Could Bills pass game awaken vs. Colts?

Posted Dec 7, 2017

Buffalo's passing game has had trouble producing this season, but the Colts pass defense has had trouble stopping just about anyone in 2017.

Buffalo’s passing game has been desperate to break out and carry the Bills to victory in a game this season. Only five times has the offense eclipsed the 200-yard mark in passing this season in 12 games played. Though the players themselves aren’t ready to assume anything, the Colts might be just the right tonic for production through the air.

Indianapolis has struggled mightily to defend the pass this season thanks in part to a few problem areas. First, their pass rush has lacked for results. The Colts rank 30th in sacks per play with just 20 sacks on 409 pass plays against (4.8%). That has put undue pressure on the Indianapolis defensive backs to cover longer. And that is not a good recipe for a Colts secondary that is already last in the league in passing yards allowed.

Buffalo’s receiving corps is aware of the numbers against Indy’s beleaguered pass defense, but they’re not expecting the Colts defense to just hand them opportunities.

“There are some things we feel we can take advantage of on film, but they can also correct those things too. You can’t go into games like this looking at your opponent’s record because as I’ve figured out very quickly in the NFL, records really don’t matter,” said Zay Jones of the 3-9 Colts. “My preparation for them is not going to change from any other week.”

As much as that may be the case for the Bills receivers, it must be hard to ignore the fact that the Colts have given up more pass plays of 20 yards or more than any other defense in the league (53). Six such plays occurred in Indy’s 20-point loss to Jacksonville last week alone.

The big reason the Colts defense has been victimized so often lately is because they’re woefully short on experience.

Last month veteran CB Vontae Davis was released after it was discovered he was going to have season-ending groin surgery. His backup Pierre Desir, who took his place in the starting lineup has since been placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. And Indy’s starter at left cornerback, Rashaan Melvin is currently week-to-week with a hand injury.

It’s left the Colts secondary with three rookies and a pair of second-year players at cornerback who combined have just four NFL starts.

“They do have a younger group of defensive backs, but they’re skilled and they’re in the NFL,” Jones said. “So, we have all the respect for them in the world.”

“They’re a great team with very talented DBs,” said Bills rookie QB Nate Peterman. “They’re going to have some young DBs too. I got to train against some of them this offseason. I know they’re very talented and will be a tough challenge for us.”

Receiver Andre Holmes has been in the league long enough to know that underestimating any opponent is a mistake. He’s been on teams with subpar records that have upset playoff-bound teams late in the year. Holmes maintains that the best approach is to sharpen their own play to a point where their execution is simply superior to whatever defensive scheme they might face.

“We have to worry about ourselves,” said Holmes. “We have to go out there and score points and play better as an entire offense. It really doesn’t matter who they have in the defensive backfield. We have to do our best at executing the plays that are called and scoring points.”

Preparing to do that might be a bit tricky with Buffalo’s quarterback situation a bit up in the air this week. Tyrod Taylor is trying to recover from a knee contusion suffered last week and couldn’t practice Wednesday. When healthy, Taylor is the starter, but Peterman took reps on Wednesday.

If Peterman winds up making his second career start on Sunday, Holmes says it’s on the receiving corps to make things easier on the rookie signal caller.

“Whoever it is at quarterback we definitely have to produce,” said Holmes. “Quarterback-receiver relationship is quarterback trusting the receiver to be able to make the play and the receiver making the play. That’s what we’ve got to do no matter what.”

With the potential of Kelvin Benjamin returning to the lineup Sunday, it could put another valuable weapon on the field for the Buffalo passing attack.

“He’s a big target out there,” said Peterman. “He wants to go up and make some plays, so we’re trying to get that timing back on things. We’ve got a lot of talented receivers out there. All of us are working hard in practice and I’m excited to see what we can do on Sunday.”

The Bills aren’t counting on anything coming easy to them this weekend, but against a team that has given up more points than any other club in the NFL, the passing attack could get a much-needed shot in the arm.

“That’s been a goal,” said Holmes of having a breakout pass game performance. “As receivers that’s what we’re focusing on is having a productive game.”