Breaking Down Buffalo

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The 49ers can expect a frigid welcome when they travel to Buffalo to battle the Bills this Sunday as snow showers are expected throughout the weekend.

The Bills meanwhile have gone from freezing cold to red hot after snapping a four-game losing streak by scoring their highest point total since 1966 in a 54-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bills entered the game with a minus 10 turnover ratio, but the defense went gangbusters at Arrowhead on Sunday with five steals.

"Defensively we got the takeaways that we hadn't been getting and (a lopsided score) is kind of what happens when it goes that way," said head coach Dick Jauron.

49ERS Rank BILLS Rank
Total Offense 22 Total Offense 19
Passing Offense 15 Passing Offense 13
Rushing Offense 23 Rushing Offense 21
Total Defense 23 Total Defense 16
Run Defense 14 Run Defense 20
Pass Defense 29 Pass Defense 16
KOR Average 9 KOR Average 3
PR Average 6 PR Average 2
KO Coverage 18 KO Coverage 2
PR Coverage 15 PR Coverage 27
The win improved the Bills to a 6-5 record, keeping alive their playoff hopes.

It was a big scoring game particularly for quarterback Trent Edwards, who is a well known name in the Bay Area, having played his college career right up the road at Stanford.

After throwing three picks in their Monday night game against the Browns, Edwards ran for two scores and then threw for a pair of touchdown passes en route to a 121.0 QB passer rating, his highest mark of the season.

Like it's been all year, his primary target was receiver Lee Evans, who posted his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the year with 5 catches for 110 yards. Evans has almost five hundred more yards of production than the Bills' number two wide receiver Josh Reed.

If Edwards can't get the ball down the field to Evans, he typically relies on check downs to Marshawn Lynch, who is tied with Evans in receptions at 42, although for much fewer yards – 282.

In fact, Edwards' success in the passing attack against the Chiefs stemmed from a successful run game. Between Lynch and Fred Jackson, the Bills came up with 135 rushing yards, allowing Edwards to utilize a successful play-action attack to keep Kansas City on their heels.
Lynch is the team's workhorse in the run game, and is an all-around back, while Jackson is more of a third down back, and a straight line runner.

Up front, Buffalo is getting solid play on the left side of their line by guard Derrick Dockery and tackle Jason Peters. The Bills made a lineup change against Kansas City, selecting Duke Preston to start at center instead of Melvin Fowler. Preston is a bigger body in the middle and more of a mauler-type offensive lineman.

In addition to adding some more muscle at center, the Bills opted to rely on rookie tight end Derrick Fine as their starter in Kansas City. Fine, and Derek Schouman are both blocking tight ends, while Robert Royal is typically used in passing situations. Royal tweaked his hamstring but isn't expected to miss time.

Buffalo's defense has been hit by the injury bug as three of their starting players, including two of their best players in defensive end Aaron Schobel and Donte Whitner are out with injury. Schobel is dealing with a foot injury that has caused him to miss six games, while Whitner, one of the league's premier safeties, missed Sunday's game with a shoulder injury.

The Bills were also without starting corner Jabari Greer last week, although rookie Leodis McKelvin stepped up big time with a pair of interceptions, one of which he returned for a 63-yard touchdown.

Ryan Denney has moved into the starting lineup at right end in place of Schobel. Denney has two sacks on the year, with his most significant contribution of the year coming on special teams on a fake field goal that resulted in his 19-yard touchdown reception against Seattle.

Opposite Denney is one of the league's high-motor players, Chris Kelsay, who similar to 49ers defensive end Justin Smith, goes until the whistle, and then some.

Moving to the interior of the line, the Bills possess a stout run stuffer in tackle Kyle Williams, who starts alongside a three-time Pro Bowler in Marcus Stroud, who was acquired via a trade with Jacksonville.

The Bills dial up a significant number of blitzes to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, mostly sending outside linebacker Kawika Mitchell to attack the middle of the line. Mitchell leads the unit in sacks with three, is second on the team in tackles, and has two forced fumbles and also owns an interception so far this season. Keith Ellison, a third-year player starts at the other outside backer position. Similar to Mitchell, Ellison has a high motor and is good in pursuit.

Second-year linebacker Paul Posluszny has emerged as a solid player at the MIKE, currently leading the Bills in tackles with 76 stops, and one forced fumble.

When healthy, the Bills present one of the better cornerback tandems in the NFL in Greer and Terrence McGee, but even without Greer, they've got to feel comfortable heading into the matchup with the 49ers given the game-changing plays by McKelvin last week.

Buffalo is a bit thin however at corner as their starting nickelback Ashton Youboty has already been lost for the year due to injury.

Since the injury to Youboty, safety Bryan Scott added nickel duties to his responsibilities as the starter in their dime package, but he too has missed time with an ailing knee. Scott did dress and was active last week, but the Bills opted not to play him.

Third-year safety George Wilson has moved into the starting lineup for Whitner, who separated his shoulder in the Bills November 3 game against the Jets. Whitner attempted to return to action two weeks later for the Bills Monday night game against Cleveland, only to reinjure the shoulder.

Ko Simpson starts at free safety and is third on the team in stops with 48.

The Bills are very capable of scoring when it comes to their third phase of the game, having put up points this year on both a punt and kickoff return for a touchdown, and a fake field goal.
Wide receiver Roscoe Parrish handles their punt return duties and is extremely elusive, as he displayed in week one with a 63-yard punt return against the Seattle Seahawks.

The same goes for the rookie sensation McKelvin, who took back a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Monday Night Football two weeks ago.

Eight-year veteran Brian Moorman handles punting responsibilities for the Bills, while Rian Lindell serves as the team's place kickers. Lindell hit all four of his field goals in Sunday's win over Kansas City, but has struggled some in longer distances with five misses from more than 40 yards.

The dominating win after a month of frustration re-energized a Buffalo team that must keep winning if they want to stay alive in a very tight AFC race for post-season play. Meanwhile, a loss by the 49ers would help increase Arizona's chances of wrapping up the NFC West Division, something San Francisco would rather see the Cardinals earn on their own.

Tune in this Sunday on Fox at 10AM PST to find out which team achieves their goal.

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