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Bills 'D' goes with speed on third down


Buffalo's defense was able to hold one of the NFL's top offenses to 18 points thanks largely to the debut of a new package that left Arizona's playmakers guessing. 


Starting on third-downs and eventually expanding into most of the Bills defensive plays, Buffalo used seven defensive backs, three linebackers and Kyle Williams as the only defensive lineman.

The success of the package was evident, as Arizona was forced into five consecutive three-and-outs to start the game and finished the game 5-15 on third down conversions.

"This package was totally different," Bills safety Corey Graham said. "It was something that nobody had seen from us. Rex, Rob and Dennis Thurman did a great job putting together something that nobody expects because you've never seen us do it. And it worked out for us. It was a good package, good play-calling and we tip our caps to the coaches."

After the defense struggled to cover the receiving tandem of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker of the Jets last week, the Bills knew that they needed a different approach to cover the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd on Sunday.

"Bruce Arians is a great coach," Rex Ryan said. "We knew we weren't going to have the same plan we went into the last game with. We wanted them to think we did, but we were going to change everything and really try to keep them off balance. I think we did a great job. Dennis Thurman did an outstanding job of calling the game."

After forcing no interceptions through the first two weeks of the season, the Bills had four on Sunday.

Cardinals receivers seemed to have little to no separation all day, and the Bills were able to win the battles for the football particularly on deep balls.

"They did a really good job, they just played really, really soft," Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said. "I threw a couple 50-50 balls and they made plays on them."

Even with the Bills having seven defensive backs on the field, it didn't stop them from putting pressure on Palmer. Buffalo finished with four sacks, including one from Kyle Williams.

"We showed a couple of different things up front and tried to change their protection--manipulate their protection- and let our DBs do their thing on the back end," Williams said. "Listen, if it takes me getting my head beat in by three guys in the middle and we walk off like that, I'll do it every week."

In addition to Williams getting pressure, the Bills were also able to bring blitzes from their defensive backs. On a first-down play in the fourth quarter, with the Cardinals in Buffalo territory, Graham blitzed and sacked Palmer. Arizona had to settle for a field goal on that drive.

Later, with the Cardinals in the red zone after cutting the lead to 15, Stephon Gilmore intercepted a ball intended for Floyd and returned it 35 yards to seal the victory. Buffalo again had seven defensive backs on the field and only sent a three-man rush for the third down.

"I knew that was going to be big. I knew we just had to stop them on first down and get them in 2nd-and-9 or second and long," said Gilmore, who had two interceptions for the first multi-interception game of his career. "Once we did that with seven DBs on the field we feel comfortable with each other. We're all in the same room so we communicate the same. It was fun."

All four of Palmer's interceptions came with under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, which highlights how Arizona failed to adjust to what they saw from Buffalo throughout the game.


"You're not quite sure who's coming in or if we are going to play coverage and you have a three-man rush and then you have guys doubled so you hold the ball and then we know Carson is not a big scrambler so he's looking to throw it," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "At some point he was going to throw it and guys got their hands on balls and made plays."

The new package not only helped the Bills defense short-term, but may also help to boost the confidence of the defense going forward.

"We wanted to be challenged and the ball thrown at us and that was it. Don't be afraid to make a play," Ryan said. "As I mentioned it wasn't time to feel pressure, it was time to apply pressure and that's what I told our team before the game because that was exactly what we needed to do. Believe in each other and believe that we could make plays and that's what we did."

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