of stopping anything the 49ers ran, they weren’t even able to disrupt plays at any point. One question that lingers after that performance is whether or not the front four are being utilized properly.

Mario Williams, who is playing with a wrist injury, has finally been flipped between left and right end, but hasn’t made a major impact in any game. Ironically, he was probably more consistent getting to the quarterback than anyone else yesterday. Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus have been routinely pushed away from the point of attack when they were originally expected to be two of the main disruptors for the Bills defense. Lastly, Mark Anderson hasn’t shown much of anything for much of the season as he is typically eaten up by opposing tackles.

The linebackers have suffered a similar fate, but their lack of talent has had a more adverse effect than what has occurred with the front four.

One thing that stood out after week one and after the Patriots game were the changes made by the defensive staff. After complaints that the corners didn’t press, Gilmore and Williams were almost exclusively playing on the line. After questions were asked about the over-use of nickel personnel and the lack of playing time for other linebackers against the Pats, the Bills were in their base personnel almost all game on Sunday. Lastly, it was pointed out that Mario Williams hadn’t been used in other positions besides left end. Suddenly he played right end against San Fran.

Now, there is no way to know the full defensive playbook or the decision making process for Dave Wannstedt or Chan Gailey. But it would seem as if these knee jerk reactions are all a week late in being made. If that is actually the case, it is a very disconcerting development. It would show that the defensive coordinator isn’t just incapable of adjusting in-game, but that he only makes adjustments well after being annihilated, not in an effort to stem the bleeding at the source.

Running too Diverse: It isn’t a bad problem to have two backs as talented as CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson. However, it seems as if the alternating reps plan is hurting both backs and the team as a whole. Each are more effective when getting a bulk of the carries with the other supplementing. Chan Gailey may need to abandon his running back committee and stick with a single starter while the other gets carries intermittently.

Healthy Changes Everything: Fred Jackson has never been the fastest back you have heard of. However, he is shifty and smooth. That hasn’t been the player on the field the last two weeks. Jackson has appeared to be plodding and slow hitting seams and holes through the first two games back from his injury. Safe money would be that he isn’t close to 100% yet, no matter what the official word is.

The $100M Wrist: I saw Mario Williams in a light cast at the Bills Kickoff event and said at that very moment that I hoped that was a minor injury that wouldn’t affect his play because people would feast on him. Well, that is exactly what has happened. Williams isn’t using his left wrist too much in any pass rush move and has taken a beating for his lack of production thus far. While a wrist injury that hasn’t been reported shouldn’t make much of a difference, obviously it is indeed hurting Williams’ play.

Depth and Talent: There was an obvious difference between a number of positions during Sunday’s loss. It served as a rude reminder as to where a number of Buffalo’s skill players were drafted (post-4th round) and where many of San Francisco’s skill players were acquired (pre-3rd round). While that isn’t a guarantee of success, a group of 7th round or undrafted receivers were easily outperformed by a receiving group made up of early round talent.

Time for Change: There are so many holes on the Buffalo defense. Linebacker is in obvious need of upgrade, but it would seem as if another corner could be used as well. Aaron Williams just isn’t able to run with NFL receivers and it is painfully obvious. He has been good for one torch job a week so far and there are 11 games left.

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