Here are 3 defensive keys to a 49ers victory over Buffalo on Sunday:
1) Contain CJ Spiller - The versatile running back is an explosive weapon for the Bills as both a runner and receiver. Through 3 1/4 games (he injured his shoulder late in the 1st quarter of their week 3 win in Cleveland) Spiller has accounted for 460 total yards on 50 touches. More impressive is that he has averaged 8.3 yards per rushing attempt. The 49ers may be catching him at an opportune time however, as he was limited to only 38 yards combined last week in the Bills loss to New England. If Spiller is not at full speed the 49er defense should be able to feast on Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice, neither of whom has the explosive playmaking abilities of Spiller.
2) Disrupt Ryan Fitzpatrick - On the season Fitzpatrick is 72-125 (57.6%), 931 yards, 12 TD, 7 int. The key to defeating Fitzpatrick is to pressure him, especially up the middle. Fitzpatrick is not particularly strong in the pocket and often will throw off his back foot when pressured up the middle. Though his overall numbers are decent, his 7 interceptions have come in the 2 Bills losses when he had 3 against the Jets and 4 last week against New England.
The key to the pressure is making sure that they maintain pass rush lane integrity. For the second time in 3 weeks they will be facing a QB who has the ability to make plays with his feet. Fitzpatrick has shown the ability to escape from the pocket and pick up yards with his legs. The good thing for the defense is that unlike Christian Ponder, Fitzpatrick is not much of a threat to throw while on the run.
3) Knock them off balance - Through the first quarter of the season the Bills have shown a great deal of balance among their receiving corps. Their top 3 receivers are all within 3 catches of each other:
- Steve Johnson - 15 receptions (36 targets)
- Donald Jones - 13 receptions (19 targets)
- Scott Chandler - 12 receptions (23 targets)
It will be vital for the back half of the 49er defense to play solid across the board to contain the Bills passing game. I will go over how the 49ers can accomplish this in a new piece coming soon.