Tag Archives: Rex Ryan

Arizona Cardinals: Buffalo Bill and the Queen

patrick-peterson

Patrick Peterson

After a tentative season-opening loss to New England, the Arizona Cardinals found their stride against visiting Tampa Bay last week. Carson Palmer threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the 40-7 victory, and the defense proved it can be one of the league’s premier units when all pistons are firing. When it was over, Arizona found itself in a flat-footed tie with every team in the NFC West at 1-1.

On to Buffalo.

Historically, western teams traveling east for morning games haven’t fared well. But the Cardinals catch a break traveling to upstate New York in snow-free September, and they face a stumbling 0-2 Bills team fresh off the firing of Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. That early-season move comes with a whiff of desperation, considering Buffalo’s defense was far worse last week, giving up 37 points and nearly 500 yards in a loss to the visiting Jets.

But the Buffalo Bills lead the league in one respect: they are the only team named after a 19th century frontiersman.

“Buffalo Bill” (William Frederick Cody) was a ranch hand, Pony Express rider, fur trapper, gold prospector, and buffalo hunter. In 1867, he was contracted to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with meat. He set off on a wild-eyed 18-month spree, slaughtering 4,282 buffalo. The bloody deed earned him the moniker that would stick with him the rest of his life.

Cody cemented his legend in 1883 with his formation of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, a sweeping spectacle with a cast of hundreds, Indian attacks on wagon trains, stage coach robberies and yes, a buffalo hunt. It portrayed a western frontier that was rapidly disappearing but captured the public’s appetite for tales of daring and conquest–not unlike Buffalo’s 2015 hiring of Coach Rex Ryan, a tough-talking gunslinger type who led the New York Jets to the doorstep of the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2010. But wins have been scarce lately and some fans are calling for his head.

The natives are restless.

Meanwhile, the mood lightened considerably in the Valley of the Sun after Arizona dismantled Tampa Bay last week. The victory was partly spurred by Carson Palmer warming up in a Stay Puft marshmallow suit prior to the game. Really. Palmer had lost the team’s weekly quarterback competition, and the loser must take the field questionably dressed. Check out the video: http://foxs.pt/2cXsWJx.

Palmer’s exploits helped keep the team loose, but their improved performance was likely due to solid game-planning and execution. The Cardinals defense picked off Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston four times. Larry Fitzgerald had been the lone bright spot in the receiving corps in week one, and this time seven different receivers caught passes. And the offense didn’t turn the ball over. Since 1940, the only other time the Cardinals started the season with consecutive turnover-free games was 2008, the year the franchise reached the Super Bowl.

Arizona’s defense strives to be one of the league’s top units, and it was especially promising last week. Coach Bruce Arians had uncharacteristically called many of the defensive plays in week one, and the zone coverages he dialed up took the edge off the aggression the squad is known for. Arians stayed away from that side of the ball against Tampa Bay, and Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher returned to man coverage and called for blitzes 43% of the time, from all angles, leaving the Buccaneers flummoxed.

Arizona looks to corral Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor today, who threw for 297 yards and three TDs last week. Taylor may be scrambling to find viable targets this week though, with Sammy Watkins, Greg Salas and tight end Charles Shaw all questionable with injuries.

The Cardinals are healthier but are still missing some pieces, most notably right guard Evan Mathis, who is sitting out with turf toe and didn’t even make the trip to Buffalo. Mathis had played in pain against the Bucs Sunday and Carson Palmer noted that when he came in Monday morning, “his entire foot was purple.” Medical issues aside, I find the color purple unsettling, as it brings to mind unpleasant things such as Barney and eggplant. I suppose it’s the color of royalty though, which conjures images of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who at this moment may be holed up in her bedchamber in Buckingham Palace, Welsh Corgis lapping at the purple spider veins in her feet.

I’ve gone off the rails. Again.

SORTING SOCK DRAWERS

The following players will be unavailable Sunday, and may be otherwise engaged:
Buffalo:
Cordy Glenn, offensive tackle: ankle
Colt Anderson, safety: foot
Arizona:
Evan Mathis, guard: purple foot

The Cardinals’ task today is to overcome jet lag and a hostile Buffalo crowd. A loss would leave them with a 1-2 record, and raise fresh questions about a team with Super Bowl aspirations. A victory would keep them tied for the division lead and help their season-opening loss recede safely into memory.

– Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Bills at Patriots Review – Week 11

Rex Ryan and the Bills approached playing the Patriots the second time around much differently than they did in Week 2.

Buffalo and their outspoken coach were relatively silent over the course of the week, and the focus on the game showed on the field on Monday.

The Pats were held to just 20 points on Monday Night. Their lowest output of the season offensively.

Luckily, the defense stepped up and delivered another solid performance. Coupled with a few big misses by Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Let’s take a look at what went wrong offensively, and how the defense got the Pats to 10-0:

On Offense

Offensive Line: By now you have heard many a times how awful the Patriots offensive line was on Monday night. What’s worrisome about Monday night’s performance was the amount of pressures the O-Line gave up just by getting beat in one-on-one situations. The Bills deserve a lot of credit for disguising the rush and dialing up some different blitzes that had Tom Brady guessing on protections. It isn’t the offensive lines responsibility to read the defense and change the protection based on what they see, that’s on the quarterback. If the Patriots want to continue to be the high-powered offense that they have been thus far this season, they need a better effort from the group upfront. Marcus Cannon, in particular, had a rough performance in this one. In all, Brady was hit 13 times, just an unacceptable number for any quarterback.

Wide Receivers: When both Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola went down in Monday’s game, the broadcast quickly became about the lack of weapons around Tom Brady, especially at the wide receiver position. The O-Line was woeful, but it was also clear that the Patriots receivers weren’t getting any separation from the Bills defensive backs. Brady had to get rid of the ball quickly, and there just weren’t enough opportunities being made by his receivers down field. Having said that, with the news that Danny Amendola’s knee injury is minor, I still think they have enough pass catchers to get by. Gronk, Amendola, and LaFell should be enough for Tom Brady to move the offense.

Credit to Buffalo: The Patriots had their worst offensive performance of the season on Monday, and the biggest reason for that (yes, even bigger than injuries) was the gameplan and execution by the Bills defense. You have to tip your cap to Rex Ryan. He had about as good of a gameplan against this Patriots offense as you can draw up. It was obvious that the Bills liked their chances with their outside corners vs the Patriots WRs, and for good reason. The Bills devoted multiple defenders to Gronkowski when he lined up as an in-line tight end. When Gronk went outside, he mostly drew the Bills best CB Ronald Darby. The Bills also did a great job of disguising who was rushing the passer and who was dropping into coverage. It forced Brady and the O-Line to react to the Bills defense instead of diagnosing the play call pre-snap. If it wasn’t for a few busted coverages and Tom Brady’s efficiency against the blitz (7-10 for 128 yards, TD) the Patriots never would have put up 20 points. That’s about as good as you can play this Patriots offense.

On Defense

Run Defense: One of the keys to this game was if the Patriots defense could slow down the Bills rushing attack (ranked 2nd entering Week 11). The Pats held LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, and mobile QB Tyrod Taylor to just 94 yards on the ground. How did they do it? By two-gapping in the 3-4, setting the edge, and limiting the cutback lanes for Shady McCoy. McCoy is a tremendous running back, who likes to set up the defense for bigger runs by cutting back just when you think you have him stopped. The Pats defensive line deserves a lot of credit for holding up the Bills O-Line and playing discipline run defense.

Tyrod Taylor: In reality, the Bills lost this game because Tyrod Taylor couldn’t make the necessary throws to beat a team as good as the Pats. Taylor had good success throwing the deep ball in the first few games of the season, but has really regressed in that area as of late. Taylor was 4-9 for 107 yards on deep passes. The stats aren’t awful, but he under threw a number of open receivers, which cost the Bills at least a touchdown. He did connect on a few nice deep balls to WR Chris Hogan, and threw a nice pass to Shady McCoy that was broken up by Devin McCourty on a great play. Where this really hurts the Bills offense is its effect on second year receiver Sammy Watkins. Over the last two weeks, Watkins has been open deep a number of times and Taylor has flat out just missed the throw.

