Unfortunately this past week's game was a case of two steps forward and one step back. You're going to get that sometimes with a team trying to find its way back to respectability. It's what happens when you're bit by the turnover bug too. When you turn the football over you squander opportunities, especially when you're facing a running game the caliber of Minnesota's with Adrian Peterson.
The bottom line is Buffalo just needs to get themselves a better run defense and what I mean by that is they need to improve the talent base among the front seven. Last Sunday was the sixth time the Bills have given up more than 200 yards on the ground. It's really something that has to be addressed sooner rather than later in terms of offseason priorities. It's not the scheme, the Bills just don't have the personnel to stop the run game right now.
With respect to the last four games, I don't know what else they can do that's different in terms of improving the run defense, but somehow, some way you have to stop the running game. Eight in the box is going to have to be the M.O. and playing more man-to-man outside with your corners. You have to take chances.
That puts a lot of pressure on the two outside guys to be able to cover and when the opposing offense spreads the defense out they have to be able to make adjustments with blitzes and put pressure on the quarterback.
Buffalo's defense has to force third and long situations. They can't continue to have them get four and five yards each on first and second down and have it come down to 3rd-and-1 all the time. You're not going to win very many football games with that situation.
They just have to find a way to at least slow down the opponent's running game and that in turn helps your offense because if they're getting some stops here and there, they can hopefully gain some field position so Buffalo's offense doesn't have to go 80 or 90 yards every time as was the case for most of the game last week.
The turnover problem has been troubling in terms of fumbling lately. The Bills have the third most fumbles this season (24) and they've lost 11 of them. That gets around the league pretty quick and now teams are at a point where they're looking to strip Buffalo's ball carriers.
Some teams harp on stripping the football, where they'll tell the first guy to wrap up and the second guy in does nothing but try to strip the ball out. When you have guys that have a tendency to fumble opponents are going to go after the ball a lot more.
Taking a look at what Buffalo's offense is facing this week, they've got a revamped offensive line with Eric Wood at center and a couple of rookies rotating at right guard. I feel good about Wood handling the center role knowing he played there for his whole college career.
I have confidence in Wood. He's a very intelligent player and he's played the position before. I don't believe that's a position the coaching staff is going to have to worry a whole lot about because they have a guy that's familiar with the position.
Now they may limit to some extent the amount of calls he can make to simplify it a little bit for the guys up front. You can't go into a game with a full package having a couple of new offensive linemen in there. So they'll have to simplify it. Not a whole bunch, but enough to make sure they don't confuse each other. That can mean the difference between getting a quarterback knocked out of a game and him getting the ball off.
It'll also help that they undergo these changes in a home game atmosphere where they don't have the added issue of crowd noise, which played a factor last week. Their snap count will be more effective because of that too.
Most important for Ryan Fitzpatrick when he has a new center is spending extra practice time with him. He has to take extra snaps before practice and after practice and get the gun formation down in terms of the snap.
For me the most difficult part was taking the snap in short yardage and goal line because you know the defensive linemen are coming in lower, so your center has to get lower. As a result his angle as he snaps the ball is a little different.
Even though Kent Hull and myself had a really good rapport with the center-quarterback exchange, when we got down inside the two or three-yard line or on third and short the angle of the snap is different because the center is reaching or trying to get as low as he can.
Finally the forecast for Sunday's game is calling for winter weather. For Cleveland the weather is no big deal, but what will affect the Bills and Browns more than the snow will be the wind. If it's really windy and neither team can throw the ball effectively then that can change things in terms of game plan. If it's just snowing both teams might throw it a bit less than they planned or they might throw shorter routes, but wind is always a bigger factor than snow. I'm just disappointed that it's not Miami that's coming to play the Bills this week in light of the forecast for Sunday.