It's time for me to let loose a profanity laden barrage about the Buffalo Bills' wretchedness. It will be generally the same as all my previous tirades. Simply put, they have no run defense whatsoever and until they fix that problem they will continue to watch the playoffs from the comforts of the Niagara Falls area.
Through 7 games the Bills have allowed 1238 rushing yards (204 more than the second-worst team, TR's Jest) which projects to 2830 over a full season, good for 12th most of all time. The Bills allow defenders to rush for 6.0 yards at a clip (0.8 more than the second-worst team, the Falcons), which is the 2nd most of all time (among the 70 teams that allowed >2500 yards in a season -- there's some weird glitch with pro-football-reference.com's database of WWII-era teams that makes it look like they gave up 40+ ypc so I just limited my search to teams that allowed over 2500 yards which is just over 150 yards per game in a 16 game season, i.e., teams with shitty run defenses). They are historically bad at stopping the run. Indeed, the last time a team allowed >2500 yards on the season and 6 or more yards per carry for a full season was 1950. Their historic incompetence in this regard is remarkable when put in context: the 1950 Baltimore Colts allowed 6.22 yards per carry over 12 games, and the next worst team over a full season is the 1961 Minnesota Vikings at 5.41. So the Bills are over 0.5 yards per carry worse than the second worst team in the history of the NFL in this particular metric. That means that the Bills' opponents gain over one-and-a-half-feet -- two Hungarian peckerlengths! -- per carry more than they would if they faced the second-worst run defense of all time.
Maybe it isn't fair to compare the 2012 Bills to teams from the past. Pro-football-reference.com provides EXP statistics to illustrate the number of points contributed by an offense or defense, and they break it down further by pass and run. Only 10 teams this season have a negative run defense EXP, probably because it's so easy to throw these days that everyone eschews the ground game (by contrast, only 6 teams have a positive EXP against the pass). Only two teams with negative run defense EXP are in the double digits: the Colts (-11.99) and the Bills (-52.65). So the Bills' run defense is responsible for giving up more than 40 points compared to the second worst run defense in the league. They're awful.
The defense gave up 1201 yards of offense over a two game span against the Patriots and Niners. The Bills D popped Brandon Bolden's 100-yard cherry, and gave up another 100+ rushing yards to Stevan Ridley. They even gave up a rushing TD to Tom Brady. In short, Buffalo's rushing defense gave it up so easy to the Patriots that Belichick now refers to the Bills as "house box." Pretty crass I think.
At least they were balanced against San Fran, giving up 310 through the air and 311 on the ground. Alex Smith passed for 303 yards, his third-highest single game total and only the third 300-yard game of his career. His passer rating (a near-perfect 156.2) and yards per attempt (12.63) were career bests.
Just this weekend, they gave up 195 yards on 18 carries to whatever's left of Chris Johnson. That's 10.83 yards per carry, the second highest single-game average of his career! Hell, that's the third most rushing yardage he's ever garnered in one game! And he's all washed up!
So I reiterate that the Bills' rush defense is awful.
And it will continue to be awful in two weeks after they get off the bye. First they face Arian Foster in Houston, Stevan Ridley in Foxboro, then Reggie Bush in Buffalo on a Thursday. After that they get a marginal respite -- Donald Brown in Indy -- before facing MJD (if he's healthy), Steven Jackson, and Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch all in Buffalo. By then they should be 5-9 and ready to pack it in for some more Bush in Miami and Tim Tebow/Shonn Greene at home.
I have no solutions to this problem. The Bills stocked up on defense in the draft and free agency, bringing in 8 new starters since 2010 including Marcell Dareus in last year's draft and Mario Williams in this past offseason's free agency period. I thought they would have a top 5 defensive line. They drafted a corner this year and all the talking heads loved the pick, making me believe that the pass defense would improve. They brought in Dave Wannstedt who despite his lopsided stache has presided over many respectible, and a few excellent, defenses over a 17 year NFL career. They did many of the things one would think to do when looking to improve a defense. When discussing the Bills' chances with TR this past preseason, I ticked through my laundry list of all the positive changes the team made, but cut myself mid-sentence before drawing a conclusion. TR looked at me and said "It's ok, you can say it." And then I said "I think the Bills will be good this year."
Accordingly, I'm resigned to another season of double-digit losses. And I've decided to look for a silver lining. I could declare myself a free agent fan and start rooting for the Redskins, but I fear that I would lose my identity without all a Bills fan's self-loathing. Instead I'm going to root for a new level of Billsian futility: over the past three years Buffalo gave up 7,439 rushing yards. Throw in this year's 1,238 and they are only 1,323 yards away from 10,000 in 4 years ... with 9 games left! That's only 147 yards/game, well below their 176.9 yards/game average to date this year! They could improveby 30 yards a game and still get to 10,000 yards surrendered during Obama's first term! I don't know if any defense has allowed an average of 2,500 rushing yards over 4 years but it has to be a record. Who else but the Bills would allow themselves to maintain such a glaring deficiency for such a long period of time?
So that's what I'm rooting for -- another 1,323 yards on the ground. That and a funny, grammatically accurate picture for this post. I guess I'll have to take what I can get.