In the opening week of the NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored 31 points and notched a win over the Atlanta Falcons. But the following week, Tampa Bay mustered just seven points and turned the ball over four times against the Arizona Cardinals.
Last week, the Buffalo Bills scored 31 points in a loss to the New York Jets, and they too will follow up a 30-plus point effort with a date with James Bettcher's Cardinals' defense.
The Bills were less than satisfied with their offensive output against New York, though, as head coach Rex Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman following the team's second consecutive loss.
Even though the Bills gave Roman the axe, Bettcher said a Buffalo offense led by quarterback Tyrod Taylor is loaded with explosive playmakers who can hurt Arizona.
"I see an explosive offense with tons of speed, in the backfield, on the perimeter, at tight end, at backup receiver with Goodwin, these guys are a very, very explosive offense," Bettcher said. "I think the Jets have a really good defense and these guys put up some points on them. Their MO as we know from last season is to run the ball and run the ball well and be physical in the run game. See a lot of gap scheme runs with pullers and then they're trying to throw the ball over the top of your head."
Through two games, the Bills have rushed for just 151 yards, which is a mild surprise considering the team boasts former Philadelphia Eagles' back LeSean McCoy. In 12 games in 2015, McCoy racked up more than 800 rushing yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry, but his production has fallen at the start of 2016.
Even though Buffalo has struggled in the run game, Bettcher said Arizona has to stay disciplined with the Bills rushing attack featuring a back like McCoy, especially because his propensity for finding cutback lanes is dangerous against a defense that has over-pursued at times at the start of the year.
"The same thing we said last week, we've got to tackle well," Bettcher said. "We've got to keep him in the pocket from a quarterback standpoint. We've got to keep the edges in the run game for McCoy, there's times he might give up four to steal 20 on you when he cuts back in the run game."
The Cardinals rebounded well after an opening week loss to New England, which is looking more impressive considering the Patriots have notched three consecutive victories to start the season without quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots' offense put Arizona's cornerbacks in a bind on third downs, leading to a 10-for-16 conversion rate for New England.
Arizona was more efficient on third down against Tampa Bay, and now faces one of the league's worst third down offenses in Buffalo which has converted on just 6-of-23 attempts through two games.
"I think our guys have had two really good days of prep and we're, we've got another afternoon of meetings that we have to make sure we get things clean and clear," Bettcher said. "It's going to be a close ballgame, we know that."
The Cardinals have been somewhat hampered defensively because the team hasn't been able to use safety Tyrann Mathieu in the variety of roles he's played throughout his career. Mathieu has been among the most successful nickel corners in the league over the past three seasons, consistently defending slot receivers and stepping up in the box against the run.
With Mathieu limited to playing a lot of single-high safety because he's still working his way back from a torn ACL suffered in December, Arizona's defense isn't as multiple as it has shown in the past. Still, Bettcher is confident in the Cardinals' ability to improve, and he said Thursday he wants his players and coaches to isolate each aspect of their day to reach an optimal level of focus.
"I think you always build confidence off of a win like that, our guys were flying around and playing aggressive," Bettcher said. "But each and every week is its own week. The season is 16 one weeks, single weeks, and you break it down even further than that as a coach and a player. It's one day, it's one meeting, an hour of a meeting, it's one individual meeting and it's one snap of team, it's one individual and that's how you have to break it down. The season is too long to look at it any other way."