Bills vs. 49ers: How Buffalo Can Score on San Fran's Vaunted D

Erik Cotton@ IOctober 6, 2012

The Bills will need C.J. Spiller to resume his dominance on Sunday.
The Bills will need C.J. Spiller to resume his dominance on Sunday.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills travel to Candlestick Park on Sunday to square off against the San Francisco 49ers.  On paper, this looks like a one-sided matchup.  The biggest question for Buffalo is how are they going to score on one of the best defenses in the league.

The Bills are coming off a humiliating second-half display in which New England put up 45 points en route to a 52-28 beatdown. 

The 'Niners, on the other hand, are fresh off a 34-0 trouncing of the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.  Besides their hiccup in Minnesota, this looks like a better version of the team that made the NFC Championship Game last year.

By far the biggest issue for the Bills so far through four games has been their defense.  The lack of a pass rush and their inability to stop the run has put a ton of pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick and the rest of the offense.

With that said, Alex Smith and the 49ers are hardly on the same level as Tom Brady and the Patriots.  Of course Buffalo's D is going to have to play better to have a chance in this game. 

But that's not the side of the ball we're going to focus on.

For the Bills to remain competitive on Sunday, they're going to have to take an entirely different approach than normal with their play-calling.  A conservative yet methodical game plan is the only shot they have at coming away with a victory.

One thing that's working in their favor is the health of their RBs.  According to, both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson practiced fully all week. 


If the Bills' coaching staff learned anything from the success the Vikings had against San Francisco, it's that they utilized formations and plays the Bills are already accustomed to running.  Expect to see Spiller and T.J. Graham executing a lot of screens and short patterns to spread the 'Niners' defense out.  

The Vikings enjoyed success as well throwing the ball to their rookie TE Kyle Rudolph, who burned San Fran for two touchdowns.  So anticipate the Bills going to Scott Chandler early and often. 

Then factor in that former-Bill Donte Whitner, whose giving up nine inches to Chandler, will be responsible for covering him one-on-one.  That should result in them being able to exploit that matchup, as Bills fans can attest to Whitner's inconsistency in pass coverage.

More than anything, though, Buffalo has to play smart and safe.  It's a weekly cliche in the NFL that the team who turns the ball over less usually wins.

As Brian Galliford of reports, that especially holds true for the Bills:

10 of the team's 11 turnovers came in their two losses to the Jets and Patriots, with a whopping six coming last weekend. In 36 games under Gailey, Buffalo has turned the ball over a ridiculous 80 times.

Even if the Bills execute their game plan to perfection, if they shoot themselves in the foot by not taking care of the ball, they'll be 2-3 heading into Week 6.