Jerod Mayo: There have been a lot of questions about Mayo’s role in this defense and his lack of playing time. This was one of Mayo’s best performances this season. Mayo played in just 16 defensive snaps, but recorded five tackles and one run stuff. The Pats have opted to play Jonathan Freeny over Mayo in Jamie Collins’ absence. The lack of snaps for Mayo has a lot to do with the team easing him back into games after suffering two significant injuries in the last two seasons. In an ideal world, Mayo would be the third linebacker on the depth chart behind Hightower and Collins.

Bills at Patriots – Week 11 Preview

Rex Ryan has made it very clear this week that he doesn’t like the Patriots, Patriots media, or Patriots fans.

Rex might be a little salty because he has dropped eight of the last nine contests against Bill Belichick, and has already conceded the 2015 division crown to the Pats.

The Bills, however, do have the right formula theoretically to take down the Patriots.

They have a solid defenses that hasn’t performed up to expectations based on the numbers, but is very talented on paper, and they lean heavily on a good running game offensively.

Let’s take a look at the keys to a Patriots victory Monday night:

On Offense

Get Receivers Open: This doesn’t sound like much of a problem typically for the Pats, but with Julian Edelman sidelined with a foot injury, and a very good Bills secondary, it could be. The Bills starting cornerback tandem of Stephone Gillmore and rookie sensation Ronald Darby has quickly become one of the best duos in the NFL. Darby is in serious consideration for the rookie defensive player of the year award, and a case can be made for him for overall DPOY. He has been that good in his first year with the Bills. The Bills will throw multiple defenders at Gronk on every play, and it will be up to Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, and Aaron Dobson to create separation from these talented Bills corners.

Protect Brady: Like always, this is a key to a Patriots victory every single week. Having said that, the Bills have a formidable front four that can get after the passer. The Patriots negated the Bills pass rush in Week 2 with the quick passing game, and one would expect them to use a similar formula this time around. The Bills D-Line hasn’t been as good as advertised this season. They have tallied just 14 sacks as a team, good for 29th in the NFL. However, they do have the hogs up front to get to Brady and blocking Hughes, Williams, and Dareus will be a tall task.

On Defense

Stop The Run: The Bills are one of the best teams in the NFL in terms of running the football. They rank second in yards per game (142.3), fourth in yards per rush (4.76), and run the ball on 48.3% of their offensive snaps (3rd-most). Last week against the Jets, they ran for 148 yards on 33 carries against the best run defense in the NFL. The Patriots will also be playing without linebacker Jamie Collins yet again this week (illness), which is a big blow to their run defense. Shady McCoy, when healthy, has played up to expectations for the Bills this season, and he looked like vintage Shady last Thursday night in the Meadowlands. McCoy is the best pure running back in the division, and his vision, quickness, and cut back ability make him extremely dangerous in the open field. Combine McCoy with rookie standout Karlos Williams, and you have as good of a duo as you will find in the NFL this season.

Keep Tyrod In The Pocket: When the Bills got themselves back into the game in Week 2, offensively a lot of it had to do with Tyrod Taylor using his legs to extend plays. It’s not necessarily the scrambles that killed the Pats, but just Tyrod’s movement in the pocket to give receivers down field some extra time to create separation. Taylor is an exceptional athlete and his running ability needs to be accounted for. Expect the Patriots to deploy a mush rush gameplan against the Bills QB, much like they used against Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl. The mush rush allows the Patriots defensive line to get after the passer, but is more about containing the QB inside the pocket instead of rushing up field for the sack.

Key On Watkins: It didn’t translate in the stat sheet due to a few drops and some missed throws by Tyrod, but Sammy Watkins gave Darrelle Revis a tough time last Thursday night. Revis is still one of the league’s top cover corners, but it was apparent that the young Watkins had a major advantage in terms of speed and quickness. Watkins was a big part of the Bills comeback in Week 2, and is now healthy after dealing with some injuries throughout the season. Malcolm Butler did a nice job on OBJ last week, and has another tough assignment in Watkins on Monday.

 

Takeaways From Pats Win Over Bills by Evan Lazar

For the eighth time in the Bill Belichick era the Patriots have started the season 2-0.

Their divisional tilt against the Bills was as emotional as expected. There was some chippy play from both sides, and a total of 25 penalties called.

Rex Ryan’s bunch was expectedly hyped to play the defending Super Bowl Champs at home.

