Bills spill through Birds

Posted: October 09, 2011

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - When Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't beating the Eagles with screen passes yesterday, he was hitting them over the head with shovels. With the Eagles' "wide nine" defensive alignments and hell-for-leather approach of rushing the passer, the Bills used the defense's aggression against them, and the results were devastating.

"[The shovel pass] was something we wanted to take advantage of with them bringing that wide nine," said Bills running back Fred Jackson, who ran 26 times for 111 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 85 yards in Buffalo's 31-24 win over the Eagles.

"Again, hats off to our coaches' scouting. They see things like that. We haven't run the shovel pass all year and we put it in there so we really worked on it. It was something that we thought we could take advantage of."

And the screens?

"Again, wide nines," Jackson said. "They like to get upfield and we knew as long as we could get that nine [the widest defensive end] upfield, we could get under him and be able to spring off it."

It is a technique as old as the game, using screen passes and draw plays and the like to try to slow down a defense. Burn a defense enough and it becomes more cautious - except for the Eagles, it seems. They don't slow down. The pass rushers rarely seem to be either cautious or worried about what might be happening behind them.

It has become one of the stories of this so-far disastrous season, this wide-nine business. And while this was the first game where they were annihilated by screens and shovels, they have been run on each and every week - and people cannot help but wonder if this new alignment is completely exposing the linebackers and safeties against the run.

For the fifth straight week, they were gashed on the ground. In total, the Bills ran for 143 yards on 35 carries. After the game, coach Chan Gailey said, "That's where [the Eagles] had been vulnerable, running up inside. We felt like we would be able to do that, but you've got to go do it, too. And our guys played physical up front today."

Or, as Bills wideout Stevie Johnson said, "I mean, who didn't know we were going to run the ball? They've been exposed in the run game the entire season . . . "

Ouch.

Out of the mouths of opponents full of themselves, and full of victory, oft times come gems. And truths. And while the Eagles' pass rush scheme is supposed to create game-changing pressure, well, sometimes you get the mayhem and sometimes the mayhem gets you. Sometimes it gets you like a shovel in the face.

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