Monday Morning Breakdown

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Eric Wood | Defense proves to be elite with sound schemes and cohesiveness

093019-monday-morning-breakdown-defense

1. Defense proves to be elite with sound schemes and cohesiveness

What jumps out to me after watching the defense's performance against the Patriots is that they are all on the same page. This is a sound unit in year three under defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and head coach Sean McDermott. They know the scheme extremely well and return 10 of 11 starters from a good defense last year. It's not easy to replace a guy like Kyle Williams, but they do that with a top 10 pick in Ed Oliver.

The secondary, the linebackers and defensive line are all working together with the way they disguise blitzes and coverages so well. It's extremely tough on quarterbacks and it showed against a very talented quarterback in Tom Brady. The defense wasn't able to sack Brady yesterday, but they hit him a number of times. The defensive line was rushing the passer well, the secondary was doing a great job in coverage, the linebackers were filling holes and stopping the run. When you have all of that working together, it is not easy for an offense to have success.

Against Brady, I thought there was well-timed blitz calls. You can't consistently blitz Brady because he will burn you. The defense did a great job with showing blitz at times and not coming, when they finally blitzed at certain points in the game they were able to affect the offense. From a schematics standpoint, I thought the game plan was phenomenal.

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier brings so much to the table. The fact that Frazier has head coaching experience and has ties to McDermott from their time at Philadelphia means a lot. You can see how this defense has grown in three years with McDermott and Frazier working together. Game after game, they dial up such a hard test for an opposing offense.

2. Offense needs to have a bounce back mentality

There are no moral victories in the NFL, but when you have the Super Bowl defending champions and probably the best team in the league right now on the ropes in a game with a chance to win in the fourth quarter and you play that bad on offense, it is encouraging. You would assume the next time these teams see each other, the offense will play better. It was a day of missed opportunities for the Bills. They had some mistakes down the field, a good number of turnovers and the blocked punt for a touchdown return ended up being the difference in the game.

All of that considered, the Bills have so many new starters on offense. They faced their first elite defense of the season on Sunday. The Bills offense will grow from the experience and continue to get better with all the new pieces they have. There is so much to learn from this game from an offensive and special teams perspective.

I think Josh Allen did a great job starting the second half with taking what the defense gave him. The Patriots play a lot of man and press man coverage, so there aren't a lot of open receivers. The Patriots defense puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback and receivers throughout the game. The defensive line gives you so many different looks with so many different pressures. You're constantly getting something new in front of you and that makes it hard on an offensive line.

What they can do next time, which Josh did a great job of in the second half, is just attack match-ups. When John Brown or Cole Beasley has a route against man coverage that Josh likes, attack that. When quarterback Matt Barkley came in there was man coverage and Barkley went right to tight end Dawson Knox. The Bills have weapons in the receiving game and they need to exploit those match-ups next time. The Bills did rush the ball for more than 100 yards against New England. When you pair that with how the defense held Tom Brady to 150 passing yards, 224 total yards, it's very frustrating you can't get the win.

3. Approaching the week with starting quarterback in limbo

There are a number of backup quarterbacks starting in the NFL right now. Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Mitch Trubisky are some of the starting quarterbacks who are technically out right now. Luckily for the Bills you have an experienced backup quarterback in Matt Barkley who is in his seventh year. Barkley played really well for the Bills last year and in preseason this year. If Josh Allen can't go this week, adjusting to a new quarterback can be a lot on receivers who they have to build a relationship with as well as the offensive line who they have to have good communication with. This is Barkley's second year in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's system. Barkley is comfortable with the scheme, but the offense will all need to get on the same page.

Scroll through to see photos of all the action as the Bills take on the Patriots during Week 4 of the 2019 football season.

4. Looking ahead: Bills vs. Titans in Week 5

These AFC non-divisional games are always big because they ultimately can end up being tiebreakers and can decide playoff spots down the road. It is an away game, but fortunately for the Bills there will be a lot of Bills Mafia in Nashville. The last time we played there, I was on the team and it felt like a home game for the Bills. 

Tennessee is a quality team. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel has the team playing great defense. They have been stingy the last few years under him. Quarterback Marcus Mariota seems to be playing better every game. He has seven touchdowns without an interception through four weeks. Mariota is not making big mistakes and that is helping out the Titans defense by not giving them short fields off of turnovers. 

This is a game against the 2-2 Titans that the Bills need to take care of business and go into the bye week at 4-1. That would be an incredible start to the season. As frustrated as we are coming off the Patriots loss, I think if anyone would have asked would you take 4-1 going into the bye, many would say yes.

5. Observations from around the NFL

Through four weeks

We are through four weeks of play and so much can change as the season goes on; injuries can happen, your roster can change. Every season is going to have some ebbs and flows. It's all about staying consistent. When you look at the Bills, McDermott always says it's about the process and getting better each week. The Bills have had a good start to the season sitting at 3-1, if you play every quarter of the season like that you're at 12-4. That would be an incredible year, but it's all about staying consistent right now. 

Kansas City and New England square off in maybe the most entertaining AFC championship game of all time last year. Fast-forward to now, both teams are at 4-0 to start the season. The Chiefs are completely lighting up the scoreboard. The Patriots are playing very stingy defense. If both teams continue playing elite level ball, we could be looking at another AFC showdown.

Daniel Jones off to 2-0 start

The Giants beat the Redskins 24-3 on Sunday. Daniel Jones is now 2-0 as the starting quarterback for the Giants. Yesterday, Jones completed 23 of 31 passes for 225 yards, along with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Bills essentially could have ended Eli Manning's career with how well the defense played in that game. Jones was a much criticized draft pick and he comes in and wins two games. We will learn a lot about the Giants and Jones in the next two weeks because they play Minnesota and New England.

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