Photo Courtesy of Zimbio.com
The Buffalo Bills were absolutely brutalized in a disgusting 52-28 loss to the New England Patriots after a 21-7 lead going into halftime. Safety/linebacker Bryan Scott replaced Kelvin Sheppard at the middle linebacker position for the majority of the game. This was a gameplan installed to implement a nickel package that would allow the Bills’ defense to keep pace with the arsenal of weapons in the Patriots’ passing game. However, Guru Belichik said, “Hey, why not just pound the crap out of this nickel defense with the run game!”
This week the Bills (2-2) face a potent defense in the 49ers (3-1) that will be a a true test for Buffalo on both sides of the ball.
Bills Pass Offense Vs. 49ers Pass Defense
The Bills enter Sunday’s contest with the league’s 22nd ranked pass offense, averaging 229.8 yards per game through the air. Led by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who leads the NFL in touchdowns with 12, has been streaky, tossing seven picks. Buffalo lost two starting offensive linemen in rookie left tackle, Cordy Glenn, and right guard, Kraig Urbik, in last week’s loss to the Patriots, which means that Fitz will be under a lot of pressure against the 49ers ferocious defense.
Tight end Scott Chandler has emerged as Fitzpatrick’s favorite weapon in recent weeks, as he has recorded 12 catches for 175 yards and four scores on the year. He will be covered by former Bills’ safety Donte Whitner, who has 19 tackles and a forced fumble throughout the first four games of the year. The 49ers have a solid and hard-hitting secondary including cornerbacks Carlos Rogers, Tarrell Brown, Chris Culliver, and safety Dashon Goldson. San Francisco has the leagues fifth ranked pass defense, allowing opponents to gain just 197.8 yards per game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will really need to rebound from last week’s mediocre performance and utilize the weapons he has at his disposal. Rookie wide receiver T.J. Graham showed some flashes in his first two games in the NFL, making eight catches for 65 yards and a score in that span.
Bills Pass Defense Vs. 49ers Pass Offense
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh relies on the run game as a focal point of his offense, but quarterback Alex Smith has been reliable. With the 30th ranked pass offense that averages 179.3 yards per game, the biggest problem for the Bills’ defense wont be the wide receivers, but tight end Vernon Davis.
Davis has 15 grabs for 197 yards and four touchdowns this year, and we all know how tight ends have been an issue for the Bills linebackers and safeties. On the outside, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham will face off with rookie corner Stephon Gilmore, who had a breakout game against the Patriots, and second-year man Aaron Williams. Crabtree and Manningham have combined for 36 catches and 358 yards, but neither have managed to find the endzone this season.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt needs to gameplan for Davis, and you can expect to see Bryan Scott covering the stud tight end throughout the game.
Bills Rush Offense Vs. 49ers Rush Defense
The 49ers have arguably the best front seven in the game right now, and surrender just 79.5 yards per game on the ground, good for 6th in the league. Last week, both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller returned from injuries but were a non-factor. Justin Smith, Issac Sopoaga, and Ray McDonald all can penetrate the line of scrimmage, and without Cordy Glenn and Kraig Urbik in the lineup for the foreseeable future, it’s hard to imagine seeing the rushing stats we saw in the first three weeks of the year.
Bills Rush D Vs. 49ers Rush Offense
The Bills gave up 247 yards on the ground last week to Steven Ridley, and an undrafted rookie named Brandon Bolden. Frank Gore has a much better resume than the former, and has rushed for 326 yards on the year, finding the endzone three times. Given that the Bills were utilizing a nickel scheme against the Patriots, which gave New England a better opportunity to run, its likely that we will see a heavy dose of Kelvin Sheppard and Arthur Moats trying to plug the holes.
Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams really need to hold their own at the line of scrimmage against a stout San Francisco offensive line. The ‘niners are a run-first team and will try to wear out the Bills defense by pounding the ball with their bruising running back. In addition to Gore, Kendall Hunter is a change of pace back that has rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown this year.
Key Matchups To Watch
49ers Linebacker Aldon Smith Vs. Bills Left Tackle Chris Hairston
Chris Hairston will be the starting left tackle this week, with Cordy Glenn nursing an ankle injury. Aldon Smith was an absolute beast in his rookie campaign, and already has 4.5 sacks and 16 tackles in his sophomore year. The Bills will need Hairston to play well, otherwise we could see Fitzpatrick under some serious pressure, and well, we know that usually results in costly interceptions.
49ers Right Tackle Anthony Davis Vs. Bills Defensive End Mario Williams
Throughout the first four games of the year, the $100 million Mario Williams experiment hasn’t exactly been what the “Bills Mafia” thought it would be. Williams has just nine tackles and 1.5 sacks thus far, and has been facing right tackles that are average to say the least. Anthony Davis is a solid tackle with strength and good technique that will present a tough matchup for the former All-Pro.
49ers TE Vernon Davis Vs. Bills’ Linebackers & Safeties
Throughout four games, the Bills have already allowed tight ends to torch them for 253 yards and a score on 20 receptions. Now, 104 of those yards came from Rob Gronkowski, but covering tight ends is still a major issue, and the 49ers have one of the best in the game. Davis is a major threat in the redzone, and has the speed that linebackers cant keep up with, and size that defensive backs cant match.
49ers CB Carlos Rogers Vs. Bills WR Stevie Johnson
Stevie Johnson leads the Bills in both receptions and targets, with 15 receptions for 195 yards and three scores on 36 targets, but he was made a non-factor last week against the Patriots, catching just two passes for a measly 23 yards. The Bills’ wide receivers operate out of multiple sets, but Johnson will likely be lined up against San Francisco’s Carlos Rogers. Rogers is a physical corner, and Johnson will need to fight him in that five-yard window to get open, otherwise he might be in for another miserable week.
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