You have heard of the chess game that is an NFL matchup. The defensive coaches come up with a plan, usually to try to take away a strength of the opponent,. But when they do that, they know the leave themselves exposed to another threat. Then on offense, the coaches have to determine how much they let the defensive plan dictate to them and how they will adjust. Sunday in Houston Wade Phillips made a decision to stop the Bills one strength, the run game, and the Bills were unable to adjust or unwilling to force the issue. They dared Buffalo, to the point of total disrespect of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing game, and the results were obvious. The Bills could not pass, they could not run and they could not hide. They were exposed again as being a JV offense in a varsity league.
Part of the basic offensive philosophy of Chan Gailey of the Bills has been to go to the three and four wide receiver sets and still run the football. The idea is to spread the defense out, force them into bringing in extra defensive backs and then gouge them with the running game of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. In Houston, Wade Phillips looked at what the Bills were sending out wide (Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones and TJ Graham) and decided they weren't worth the effort. The Texans kept the extra linebacker in the game, played the run, moved the corners up in man coverage without a deep ball threat and took away that part of the Bills offense. At that point Gailey had three options. First he could adjust the plan, put the ball in Fitzpatrick's hands and throw underneath (we saw how that worked). He could have tried to take some shots down the field against single coverage (just one problem, his QB can't throw those passes) or he could have forced the issue and kept pounding CJ and Fred and hoped to break a long one. He chose plan A and the result was a 3 field goal output and zero ability to come from behind when the deficit was more than one score.
I don't pretend to know enough of all of the elements that go into game planning in the NFL. It is disrespectful of the process to disregard the hours of film study that all the coaches do during the week leading up to a game and just think yelling "throw it deep" or "run the ball" means anything. But when I hear Gailey say that they were surprised, I am startled . Chan said "Some weeks they take things away from you that you don't think they're going to do. But they did. They surprised us with a defense we hadn't seen much." Those comments are alarming is so many ways. It's an admission by Gailey that either they were out coached or that they are unwilling to dictate their game plan or that they don't have a quarterback who can't take advantage of an obvious pass friendly defense. It's likely that the comments are a combination of those three elements which does not inspire a great deal of confidence for the fans.
Buddy Nix came out this week and said this team needs to have a franchise quarterback and he says he will get one for it before he's done as the GM. That might be too little, way too late for Gailey. No matter what Buddy says about his coach returning next year, it will be a tough sell to keep the status quo if things continue on this path for rest of the year. Wade Phillips total disrespect for Fitz and the receivers is a blueprint that others have followed or will use for the future games. Maybe Fitzpatrick just isn't capable of taking advantage of what the defense gives him, but even he deserves a gameplan that allows for adjustments to take advantage of what he will no doubt see. Because when CJ Spiller is nothing more than a high end decoy you've done more to take your offense out of the game than anything the other coaches could do