Inside The Bills

How the Bills dictated play to Watt

Posted by Chris Brown on December 7, 2015 – 10:43 am

Too many times in his career Houston DE J.J. Watt has taken over games. He did it last season against the Bills in Week 4 when he racked up nine quarterback hits, five tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. Buffalo was not going to be put on their heels Sunday. Here’s how they dictated play to Watt to neutralize him.

1 – Run away
The Bills established their run game early by effectively setting the edge allowing their quick and elusive backs in LeSean McCoy and practice squad call-up Mike Gillislee to get outside and face one-on-one situations. They also made a point of running away from Watt, and even in doing so had him blocked up to prevent his trademark backside pursuit.

“They are a good defense,” said McCoy. “Lately they have been playing well together, so that was just the main key. Kind of run the ball, get some one on one opportunities. The guys in the back field, the line up front lately has really just been putting it down, they really have.”

2 – Using Watt’s motor against him
Watt is revered not only for his rare God-given talent, but his non-stop motor. But Buffalo at times used his desire to get upfield quickly against him. Instead of trying to beat Watt to a spot in Buffalo’s offensive backfield they had RT Jordan Mills and their tight ends on occasion give Watt the outside rush lane and ran their backs underneath him. They then had the tackle or tight end simply position himself to wall off Watt as he tried to loop back behind the play to get involved. Essentially Buffalo’s tackles and tight ends just had to get in his way for a second or two before the back or Tyrod Taylor got out of harm’s way.

“We had to slide to him, or just getting hands on him,” said RT Jordan Mills. “Trying to change his pass rush. If he gets a straight line, bee-line to the quarterback, you’re never going to stop him. Just changing up techniques, giving him different looks that he hasn’t seen before, and having Wood or Urbik come and have the inside, just in case, they were right there.  It was the whole offensive line that did a great job against him.”

3 – 2nd line of defense
Buffalo also employed a second line of defense against Watt. There were times that the Bills left a lineman in a one-on-one situation with Watt, but there was always a second linemen, back or tight end in position to help should Watt win the matchup quickly and threaten the pocket.

“He garnered a lot of our attention,” said Eric Wood. “We knew where he was each play. When it comes down to it, guys have got to win matchups.  Especially that right side, I think they did a good job of that.”

4 – Not much air
The Bills run game and an early lead allowed them to largely rely on short passes as the ground attack did a good job of keeping them in short down and distance. And the times when they did go deep Buffalo went with max protection.

“I face double-teams, triple-teams every single week so, it’s nothing new,” said Watt. “They didn’t throw the ball a whole a lot, and did a great job running the ball. They had a good scheme coming in. Their right guard and right tackle are out. They’re not just going to leave you go on those guys. I think they did a good job on that.”
The Bills could tell after a while that Watt was getting frustrated as he did not have much of an impact on the game at all. Even the one sack he did have got nullified by offsetting penalties. McCoy knows how it feels when an opponent keys on you and slows you down.

“We just hit him, that was the key,” said McCoy of the plan for Watt. “We knew where he was going to be at. To his credit man we kind of game planned for him. As you should, a guy like that who has been dominating. They get frustrated, I can tell at times he is frustrated. I know the feeling, used to making plays and you’re not making them. The team is kind of taking you out of it, so you kind of get pissed off a little bit. But the guys up front just really put their pads on him. Every single play, pass or run. Just having that conscious effort of knowing where he is at to hit him.”

Watt’s stat line Sunday was four tackles, one for loss, zero sacks, zero quarterback hits.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Knowing where Watt is

Posted by Chris Brown on December 6, 2015 – 10:08 am

The Bills have a big task in front of them in the form of reigning Defensive Player of the Year and current AFC Defensive Player of the month for November, J.J. Watt. With free reign to line up anywhere across the Texans defensive formation everyone will need to be aware of where he chooses to line up pre-snap. TE Matthew Mulligan, who will probably be offering the offensive tackles help in pass protection and probably run blocking, knows what they’re up against.

“You’re going to feel his presence wherever he is on the field,” said Mulligan. “He’s a tremendous player. He’s savvy too. He’s not just a guy who will beat you with just brute force. He’s a guy who understands the game really well too and you can watch that. You’ve got to be fundamentally sound, everybody has to be on their ‘A’ game and you’ve got to know your assignments too. The second you have to start thinking against a guy like that is the second you get behind and then he’s making plays like he’s done his whole career.

