Saturday, September 10, 2011

Three Quick Keys to Beating Kansas City

1. Play with discipline defensively.

I was going to headline this bit with something slightly more dramatic, like "Please stop the run. For the love of all that's holy, please stop the run". I would then curl up into a ball and ask for warm milk. I have my pride though.

No one was worse at stopping the run last season than the Bills, and no one was better at running the football than the Chiefs. A stout run defense hinges partially on the size/physicality of your defense (something the front office has concentrated on improving), but mostly on technique and discipline. Buffalo's defense will need to stack and shed well, and tackle better. A lot of responsibility will fall on the outside linebackers, who routinely failed to set the edge in 2010. Merriman and company will need to make sure that Jamaal Charles is funneled back to the strength of the defense. This defense is simply no longer built to deal with someone of Charles's speed and agility in the open field.

2. Hit Tamba Hali every play.

Last year, Hali had 1.5 sacks against an overmatched Bills line (well to be fair, just about everyone was overmatched against Hali- he was second in the league in sacks). If anything, the offensive line is less settled than it was last year, with both starting LT Demetrius Bell and starting LG Andy Levitre shuttled in and out of the lineup during the preseason. Neither Bell nor very tall journeyman RT Erik Pears is going to be up to the task of handling Hali on pass downs.

What the Bills do have going for them are three old fashioned blocking TEs in starter Scott Chandler (6'7" 263) and backups David Martin (6'4" 264) and Lee Smith (6'6" 269). They also have one of the NFL's best blocking running backs in Freddie Jackson. Expect to see a lot of chipping and double teams on Hali. Make him fight off consistent double teams, both in the pass game and the run game.

3. Forget about last year.

This seems an odd suggestion at first glance, I'm sure, but in many ways last season's game against Kansas City was the quintessential Bills game of 2010. They played extremely hard for nearly five full quarters and almost beat a playoff bound club. They failed to do so partly because of their terrible run defense, and partly because of self inflicted wounds. This game won't be about getting payback for last year's loss, this game will be about starting 1-0.

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