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Bills Struggling Run Defense Faces Another Tough Test

11:38 PM, Oct 29, 2010   |    comments
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Kevin Oklobzija
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

ORCHARD PARK - You've heard of immovable object meeting irresistible force?
Well, what about movable objects going head-to-head into a resistance-free force?
That's pretty much what statistics say Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs will be.

With the NFL's worst defense against the run, the Bills must try to contain the league's most-productive rushing attack.
Buffalo opponents have rushed for an average of 174.5 yards per game. The Chiefs have gained 176.5.
Can you say mismatch? The critics of the defense are already saying bad things about the Bills, who have allowed more than 30 points in five consecutive games. That's a first for the franchise.

"The only way to quiet all this stuff," defensive end Marcus Stroud said, "is to go out there and stop them and get a win. And that's what we're planning on trying to do."

Not exactly Joe Namath guaranteeing victory, was it? Of course, confidence can't be high when they know the Chiefs will be launching their two-pronged ground attack with running backs Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. Jones has gained 461 yards on 99 carries (4.7 average). Charles has rushed 81 times for 489 yards (an NFL-best 6.0 average).

"You have to pick your poison," Stroud said. "You have a guy like Thomas Jones that does a good job running between the tackles and then you have a guy like Jamaal Charles who has all the speed in the world. Once he gets outside it may be a foot race. Any time you have a combo like that it's going to be hard to contain them."

Plus, as coach Chan Gailey points out, Charles will run up the middle and Jones can bounce it outside. The Bills know it's imperative to stop both.
"We've got to shore up the run game the best we can and make them throw the ball," outside linebacker Chris Kelsay said.
Compounding the Bills problems all season has been their lack of takeaways. They rank dead last in interceptions (one, by linebacker Andra Davis against Jacksonville) and total takeaways (six).
"We have to be more opportunistic and make plays when they're there to be made," Kelsay said.

Sometimes defensive statistics are misleading, since overall NFL rankings are based on yardage. But giving up, or not giving up, yards isn't necessarily the end-all be-all; it depends where those yards lead.

The San Diego Chargers' defense is No. 1 in the NFL in average yards allowed but 15 teams have allowed fewer points. The New York Giants have given up the second-fewest yards per game but 18 teams have allowed fewer points.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, rank 17th in team defense in terms of yards allowed but are seventh in points allowed.
The problem for the Bills: They don't just bend, they also break. They rank No. 28 in total yards allowed and dead last in points allowed (198). They have been susceptible to the long, sustained drives as well as the quick strike.

"You feel like you hold them down in certain situations and then you give up the big play; that's how you score points," nose tackle Kyle Williams said. "You make them have to work for it, long drives. It's harder to put up that many points on the board, but when you're giving up quick strikes, that's how it happens."

A failure to execute fundamentals is a contributing factor. The Bills can't, or don't, gain separations from blockers.
"The biggest thing, you have to whip the blockers and get off the blocker and make the tackle," Gailey said. "It's technique, it's fundamentals, it's knowing what you see."
A defender may engage a blocker or react to an inside move too early. Opponents have been able to get to the corner and turn up field far too many times. And this week they face the breakaway threat from Charles.
"You have to be even more patient," Kelsay said.
Though opponents average 33 points, Gailey is quick to spread the blame and not point only at the defense.
"It's easy to see that and pick on that but it's wrong," Gailey said. "We all have responsibility. The turnovers (by the offense) have a responsibility for that, the field position has a responsibility for that."

Yet the points are what everyone, players included, notice.
"At the end of the day, stats don't count, W's and L's do, and we have to find a way to get on the W side," Stroud said.

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