“That’s where practice comes in and you continue to work with your guys. Like it is every week, it’ll take a team effort to play a defense that good and a player of his caliber.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Texans ‘D’ keeps shorter QBs in pocket

Posted by Chris Brown on December 6, 2015 – 9:03 am

They’ve done it more than once this season and with great success. When facing a quarterback that is not of prototype height, Houston’s defense forces the opposing signal caller to stay in the pocket and make throws from there. Shorter QBs sometimes do not have as clear a view downfield when forced to stay in the pocket unless a passing lane opens up, and with the way the Texans can collapse the pocket it makes it supremely difficult to string positive plays together.

Just ask Drew Brees. At six-feet tall, Brees often rolls out or manipulates the pocket with his feet to target receivers downfield. Last week, as we covered in our scouting report, the Texans did not allow him to do that. The result was a passing day in which Brees, a career 66 percent completion passer, managed to connect on just under 57 percent of his passes. He also was held without a touchdown pass for the first time in 45 games and threw an interception.

Tyrod Taylor at just 6-1 has seen that from opposing defenses already this season (see: New England – Week 2, NY Giants – Week 4), and is pretty much expecting much of the same Sunday.

“We’ve seen that several times this year and they did a great job doing that,” said Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman of Houston’s approach last week against Brees. “There’s a lot of different ways you can handle that, deal with that. And it starts with blocking guys. You don’t want guys to get all that push to the pocket; you want to set a great apex to the pocket. And there’s other things you can do as well.  They do a great job pushing the pocket, disrupting the pocket, not just from a sack standpoint.  If you look at Watt, he impacts the game as much on his QB hurries, how he attracts double teams, how he takes numbers away from the offense and frees up his teammates.  He’s definitely that kind of a guy, a force multiplier for his teammates.”

Whether the Bills men up front can consistently give Taylor room to operate in the pocket or create a throwing lane for him to work from the pocket will be easier said than done with as well as Houston has been able to corral opposing QBs.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Texans mix up personnel groupings a lot

Posted by Chris Brown on December 5, 2015 – 10:40 am

The Houston Texans have made use of a large number of personnel groupings on their current winning streak. They had 12 different groupings against the Jets and another nine against the Saints, both victories. Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said they’re not going to get too wrapped up in all the different packages Houston can throw out on the field.

“We try not to get caught up in that,” said Thurman. “We always say they only have five eligibles. You gotta go cover whoever’s eligible, the guys who throw the football, whether they’re a runner or receiver. You have to deal with them. You can’t get caught up in who they are.  A lot of times who they are doesn’t necessarily mean what they’re doing, because they can do the same thing. Just change up their personnel grouping.”

Cecil Shorts has been used in a number of ways by the Texans. He’s taken direct snaps in their Wildcat package, he’s thrown flea flickers for touchdowns and last week took a shovel pass while in motion and scored a touchdown.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Karlos, Bradham, Miller out for Sunday

Posted by Chris Brown on December 4, 2015 – 12:27 pm

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The Bills will be without three starters and a key running back Sunday against the Texans. Karlos Williams, Nigel Bradham and John Miller are all out for Sunday’s game and Seantrel Henderson is doubtful, meaning that Jordan Mills will likely start at right tackle Sunday.

Buffalo is also going to call up RB Mike Gillislee from the practice squad. With Williams down the Bills have just two healthy running backs in LeSean McCoy and Boobie Dixon. That move will have to be made before 4 pm on Saturday.

Mario Williams is probable.

RB Karlos Williams – shoulder
LB Nigel Bradham – ankle
G John Miller – ankle

OT Seantrel Henderson – illness

DE Mario Williams – foot
WR Marcus Easley – concussion
S Bacarri Rambo – knee
QB Tyrod Taylor – rt. shoulder
OT Cordy Glenn – back

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Texans not concerned with playoff picture

Posted by Chris Brown on December 1, 2015 – 8:36 am

The Houston Texans have won four in a row and are sitting in a good spot with respect to the AFC Wild Card race and are in position to overtake division rival Indianapolis to contend for the AFC South title. But Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said they have only one focus and it’s not the playoff race. It’s the Bills.

“The playoffs don’t start today,” said O’Brien. “The playoffs start in six weeks. I mean, we’re not even – these guys, I believe that they’re very focused. When they come into work on Wednesday, I would say that the majority of them will already have studied the first and second down Buffalo offense, defense, and then if they’re a core special teams guy for us, they will have already watched film on Buffalo’s special teams. Our guys are focused. That’s the way it has to be. Playoffs, this, that, the other, I mean, there’s nothing that we can do about that now other than focusing on Buffalo.”

