1. Establish Jackson
Who said you can't milk clock within the no-huddle offense? Buffalo took a big step forward last weekend against Tampa Bay by leaning on Fred Jackson. The Bills trailed the Bucs only by one minute in the time of possession battle — a far cry from the 14-minute discrepancy in the opener.
Buffalo was able to get a lead, protect it and get a win. All because of its running game.
If Buffalo wants any chance of upsetting New Orleans, Jackson must be the focal point of the offense. Any gravitation toward a shootout would be suicide against this team. That's what the Saints want. That's what they seduce teams into. Philadelphia and Detroit both fell into this trap. If you can't sustain possessions, game over.
So forget the multi-receiver sets for one game. Buffalo should use extra tight ends early and often. Grind out 25-30 carries to Jackson. As long as this remains a two-score game, rely on the running game first and foremost. It will drip valuable clock off, keep Drew Brees on the sideline and set up Terrell Owens and Lee Evans in playaction.
2. Pressure Brees
Because really, that's their only hope at stopping this fantasy football messiah. It probably won't matter what coverages Buffalo throws at Brees. He's too smart, too decisive and too accurate to fool for four quarters. Good luck creeping that safety toward the line on a pseudo blitz.
But there may be one solution. If the Bills collapse the pocket and disrupt timing, they have a fighting chance. Last week, Buffalo did a great job of getting after Byron Leftwich. Tampa Bay's starter was only sacked twice, but got hit 12 times. Buffalo made The Ralph a house of horrors for Leftwich by releasing the hounds. Linebackers were released often.
On the contrary, the Philadelphia Eagles had one measly hit on Brees all game and were torched for 311 yards and three touchdowns. The week before, the Detroit Lions only hit Brees twice and were hemorrhaged for six passing touchdowns. Brees' go-to guy last year, Lance Moore, has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. Hasn't mattered. Marques Colston and Devery Henderson have combined for 302 yards and three touchdowns in only two games. This offense keeps revving up to a new gear.
Give the Saints' left tackle Jermon Bushrod a ton of credit. The veteran reserve has filled in just fine on the blindside. With mainstay Jammal Brown is out for a month with a hip injury, this was a concern for New Orleans. Maybe the Bills can rattle Bushrod, though. At home, maybe the mojo is at full force. Tom Brady was clueless for three quarters and Leftwich may still have some black pellets from the FieldTurf lodged in his helmet.
Something is different defensively this season.
In one cunning scheme by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell last Sunday, a standing defensive tackle Kyle Williams lined up between tackle Spencer Johnson and defensive end Aaron Mayin on the left side. Weakside linebacker Keith Ellison stood where Williams usually would be and dropped into coverage. And simultaneously, Kawika Mitchell cannon-balled up the gut, forcing Leftwich into a errant pass that was tipped and picked off by Bryan Scott.
Buffalo sure has been exotic and effective with its blitzing packages thus far, drawing up some labwork-worthy formulas. Still, Brees is easily the best quarterback the ‘D' will face all season. Whereas Leftwich has a droned out, windmill delivery, Brees' is sharp and instant. The window of opportunity will be short. Buffalo must create turnovers off its pressures.
There's reason to think they will. Quick, undersized linebackers Ellison and Mitchell have given the defense a new bite so far, both flying untouched to the quarterback. Rather than trying to scurry defensive backs man for man every play, the Bills should green-light game-long blitzing. Go for broke.
3. T.O. Show?
Minus one playaction touchdown, Terrell Owens has been Peerless Price-quiet so far. Owens had a crucial first-down drop in week one, followed by a drop on a deep ball against the Bucs. Both were drive-killers.
If Buffalo is able to drain clock with Jackson and keep this game close, then it'll open up some major opportunities for Owens. Both of Buffalo's passing touchdowns — and the one T.O. dropped — were results of playaction fakes to Jackson. The Bills lured seven and eight defenders into the box and struck.
New Orleans' defense isn't anything special. They've added some talent in the secondary in Darren Sharper, ex-Bill Jabari Greer and rookie Malcolm Jenkins. But it's not a top-tier unit by any means. Last week, the Kevin Kolb-led Eagles moved the ball with Arena Football-efficiency. Kolb nearly topped 400 yards. The Eagles simply shot themselves in the foot too much and paid for it dearly. Trent Edwards has treated each possession like a newborn, carefully delivering the ball safely unlike his careless predecessor. Turnovers shouldn't be a problem here. Big plays will be. At some point, Buffalo will need to push the ball downfield to Owens.
And Owens needs to catch it. Time for T.O. to rip open that box of Pop Secret and throw some kernels in the microwave.
Prediction: Call me crazy but I think Buffalo has the formula down. Brees is going to move the ball, no question. But this Bills ‘D' will step up when it matters most. The defense should pressure Brees just enough. And Jackson has been a man possessed running and catching the football. Buffalo scores a huge upset in September at home. Bills 31, Saints 28.
Tyler Dunne is the Publisher of BuffaloFootballReport.com. Contact him at email@example.com.