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Bills’ defensive personnel not meshing with Ryan’s scheme

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — With all of the injuries the Buffalo Bills’ offense has had to deal with, and continued to deal with in Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati, the edict was very clear when the undefeated Bengals came to town: coach Rex Ryan’s defense needed to be great if the Bills were going to win. It was not. Not even close, in fact.

If the game had been played out in Oakland with the baseball diamond still laid out, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s uniform would not have had a speck of dirt on it. Buffalo’s once vaunted pass rush, which led the NFL with 111 sacks over the previous two seasons, touched him once, and that was safety Duke Williams on a blitz. Dalton got the pass off, and did not hit the ground.

With all day to throw, Dalton picked apart the Bills for 243 yards and three touchdowns as the Bengals rolled, 34-21.

Ryan admitted afterward that he made a tactical error by not coming after Dalton more. The Bills hardly blitzed, and very often they rushed with three because Ryan felt it was more important to flood the field in coverage to deal with all of Cincinnati’s weapons.

“I went with some three-man rush stuff and never let my guys go as much as I should have,” said Ryan. “I wanted to put our cover guys out there and we did. But I don’t think our guys had enough shots on him, so we’ll see. We gotta take a long, hard look at what we’re asking our guys to do.”

Defensive end Mario Williams would be in favor of that.

“When we’ve got four guys rushing, we can do some different things,” Williams said. “Some of the calls that we had, we just didn’t have four guys out there rushing in certain situations, things like that. You know, you’re just playing the call. We don’t make the calls as players. We’ve got to execute whatever’s called. If it’s three guys going, it’s three guys going and we’ve got to figure out an opportunity, a different way to get there faster.”

Williams said he thinks he set a personal record for plays where he was in pass coverage rather than rushing the quarterback or setting the edge against the run. Fellow end Jerry Hughes also expressed frustration over the game plan.

“What people don’t understand is you’re not running the same defense that we ran last year,” Hughes said. “This isn’t the 4-3, four down linemen, go after the quarterback. This is a 3-4 defense. I just think it’s going to take guys some time to get used to making those calls and get that mindset to 4-3. Last year’s gone.”

REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus. EJ Manuel got the start in place of injured Tyrod Taylor, and he looked like the same QB who lost his job after four weeks in 2014. He was inconsistent, often inaccurate and unable to deliver in key situations. Losing WR Sammy Watkins was a blow, and it was compounded by the fact that WR Percy Harvin was inactive, so once again, Buffalo was depleted on offense. TE Charles Clay continues to play well and he caught nine passes for 62 yards.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C. LeSean McCoy’s return was much-needed, and he looked pretty good in rushing for 90 yards on 17 carries. He broke a 33-yard run on the first play of the game, and later scored a touchdown. But with Karlos Williams still out with a concussion, McCoy was the entire rush offense with the exception of six runs by QB EJ Manuel. The line did a pretty good job creating holes, but once the Bills fell behind by 10 in the third quarter, the running game was scrapped.

–PASS DEFENSE: C-minus. By deciding to play coverage, the Bills did not get after Andy Dalton the way they’re capable and there was virtually no pass rush. Dalton was hit one time, was not sacked, and threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns. CBs Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby were again outstanding as they locked up A.J. Green. However, Marvin Jones caught nine passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.

–RUSH DEFENSE: C. Outside of Gio Bernard’s 17-yard touchdown run on a third-and-1 when he was barely touched, the Bills did a nice job against the Bengals, holding them to 112 yards. LB Preston Brown led the defense with nine tackles, but Nigel Bradham was involved in only three despite playing 90 percent of snaps.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: F. The Bills are a train wreck on special teams, and Rex Ryan hinted that jobs could be on the line. These units committed three more penalties, all of which played a role in the field position struggles Buffalo had all game. Marquise Goodwin provided nothing on kickoff returns before getting hurt, again. Denarius Moore did nothing on punt returns, and fair caught one at the 4-yard-line. Dan Carpenter, by default, is now kicking off, and he simply can’t do it. He had no touchbacks on four attempts, and the Bengals had 84 kickoff return yards. Punter Colton Schmidt was outstanding.

–COACHING: C. Rex Ryan is overthinking on defense, trying to get too cute when he should just let his athletes do what they do best. This looks like a defense that is being dictated to because it seems confused much of the time on what the assignments are. On offense, Greg Roman has his hands tied behind his back because of all the injuries, not to mention the horrible field position his offense was in most of the day. The Bills never started a drive from beyond their own 20. Playing EJ Manuel at QB is a step down from injured Tyrod Taylor.


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