If there's one thing Williams might want to think about, it's scaling back the defensive schemes into something more manageable. Ted Cottrell had his standard 3-4 defense, then on third downs he went to a 4-1-6, 4-2-5 or 3-3-5. Toward the end of his Bills career, it was a 3-3-5 with Sam Cowart, Sam Rogers and Keith Newman staying in the game to rush the passer, John Holecek and Pat Williams coming out, with an extra DB coming in – usually Donovan Greer. Occasionally, he'd put together something special, like "the Package," with Pat Williams and Ted Washington up front, which worked on Williams' Titans pretty well during last season's opener.
But Gregg Williams has all kinds of schemes and groupings. During the off-season, he even bragged about the fact that the Bills have something like 13 defensive packages. They may have all those, but they're certainly not playing them well. It might take them a season or two to do the things Williams is asking them to do. How about doing a couple formations and schemes well for the time being?
Now you hear a lot about Williams' 46-defense, but let's explain things according to positions. For most media people, referring to the "complexities of the 46 defense" without explaining what's happening on a play is just an easy way for them to say, "I don't know what the hell is happening myself."
During the four big plays that produced or helped produce Indy's first four touchdowns, the Bills were in four different modes of defense. This is not all that unusual, except for that different personnel are on the field. Suffice it to say, this causes limited continuity among players, and blended with the fact that these players haven't played that long together, it's a recipe for the problems that were seen in the RCA Dome.
On the 45-yard long-gainer featuring Peyton Manning to tight end Ken Dilger, which set up Colts' touchdown No. 1, the Bills were playing a 5-3. Aaron Schobel was right end, Shawn Price weakside tackle, Pat Williams nose tackle, Phil Hansen strongside tackle, and Erik Flowers left end. Brandon Spoon was middle linebacker, with Keith Newman and Jay Foreman both lining up on the strong side, over Dilger. Newman was inside and Foreman outside.
A 5-3? What the heck's that? Well, it's a short yardage defense. It was third and one and the Bills wanted to make sure that Edgerrin James wasn't going to run for the first down. He didn't. Instead, Manning faked the handoff to him, sucking Keith Newman in, while Dilger initially blocked Phil Hansen, then ran free like an antelope on the open prairie. Foreman covered tight end Marcus Pollard, who ran a short crossing pattern as the flanker, away from where Dilger was running, effectively taking Foreman out of the play. Manning dumped off to Dilger in the right flat and it turned into a 45-yard gain.
Interestingly, Erik Flowers was playing left end – just to the left of the two tight ends in that Colts offensive formation – and Bryce Fisher right end, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense because Flowers is not a great in-traffic type of player. That's why he was ineffective in the 3-4, playing over the right tackle when he subbed for Marcellus Wiley last season. But that's what the Bills did this time.
On the flea flicker 60-yard touchdown to Jerome Pathon, it was a first and 10 and Buffalo was in a nickel package. A nickel package! On first down! The Colts had a slot receiver and wide receiver to the right. They had their two-tight ends flanking the line. They certainly looked like they were going to run it. Of course, to make things ironic, a nickel package is designed to look for the pass first. But no one was looking for the pass in this case. Antoine Winfield bit on the fake and released Pathon, the slot receiver. He ran by Keion Carpenter and caught the ball for the score. Everybody was converging on James upon the handoff.
On the 39-yard sideline touchdown to Harrison, the Bills were playing a standard 4-3. Again, the line was jumbled though. Flowers played right end, Leif Larsen was strongside tackle, Pat Williams weakside nose tackle and Aaron Schobel was the left end. This time Manning stutter-stepped and squared his shoulders toward the sideline like he was going to throw, which caused Winfield to hesitate and Harrison to get free as the quarterback actually released the ball – another easy score.
On the 39-yard slant touchdown to Harrison in the middle, the Bills were in a 4-4-3, which is a formation, again, designed to stop the run. Schobel was the right end, Pat Williams the weakside nose tackle, Shawn Price the strongside tackle and Phil Hansen the end. Jay Foreman was weakside outside linebacker, Brandon Spoon weakside inside linebacker, Kenyatta Wright strongside inside linebacker and Newman strongside outside linebacker. Another run fake caused Winfield to stay in, which released Harrison, who ran past Carpenter, and caught the pass for another 39-yard touchdown. Strong safety Raion Hill was taken out in favor of the extra linebacker – in this case Kenyatta Wright.
So what did we learn from Sunday's game? Williams likes to use varied defensive personnel because it proves how great a coach he is. But the varied personnel means nothing if it can't play together and/or it can't identify run fakes, pump fakes and draw plays.