How the New York Jets can steal Jacksonville’s blueprint to upsetting Buffalo
Entering the game as 14.5-point underdogs at home, the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the NFL world with a 9-6 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 9.
As the score suggests, Jacksonville’s win was entirely powered by the defense.
Buffalo’s elite defense completely shut down Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars’ offense. Jacksonville only mustered up 218 yards of offense.
But Jacksonville’s defense shut down Josh Allen and the explosive Buffalo offense. The Bills had season-lows of 319 yards and 17 first downs while also committing a season-high three turnovers.
Here are three important things the Jaguars did to shut down the Bills’ dangerous attack – each of which must be mimicked by the New York Jets need in order to keep Allen and company quiet on Sunday.
1. Win with the four-man rush
Applying pressure was the integral aspect of Jacksonville’s defensive performance. Allen took a season-high four sacks after absorbing only 1.1 per game over his first seven games.
Overall, Allen was pressured on 38.9% of his dropbacks, tied for the third-highest pressure rate he has taken this season. When pressured, Allen had a passer rating of 38.2, completing 7-of-15 passes for 90 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.
Jacksonville was able to cause havoc in the backfield without blitzing too much. They blitzed Allen on 28% of his dropbacks, which is a fairly average number.
Most of the damage was a product of the defensive linemen simply winning their battles. Of the whopping 29 pressures accumulated by Jacksonville defenders, 24 of them (83%) were generated by defensive linemen while only five were generated by a linebacker or defensive back on a blitz.
All five members of the Bills’ offensive line were getting beaten up:
- LT Dion Dawkins: 5 pressures (1 sack)
- LG Ike Boettger: 5 pressures (1 sack)
- C Mitch Morse: 3 pressures
- RG Cody Ford: 5 pressures (1 sack)
- RT Daryl Williams: 5 pressures (1 sack)
The Jets should blitz in the right situations, but they do not need to go overboard with sending extra defenders. Sit back and let the four-man rush do the work. Put the game in the hands of your four-man rush’s ability to win, not in the hands of Allen’s ability to beat one-on-one matchups on the outside against the blitz.
It’s easier said than done to replicate a performance of man-to-man pass-rushing as dominant as the one Jacksonville just put out, but New York has the talent to do it. Back in their Week 4 win over the Titans, the Jets’ defensive linemen accumulated an astounding total of 31 pressures, led by nine from John Franklin-Myers.
If the Jets’ four-man rush can come close to doing what the Jaguars did, the defense should be in good shape. If not, the Jets will be in major trouble.
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2. Dominate the trenches in the run game
Jacksonville made the Bills’ offense one-dimensional, giving up nothing on the ground and forcing the Bills to abandon the run game. Buffalo’s running backs rushed nine times for 22 yards (2.4 per carry).
When an offense runs 67 offensive snaps and just nine of them involve a handoff to a running back, they become predictable, and thus easy to defend.
Buffalo’s fear of running the ball stemmed from the sheer dominance of Jacksonville’s defense over Buffalo’s offensive line in the run-blocking department. The Bills’ running backs gained zero yards before contact. There was absolutely nowhere for them to go.
The Jets are coming off of a game in which their defensive line was manhandled in the run game, yielding 7.5 yards before contact per carry to Indianapolis’ running backs.
That cannot happen this week. If the Jets show early in the game that their defensive line cannot hold its ground at the line of scrimmage against Buffalo’s offensive line, the Bills will establish a second threat to complement their passing attack, opening up opportunities for explosive plays through the air.
3. Stay disciplined
As an underdog, you have to make your opponent earn everything. You’re already behind the 8-ball when the game starts. It becomes extremely difficult to pull off an upset while making a boatload of mistakes.
The Jaguars’ defense stayed incredibly disciplined against Buffalo’s offense, refraining from handing the Bills anything for free.
Jacksonville committed zero defensive penalties in the game. Zilch. Nada.
Defensive penalties can make or break an offensive performance. Take a look at Buffalo’s Week 8 win over Miami, for example.
The Bills’ offense was thwarted in the first half, scoring only three points. Miami’s defense had no penalties in that half.
In the second half, the Bills broke out for 23 points, largely thanks to five defensive penalties by the Dolphins.
The Jets cannot give Buffalo free yardage through penalties. If they keep the yellow laundry off the field, the Bills can be quieted.
Another key under the “discipline” umbrella is the play of the defenders in zone coverage.
Jacksonville substantially boosted its zone-coverage usage on the outside against Buffalo. Starting outside cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Shaquill Griffin played 77% of their coverage snaps in zone. Entering the game, Campbell and Griffin were playing zone coverage only about 56% of the time on the season.
Campbell and Griffin did an excellent job of handling their zone-coverage responsibilities within Jacksonville’s increased zone-heavy game plan. They stayed disciplined and did not allow anything over the top.
There were 43 plays in which Campbell and Griffin both played a zone assignment, and on those plays, Campbell and Griffin combined to allow only three catches for 57 yards (one catch every 14.3 zone plays). Obviously, they also committed zero penalties.
New York’s starting outside corners, Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols, need to be sound and disciplined in their zone assignments. The Jets will likely attempt to mimic what Jacksonville did – play soft, keep everything in front, and make Buffalo beat you with the run game and short passes.
To do that successfully, the cornerbacks have to execute their roles and close windows for potential deep passes.