Some Houston media have openly wondered if the Texans are looking ahead to their Week 14 matchup with the New England Patriots, and overlook the Bills. O’Brien said nothing could be further from the truth.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

WR Hopkins gives Bills ‘D’ praise

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 11:56 pm

The Bills defense put together a pretty good day in Sunday’s loss, giving up only 16 points on the road, logging three takeaways and stuffing Houston’s fifth-ranked rushing attack. It was enough to earn praise from Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins.

“Coming into the game we knew that they are a tough defense,” Hopkins said. “They don’t get the credit that they deserve. They have a lot of great talent there. They do a great job of hustling to the ball. They have a lot of great players on the defense. You can’t take too much from their defense. They did a great job of shutting down the run game. Players made plays, this is the NFL. They came out and they had a mission to stop the run and that’s what they did.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

For Bills’ offense 2nd down is key

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 11:15 am

Through the first three games this season the Texans’ defense has been outstanding on third down. Their unit ranks first in the league in third down conversion percentage allowed with opponents moving the sticks just over 27 percent of the time (27.3). Buffalo’s offense has ranked just 24th in third down conversion percentage (36.6%), which is why against Houston the Bills should do their best to convert a down earlier.

Converting a first down on second down is obviously a bit tougher if you haven’t set up a medium or short distance situation, but against the Texans that may not be a problem.

On first down Houston’s defense gives up four yards or more an astounding 61.7 percent of the time, more often than any defense in the league. Opponents are gaining an AVERAGE of 5.9 yards on first down against the Texans.

That leads to a lot of favorable down and distance situations on second down. That’s also a big reason why the Texans’ defense is last in the league when it comes to allowing conversions on second down. Houston is letting opposing offenses move the sticks on SECOND down 42 percent of the time (41.9%).

The Texans’ surrendering of conversions on second down is 15 percent higher than on third down, so Buffalo’s offense wants to stay close to Houston’s average given up on first down (5.9) to set up a good chance for second down conversions instead of even getting to third down.

And running the ball on second down would be perfectly fine if the Bills are in anything that’s 2nd-and-6 or less because Houston is giving up a difficult to believe 6.84 yards on second down, which ranks 30th in the NFL.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Will size matter?

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 10:55 am

The first two games of the season the Bills offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and it helped lead to a pair of victories. Last week the men up front could not reset the line of scrimmage downfield against San Diego and it played a part in their 12-point loss in Week 3. Today against the Texans the Bills have a decided advantage in size up front when it comes to size, but will it make a difference?

The Texans defensive line (and Jack LB) average 290.75 pounds per man. That’s almost 30 pounds a man they’re giving up to the Bills offensive line, which averages 329 pounds. That should help Buffalo’s desires to establish the ground game with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and perhaps Boobie Dixon as well.

Houston is ranked 25th against the run, and they’ve been working on their run fits all week in an effort to correct some of their problems. They also signed veteran NT Ryan Pickett who goes a hefty 340 pounds himself.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills want Fitz to hit magic number of 25

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 10:30 am

Bills fans have seen enough of Ryan Fitzpatrick to know that if too much of the burden to win is put on his shoulders it generally doesn’t lead to positive results. That same trend has continued with his new team in Houston.

Last week with the Texans down 14-0 at the half had to throw more to climb back into the game, and though Fitzpatrick had a pretty solid second half, he crossed a dreaded pass attempt threshold that has not been kind to him.

In his 10-year NFL career when Fitzpatrick throws more than 25 pass attempts he is 18-45-1 as a starter. When he throws 25 or less he’s 12-6.

When he attempts 30 or more passes his winning percentage drops even further (9-37 record – win pct. 19.5%).

According to in conjunction with Advanced Football Analytics, the Texans are averaging one interception for every 25 drop backs.

So it would behoove the Bills to really stuff Houston’s run game and put more of the game on Fitz’s shoulders knowing if he reaches the 25-pass attempt threshold the odds are in Buffalo’s favor to not only get an interception along the way, but a victory as well.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Houston has up tempo card to play

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 8:47 am

After last week’s inability to mount a comeback in their loss to the Chargers, Bills fans are wondering about Buffalo’s formula for winning games. The Texans have much the same approach to winning as the Bills, but last week they too could not come back from a 14-point halftime deficit losing 30-17 to the Giants. However, they did unveil a pretty effective part of their offense that they’re likely to make use of again.