Let’s take a look at some takeaways from the Patriots win after film review:

Patriots Use Multitude of Offensive Formations: It was hard to keep up with the Patriots formations and moving pieces on TV, so I can only imagine how difficult it is to diagnose as a defense. You wonder how and why on certain plays Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman find themselves so open? The answer, in part, is due to how many different looks the Patriots throw at the opposing defense. Gronk, Edelman, Amendola, Dobson, Chandler, and Lewis all saw the field a lot, and individually lined up in just about every spot possible. The Patriots expect a lot out of versatility out of their skilled position players, and they delivered this past week.

Offensive Line: The Bills played a lot of man coverage in the secondary, and mixed in 16 blitzes on 61 Brady drop-backs. Through the first two weeks of the season it is clear that the Patriots are emphasizing getting the ball out as quickly as possible, as Brady’s snap to throw numbers are off the charts. Having said that, this was another solid performance upfront as the Patriots threw 61 times and Brady was only pressured 12 times. The offensive line really held up well in pass protection, and on plays that needed that added second or two they stood tall. The unit is still short two starters yet they have delivered in back-to-back weeks.

Brady’s Big Day: It’s hard to ignore how good Tom Brady has been through the first two weeks of the season. It’s outrageous to talk about MVP candidates this early on, but the two-week MVP award would have to go to Brady, Rodgers, or Arizona QB Carson Palmer. Brady tore apart a defense that slowed down one of the best quarterbacks in 2014 last week, and his 466 passing yards were the 2nd-most in his historic career. Success comes from the top and trickles its way down. Belichick and the rest of the coaching staff set the tone, and then Brady leads the way. These first two weeks have illustrated just how great of an example Brady sets for his teammates. Minus a few misses on some deep balls, Brady has been perfect.

My favorite Brady throw of the day? The 22-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman. Brady gets the entire BUF defense to bite on play action, and barely gets the ball out to a wide-open Edelman, also a great run after the catch by JE:

Pass Rush: Believe it or not the Patriots now lead the NFL in sacks with 11. The Patriots 8 sacks on Sunday were the most by the team since 2003, and the pressure up front had Taylor looking around for room instead of downfield. After film review, there were a number of instances where Taylor missed open receivers, and it was often because of pressure in his face. 8 sacks on 21 pressures is very good production.

4th Quarter Play Calling: There has been some discussion about how the Patriots handled playing with the lead in the 4th quarter. It was surprising to see them continue to throw despite a sizeable lead, and that might have cost them a bit in the Bills comeback attempt. On their first drive in the quarter, the Patriots passed on all eight plays before turning the ball over on downs. On the next drive they ran just two plays, both passes, before Brady was stripped sacked by Jerry Hughes. Between the two drives the Patriots only chewed up four minutes of clock, giving the Bills a decisive advantage in terms of plays ran in the 4th quarter. It’s entirely possible that the Patriots were just so confident in their short passing game that they figured a short completion was the same as a run play, but it’s also possible that they were trying to run up the score a bit on the Bills. The aggressive play calling that led to the turnover on downs and a fumble nearly cost them the game.

4th Quarter Defense: Along with some missteps in the secondary that are to be expected, there were some errors up front during the Bills comeback try. The biggest difference between the Patriots solid defense through the first 3 quarters, and the 4th quarter was how the front 7 handled quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is an exceptional athlete, and is going to find some running lanes from time to time, but on some key plays down the stretch he bought his receivers time with his legs. What makes mobile quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Taylor so difficult to defend isn’t when they take off running downfield, but when they move around to buy time for their receivers to shake the coverage. The Patriots did a decent job of keeping Taylor in the pocket for much of the game, but failed to do so on the three late touchdown drives by the Bills. On the touchdown pass to Robert Woods, Taylor avoided the rush nicely to his right buying time for Woods to find an opening in the zone, and on an even better play, found Percy Harvin for a big chunk after escaping to his left on the following series. Taylor started to find his groove as the game went on.

Missed Opportunities: Despite putting up 40 points and over 500 yards of total offense, the Patriots still left some points on the field. 40 is a lot, but they very easily could have been in the 50’s with a little bit better execution. One throw in particular that stood out was Brady overthrowing Edelman on 4th and short late in the game. Edelman clearly had a step and a good throw would have been 6, and would have sealed the victory. Against a great defense you will be more than happy with this offensive output, but it still wasn’t perfect.