It’s Week 3, and the Buffalo Bills are set to tackle to Washington Commanders on the road. Coming off a Week 2 drubbing of the Las Vegas Raiders, the bar is once again high. Josh Allen’s stellar performance needs an encore, as does the defense as it faces a familiar foe.
The Commanders are capable and consistent offensively; QB Sam Howell is playing great football to start Eric Bieniemy’s tenure. Whilst perfectly acceptable at moving the ball, Washington’s strength on offense isn’t hidden in their yardage. Their ability to place the ball where it needs to be, and play the medium game consistently, is their boon.
Defensively, they haven’t faced a difficult opponent, but still allowed 33 points to be scored by the Denver Broncos a week ago. They’re pretty good against the pass and average against the run, but the two-week sample size doesn’t lend us much information.
Keys To Victory
Like much of the field, the new season brings great change for Washington. Unlike the field, however, Washington actually look to be newly-competent as a result. There are many ways to peel an eel, but some methods work best. Let’s take a look at our toolkit with your 3 Keys To Victory.
Key 1 – The Broken Record Of QB Pressure
For the third consecutive week, QB pressure is at the top of our to-do list. It’s generic, but we can’t help but hammer the point home.
Sam Howell is the third-most sacked QB in the NFL. He’s having a good season, but he can’t stay upright and deserves some blame for that. You may ask why, and the answer is simple. He doesn’t face an above average amount of pressure, but a whopping 35.7% of pressures (per PFF) lead to a sack.
An efficient Buffalo Bills pass-rush can prevent the passing game getting off the ground. If Sam Howell isn’t able to move the ball quickly, he may end up costing Washington plenty of yardage and many downs. We may not want to sacrifice much coverage over the middle, but by sprinkling in some corner and safety blitzes we can keep things tight down field whilst forcing Howell to think with his feet.
Buffalo rarely blitzes. They didn’t send extra men often during Leslie Frazier’s tenure, and the statement remains true in his absence. This season they’ve blitzed third-least in the league, at a rate of only 11.8%.
Key 2 – The Chip And Run
How do we beat this Washington Commanders defense? They seem largely unremarkable, but there are players to be wary of. At DT, Daron Payne made it known he was in for a big season, with Chase Young and Jonathan Allen alongside him. This unit is going to attack the right side of the Bills offensive line. We’ll need big games again from RT Spencer Brown and RG O’Cyrus Torrence to counter this.
“This week will be big test for our offensive linemen. They’ve got a very talented – bunch of high draft picks along their defensive front there.”Sean McDermott, Monday Press Conference
How do we help Brown, who struggled in pass protection, and Torrence, who is a rookie? Simple. Lean into the chip-and-run that Buffalo’s offense implemented so well against Maxx Crosby of the Raiders. The right side of the line played their best game in a long time a week ago, due in part to the assistance provided by Dawson Knox, Dalton Kincaid, and our bevy of running backs. Knox missed some practice with a back injury, but it healthy for Sunday. With a healthy slate of players again, Buffalo is fully armed to buy Josh Allen time by consistently having the tight ends assist on blocks before bleeding into the short passing game.
Key 3 – Stop The Enemy, Bieniemy
The Buffalo Bills defense is all-too familiar with the work of the Washington Commanders Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Formerly the man behind the curtain in Kansas City, he’s crafted something exciting this season at his new gig. Washington is scoring a whopping 27.5 ppg thus far, good for 7th best in the NFL. It’s a sharp jump from the lowly 18.9 ppg they posted a season ago. Few units have given Buffalo the trouble that Bieniemy’s offense has, and remedying that will be a priority for Sean McDermott.
Part of what made KC so backbreaking to deal with was their ability to get those chunk plays when they needed them. They keep defenses on the back foot. It’s true in Washington also, as they’ve gone from giving the league-fewest explosive plays over the last six seasons to being one of the best at generating those plays so far this year. Per TruMedia, rushes of 12+ yards and passes of 16+ yards are considered ‘explosive’, and thriving in that mid-range is what’s keeping the Washington Commanders on track.
To Stop It
Shutting that down and forcing them to consistently play underneath will work to our advantage this week. Clogging the midfield and making them run the ball outside, moving laterally instead of horizontally, is a sticking point. In pass coverage, keeping our linebackers back and over the middle will force Sam Howell into tougher throws down the sidelines, with a lower completion rate. Potentially poor weather may be in our favour on this point.
The Commanders’ screen game will inevitably be their response. Staying aware of this and fluid in coverage will keep the Bills defense from being stripped for huge gains.
Key Player Of The Week: Jordan Poyer
Join us every week this season as Iestyn Harris breaks down how the Buffalo Bills can beat our opposition!
Featured Image Credit: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports