[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter another heartbreaking loss, the Buffalo Bills are looking to bounce back as they play the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, September 15, 2013, at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills are looking to show the NFL that they are moving in the right direction and will make the playoffs in the foreseeable future. A win against an up-and-coming team like the Carolina Panthers would be a good start. There are four keys to success in order for the Bills to win on Sunday:
Establish a Run Game
After week one it appears that Carolina has an excellent run-stop defense. The Panthers held Marshawn Lynch, one of the NFL’s premiere running backs, to a mere 43 yards on 17 carries. This does not bode well for the Bills’ C.J. Spiller, who was held to 41 yards on 17 carries against the New England Patriots. The good news is that the Bills can also rely on Fred Jackson, who is a more physically punishing running back as opposed to Spiller, who is elusive and has great top-end speed. Finding the running back with “hot hands” early on and rushing for over 100 yards will be essential for a victory. Also, the offensive line needs to open some holes for the running backs. Profootballfocus.com graded Bills’ OL Colin Brown with the lowest grade week one, partially due to his lack of quality run blocking.
Connect on the Deep Ball
Although the Panthers have a great run defense, their secondary is suspect. The Bills’ rookie quarterback EJ Manuel did not complete a pass for more than 20 yards against the Patriots. Manuel did play well week one, but he will need to take his shots down field on Sunday. With Marquise Goodwin out with a fractured hand, Manuel will need to connect with Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, and T.J. Graham. Connecting with speedster T.J. Graham deep down the field early on will keep the defense on their toes and open up the running game more. It will also help boost the young rookie’s confidence early on.
Contain Cam Newton
Last year it took Cam Newton until the second half of the season to warm up. He did run for 38 yards on 5 carries against the Seahawks. Newton can be extremely frustrating to an opposing team, because he can make third down conversion with his legs, which keeps the defense on the field longer and continues the drive. Containing Newton in the pocket, limiting his runs, and limiting his ability to extend the play with his legs will be important.
Stop the Run
To be frank, the Bills’ run defense was terrible in 2012. This year they made some personnel changes and added new defensive coordinator Mike Pettinne. The Bills are blitzing and pressuring the opposing QB much more, but they did allow over 150 yards rushing to the Patriots in week one. DeAngelo Williams ran for 86 yards on 17 carries against a solid Seahawks defense. That statistic should concern the Bills, because if Williams starts breaking for large runs, then it will expose the Bills’ already depleted secondary to Newton’s passing game. If the Bills cannot stop the run, then it’s going to be a long day for Bills’ fans.
If the Bills can execute the four keys to success, then there will very likely be a Bills’ win in the record book. The Bills need a win at the Ralph on Sunday to establish some momentum going into the following week against the NY Jets.