Numbers reveal extent of Bills' blitzes

The Vikings don't game plan for the second preseason game, which worked splendidly for the Bills, who blitzed Christian Ponder far more than half of the time he dropped back to pass. It wasn't much easier for Matt Cassel, but Leslie Frazier talked about their approach.

What ever happened to those vanilla preseason games?

The Buffalo Bills threw some hot spices in a normally bland serving and left the Vikings with a sour taste.

Under rookie head coach Doug Marrone, the Bills took an aggressive approach on both sides of the ball. On offense, they went with a no-huddle approach on 48 of their 78 offensive plays. On defense, they blitzed the Minnesota Vikings' quarterbacks on 14 of 23 plays that were designed to be passes in the first half, including three runs by Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel and three sacks.

"Everybody has their way of approaching the preseason and that's their choice. We'll keep moving forward," Frazier said, admitting that the Bills' approach isn't typical fare in the second preseason game.

"It's far different, and everybody takes a different approach. They did some things, they did some good things. They have an option in this preseason to do whatever they want to do. We don't have them on our regular-season schedule, but they did a good job."

The Vikings, like many NFL teams, spend almost no time game-planning for their opponents in the first two preseason games. They will dedicate a little more time to that for their third preseason game, against the San Francisco 49ers, because they want to get their players in the mode of going through some of what a regular-season week of preparation would entail.

Even so, the first sack the Vikings surrendered – on the very first snap of the game, no less – had nothing to do with a blitz. Defensive end Jerry Hughes simply beat left tackle Matt Kalil with an inside move.

But the Bills only rushed four defenders on five of the 16 times Ponder dropped back to pass. They sent five defenders at Ponder seven times and six defenders four times.

"That's what we've been practicing for the first few months; since minicamp we've been practicing being stingy," Hughes said, according to the Associated Press. "Everybody's flying around to the ball, just creating havoc. So us practicing like that, it's great to see it put on game film."

Ponder played five series and completed only 5 of 12 passes for 53 yards. He was flushed from the pocket and ran twice but was also sacked twice, even with the starting offensive line trying to protect him.

"If this was a game that counted, it'd be tough," Ponder said. "But it's more practice for us."

Said Frazier of Ponder's performance: "I thought he did some good things early. He was under duress right away. But he battled and ended up making some plays. … I thought for his first extended time he did some good things and we'll hopefully do some things next week that will improve what we did this week."

Cassel, the veteran backup, didn't fare much better. He wasn't pressured quite as often Ponder, but during the seven times he dropped back to pass in the first half, the Bills sent five rushers twice and six defenders once.

Those numbers include a play when center Joe Berger sent a shotgun snap well over the head of Cassel. By the time it was recovered by Jamie Blatnick, the defender was in the end zone for the Bills' only touchdown of the first half.

"We could have done some things better, no matter what their guys did. When we look at the tape, I'm sure our guys will recognize that," Frazier said.

"You're also trying to take a look at how your guys are going to respond, not that we walked through some of the pressures that they were going to run or some of the things they might have done that might have been exotic, but you still want to see how guys are going to respond running your basic offense and doing some of the same things on defense when they're running no-huddle."

To add to the insult, Hughes – who finished with two sacks, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and forced fumble – was starting in place Mario Williams, one of the key inactives for Buffalo.

All in all, it was an ugly first half for Ponder and Cassel … and the men charged with protecting them. Ponder had a quarterback rating of 55.2; Cassel was at 58.9. And the two of them were sacked a combined three times and dealt with two botched exchanges from the center.

"This may sound strange in some ways, but some things I saw tonight will help our football team in the future," Frazier said. "I saw some things that I needed to see about our team. Buffalo, they can do what they need to do."

There were even issues with receivers that are normally pretty sure-handed. Tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Jarius Wright each dropped a pass. It just added to the frustration of the first half.

"The only thing I was saying, I was saying to myself, ‘I'm glad it's only the preseason. Let's get this out of the way now because we definitely don't want to be doing this in September,'" Frazier said. "All of us in this room know that during a regular-season game those can cost you a ballgame."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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