Photo: USA Today Sports

Bills burned by big pass plays far too often already this season

November 10, 2016 - 6:23 pm

By Sal Capaccio

Twitter @Salports

One of the issues the Bills will certainly have to clean up in their final seven games, if they want to have any chance of winning enough of them to at least fight for a playoff spot, is cutting down on the number of big plays they’ve given up through the air on defense.

Even though Rex Ryan’s defense is currently ranked 13th overall in yards per game given up, and 13th in passing yards per game allowed, they have the second-highest yards per attempt against in the entire NFL, allowing 8.3 yards per pass.

But it’s the high number of big plays that have gone over top of defenders' heads that’s troubling for the Bills and their fans.  Through their first nine games, the defense has allowed seven passes of 50-yards or more.  That’s tied for the most in the league with the Oakland Raiders, whose defense is near the bottom of the NFL in most passing stats.  

Of those seven passes of 50-yards or more, four have taken place over the past three games.  Or in other words, all after Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry ended safety Aaron Williams’ season, and possibly his career.  It’s clear the Bills miss Williams’ range, but more importantly his IQ in the middle of the secondary.

Here’s a look at all the 50-yards-or-more pass plays the Bills defense has given up this season:


Compare this to last year when despite having the 19th ranked pass defense overall, and also losing Williams for most of the season, the Bills defense gave up only three passes of 50-plus yards.  And one of those was actually to a running back who broke a tackle just beyond the line of scrimmage.  

That’s not the case this season where all of these big plays have gone over the top of DBs to wide receivers or tight ends.  To put into context, here are some numbers from past years:

2014 - Four passes of 50-plus yards.

2013 - Six all season.

2012 - One pass given up.  Just one.

Even in 2011, a season the Bills had one of their worst defenses during their sixteen year playoff drought, they gave up a total seven passes of 50-yards or more, the same as this season so far.

But all of those numbers are for a full 16-game season.

Going back through the entire drought, since the team's last playoff appearance in 1999, this season they have already given up more of these deep passes than any of those others (except the aforementioned 2011, which has the same total.  The next one will pass it).

This year, more passes of half the football field have already gone against the Bills in just over half their games played.  You can bet their future opponents have taken notice and will continue to attack them with big passes until their defense proves it can stop it.

And with the Bengals AJ Green, Steelers Antonio Brown, Raiders Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and talented young wideouts for the Jaguars still ahead on the schedule, if the Bills want to maintain any chance at all of making a run at a playoff spot, they better find a way to keep footballs from flying over the top of them, quickly. 


Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

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