The Texans rolled up a team record 328 yards in the second half against the Giants, but they only outscored New York over the final two quarters by a point (17-16) in what became a 13-point loss.

What led to all that yardage was Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien choosing to go to a no-huddle offense. As soon as he did Ryan Fitzpatrick staged a pair of scoring drives on back-to-back possessions. The problem was he didn’t turn to it until the fourth quarter.

In the second half, Fitzpatrick played well, going 16-of-21 passing for 250 yards and a touchdown as well as running for a touchdown.

If Buffalo does get ahead of Houston in this one the Texans may pull that card out of their hand a bit sooner Sunday.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Should Bills blitz Fitz?

Posted by Chris Brown on September 27, 2014 – 5:40 pm

Ryan Fitzpatrick is a quarterback who has always gotten the ball out quick, which is why he is a very difficult quarterback to sack even when under heavy pressure or facing a blitz. Buffalo has already faced two such quarterbacks in Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers, who deliver the ball quickly negating any aggressive attempt to take the QB down. So the question is do the Bills blitz Fitzpatrick?

Fitzpatrick has only been sacked twice in three games so far this season, which is a typical low number for the former Bills QB. However, blitzing Fitzpatrick has been effective in negatively affecting his passing game.

Fitzpatrick and the Texans rank 25th in the league in blitz passing situations. When facing the blitz Fitzpatrick’s passer rating drops from 91.8 to 68.9.

So while sacks may not be the end result when it comes to blitzing Fitzpatrick, there is evidence that blitzing to force hurried throws can be an effective approach against Fitz too. The key as Kyle Williams sees it is putting the Texans in longer down and distance on third down.

“He knows for the most part what the defense is trying to do and he can get rid of the ball,” said Williams of Fitzpatrick. “We’ve already seen that in two of our games this year with Chicago and San Diego. Veteran quarterbacks that know where they’re going with the ball and they get rid of it quickly. We have to win on first and second down and keep them behind the chains and make him hold the ball a little longer.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Do similar offensive approaches mean much?

Posted by Chris Brown on September 27, 2014 – 10:23 am

With a pair of head coaches for Sunday’s game between the Bills and Texans, whose offensive philosophies mirror each other in many ways, one might wonder if Doug Marrone and Bill O’Brien are filling in their defensive coordinators on how to prepare for the Houston and Buffalo offense. asked coach Marrone that very question in our weekly ‘Coffee with the Coach’ segment presented by Tim Horton’s. As Marrone sees it the similarities won’t have either defense any more prepared than usual.

“No, I think obviously you see it on film,” said Marrone. “I think our philosophies are similar, but around the league a lot of those philosophies exist. We’re trying to establish the run first, picking the matchups and deciding what we want to do. You do that week to week. We’re excited about it and it’ll be a great challenge. We know that they have a very good staff and they have good players and we feel the same way about our team. It’ll be a good game for us.”

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Goodwin, C. Williams doubtful

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2014 – 1:23 pm







The Bills Friday injury report officially declared WR Marcus Easley and LB Randell Johnson out of Sunday’s game at Houston. Doubtful is LG Chris Williams, so rookie Cyril Richardson is expected to make his first NFL start Sunday. WR Marquise Goodwin is also doubtful and it has been confirmed that he sustained a concussion.

Here’s the full injury report for Sunday.

Player Pos Injury Participation Friday Game Status
Marcus Easley WR Knee DNP OUT
Randell Johnson LB Knee DNP OUT
Chris Williams G Back DNP DOUBTFUL
Marquise Goodwin WR Concussion DNP DOUBTFUL
Ron Brooks CB Illness DNP PROBABLE
Keith Rivers LB Groin LP PROBABLE
Da’Norris Searcy S Ankle LP PROBABLE
Sammy Watkins WR Ribs FP PROBABLE
Robert Woods WR Ankle FP PROBABLE
EJ Manuel QB Abdomen FP PROBABLE

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Texans’ ‘D’ wary of Bills team speed

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2014 – 9:37 am

Houston safety D.J. Swearinger said it earlier in the week and no one in the Texans’ locker room or on their coaching staff is denying Swearinger’s statement that the Bills have the fastest collection of skill players on offense in the league.

Texans’ defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel felt his safety’s statement about Buffalo’s skill position speed was pretty accurate.

