Strategy: Buffalo, led by first-year coach Doug Marrone, is in the process of tailoring its offense to the skills of rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel. The Bills used read-option runs, rollouts and play-action bootlegs to take advantage of Manuel's mobility. They often put Manuel in the shotgun and relied on shorter throws before taking more shots deep as Sunday's loss to the Jets went on. Defensively, they have a hybrid front, which makes sense because they seem to change their scheme — and their personnel — every offseason. The Bills blitzed Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith on third down, but overall they weren't as aggressive as expected.
Personnel: The Bills have some building blocks on offense, such as Manuel, wide receivers Steve Johnson and T.J. Graham, and left tackle Cordy Glenn, but their most dynamic playmaker is C.J. Spiller, who is a threat to score on every play, whether he is a runner or a receiver. He left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, but before then the Bills used both Spiller and fellow back Fred Jackson on the field at the same time. On defense, their best player is pass rusher Mario Williams, though he had a quiet afternoon against the Jets. The Bills were missing three key contributors in their secondary — starting safety Jairus Byrd, starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore and backup Ron Brooks — and it showed.
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What went right: The Bills twice intercepted Smith, including an impressive pick by former Ravens safety Jim Leonhard. Their defense usually got stops on third down. And they came back from a 14-point deficit in the second half to tie the game in the fourth quarter. They were aided by Rex Ryan's undisciplined Jets, who took a whopping 20 penalties for 168 yards.
What went wrong: For starters, Manuel was sacked eight times and completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Outside of a fluky 59-yard run by Jackson on third-and-1, their backs struggled to run the ball against New York's 3-4 defense. And they were 0-for-3 in the red zone. It was not a good day for the offense. Things went just as poorly for the defense. The Jets pounded them between the tackles in the running game and confused them with some Wildcat plays, and wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill each burned cornerback Justin Rogers deep for a long touchdown. With Byrd and Gilmore sidelined, Buffalo's secondary was a complete mess. If Rogers has to start against the Ravens, count on them attacking him, too.
Turning point: After falling behind 20-6 in the third quarter, the Bills chipped away at the lead with a pair of field goals, a 33-yard touchdown by tight end Scott Chandler and a two-point conversion. Three plays later, Smith lobbed a beautiful deep ball down the right sideline to Holmes, who was alone in man-to-man coverage with Rogers. Rogers never turned his head, and the cornerback stumbled as Holmes caught the pass and ran into the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown. That seven-point lead would hold up.
X-factor: For the Bills to have a chance against the Ravens, Manuel, who showed poise and toughness while under siege last weekend, must perform like a veteran. His legs could give the Ravens problems, but he will have to be more accurate with his arm, particularly on intermediate and deep throws, or it will be a long day for the Bills and their rookie quarterback.