The San Francisco 49ers resemble the old school approach of pounding out yards on the ground and playing rock solid defense to win football games. The Bills don't go about it quite the same way, but are every bit as effective running the ball. It sets the table for a ground game battle Sunday with the more productive rushing attack a virtual certainty to play a major role in a victory.
Buffalo's ground game despite its shortcomings last week is still the fourth-best in the league averaging 158 yards per outing. San Francisco's run game moved past the Bills in the league rankings this past week thanks to a 245-yard outburst against the Jets in a shutout road win (34-0). They're averaging 167 yards rushing per game.
After giving up 247 rushing yards to New England last week, Kyle Williams knows they've got to have their corrections made for San Francisco. Buffalo's front seven is going to have to dig in against a run game that uses a lot more power formations than the Patriots.
"It's a little different running game," he said. "Their guys are going to come off and try to knock you off the ball and out-physical you and give it to the guy downhill and let him get his yards. They have a lot of different running plays that you have to be prepared for. So we have to be pretty sharp on what we're doing. It's going to be a big game and a big challenge."
The 49ers feel the same way about Buffalo's two-pronged rushing attack of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
"Both those guys they run the ball hard. Jackson he's a very tough runner," said 49ers LB Patrick Willis.
"The past couple of years he turned it up to a whole other level. He's one of the best in the league and Spiller is very fast and extremely explosive. So we've got to make sure we keep those guys contained."
San Francisco has had more success against the run than Buffalo ranking fifth in the league and allowing less than 80 yards a game through the first quarter of the season.
"It's the best (defense) for a reason," said Jackson of the Niners. "They do some tremendous things so for us to go out there and be able to move the ball effectively… running the ball is going to be huge for us. It's a challenge that I'm looking forward to."
"We're just trying to get our running game back to where we had it," said Spiller. "We know these guys rank top five in just about every defensive category that you can name, so we know the type of game we're in for.
"These guys play physical type football and play the way you're supposed to play on both sides of the ball. So we know it's going to be a north and south, take four (yards), take three, take whatever you can get because these guys do a great job of getting after it."
San Francisco leads the NFL in percentage of run plays that gain four yards or more (53.7%). Buffalo ranks third in that same category (50.4%). In terms of choosing to run, the 49ers do so almost half the time (49.4%) good for fourth in the league, with the Bills right behind them in fifth (48.8%).
The Niners also lead the NFL in runs of 10-yards or more with 23 accounting for better than 15 percent of their run plays. The Bills rank eighth in that same category with 13 10-plus yard runs, but their percentage is higher (22.6%).
Conversely, the 49ers defense is one of the better fronts when it comes to defending the run on first down. They allow an average of 3.24 yards per rush (8th). After the 247 rushing yards surrendered last week, Buffalo's average on first down ballooned to 4.75.
Knowing their nickel package took the brunt of the run game production by New England last week, Buffalo has worked hard to develop solutions to opponents with dynamic tight ends knowing San Francisco has one in Vernon Davis.
"It's something that we have to get better at," said Williams. "It's obviously a concern. I think in this league you're going to see what you have trouble with until you can stop it. It's always been like that it's a copycat league. It's something we'll have to adjust to and obviously play better."
After the team missed 15 tackles last Sunday, nickel linebacker Bryan Scott understands with powerful backs like Frank Gore and Brandon Jacobs, technique and leverage will be critical in making secure tackles.
"It's very important," he said. "Technique and leverage can overcome many different sizes. So we got a taste of it last week. With that experience we kind of know what to expect in this game this week. Guys are excited to come out and show what they can do."
The men in Buffalo's locker room are well aware of San Francisco's reputation of being one of the most physical teams in the league. That's why they're eager to match it on Sunday.
"I'm a tough guy and guys around me are pretty tough and I rise to the challenge," said Marcell Dareus. "I don't care. Whatever they've got, we're going to do the best that we can to get ready for them."
"I know I love going against the best," said Jackson. "I'm sure C.J. is the same way. It's a challenge he's looking forward to as well. So it'd be a good test for us and for us to get where we want to be we have to run the ball against teams like this."