“Well, speed is always dangerous,” Crennel said. “They’ve got a lot guys that run fast and play fast. When you are not able to match the speed, then you have to make sure you’re in position, use your leverage and use the proper techniques so that you can make a play. And then generally if you can keep it from being a one-on-one game with speed and then use more than one guy to help contain the speed, then you give yourself a chance.”

“They’re fast. They’re fast across the board,” said Houston head coach Bill O’Brien. “Obviously (Sammy) Watkins is fast. C.J. (Spiller) is fast. Fred Jackson is fast. (Robert) Woods is fast. I would agree with D.J. there. I haven’t seen all the teams yet. Maybe he has. He might know better than me. They’re one of the faster teams that’s for sure. I don’t think there is any slow teams in this league though.”

“You have to be pretty aware of it because they have players,” said Texans’ OLB Whitney Mercilus. “C.J. Spiller, also you’ve got Sammy Watkins, so the thing is you’ve got to be very attentive to some of those guys and all that.”




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Posted in Inside the Bills

Texans RB Foster to be game time decision

Posted by Chris Brown on September 25, 2014 – 4:42 pm

Texans RB Arian Foster has been practicing this week on a limited basis after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury. Houston head coach Bill O’Brien said that his feature back will be a game time decision along with the team’s punter Shane Lechler.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Mario not worried about Houston reception

Posted by Chris Brown on September 24, 2014 – 4:47 pm

He played the first half of his career in Houston and was the Texans number one pick in 2005. Mario Williams is now returning to Houston for the second time as a Bills player. His first was in 2012. But if you ask him how he thinks he’ll be received by the Texans’ fans it’s not something he’s concerned about.

“I don’t know. I don’t really care,” said Williams. “I don’t understand why that’s even a topic of discussion. I’m playing football man. At the end of the day the guy on the other side of the ball on Sunday is what I’m worried about. I’m not worried about it. No.”

In his first meeting against the Texans, Williams had seven tackles including a sack.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Gailey defends pass game

Posted by Chris Brown on November 5, 2012 – 2:02 pm

Bills head coach Chan Gailey has been asked a lot about the perceived lack of a deep passing game in Buffalo’s offense. In his weekly appearance on Bills flagship WGR Sportsradio 550 Gailey defended their approach in the passing game.

Gailey was asked if his play calling choices are hampered to the point where he’s calling a game different because they can’t throw downfield.

“No, not at all,” said Gailey. “Do you know how often Houston threw the ball down the field yesterday? Two times. The same as us. The key is consistency and completing and putting the ball in the end zone when you get down there. That’s the key to the whole thing. It’s not how many times you throw the ball down the field. It’s whether or not you’re completing the balls you’re throwing and then can you run after catch sometimes and make plays that way. Very few people throw it down the field bombs away like Daryle Lamonica. The just doesn’t happen anymore.”

The Bills currently rank 27th in yards per pass play (10.6).

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Can’t knock the run ‘D’ in this one

Posted by Chris Brown on November 5, 2012 – 9:08 am

Arian Foster got off to a solid start against the Bills with 62 yards on his first seven carries, but he only had one big carry for 21 yards. What’s more come the second half Buffalo’s run defense clamped down on him forcing the Texans to beat them in other ways.

In the third quarter Buffalo’s defense held Foster to 16 yards on eight carries, and through the Texans final touchdown drive he actually lost yardage to total just 15 yards on 11 second half carries to that point.

“I definitely think we made some progress as far as that goes on our run defense and other aspects of the game, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” said Nick Barnett. “We’ve got to get up field and cause some turnovers and make a play on the long ball. We didn’t. We let a couple of little sneak boots come out of there on throwbacks and we have to be more technique-sound on that.”

Foster finished with 111 yards on 24 carries, but got a lot of garbage yards at the end when Houston was trying to kill clock and shorten the game. For more on Buffalo’s improved run defense check out John Murphy’s Bills Focus package in the Media Center on

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Mario turns it up

Posted by Chris Brown on November 4, 2012 – 11:07 pm

It didn’t come in a winning effort, but there was no denying that Mario Williams had his most complete game in a Bills uniform on Sunday.

Ironically, it came in a stadium where he had played home games for the previous six seasons. Nonetheless Williams was far more active than he had been in any other game this season registering a team leading seven tackles including a pair for loss, a sack and a quarterback hit.

For more on Williams game and what he thought about it check out Kyle Zamiara’s story on Mario’s performance on the home page of Monday morning.

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