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Jags bring Bills back to earth Defense prepares for ground assault

Last week, the Buffalo Bills were bombarded by the New England Patriots' air raid. On Sunday, the Bills are bracing themselves for a ground assault from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Only Minnesota and Pittsburgh have rushed for more yards than Jacksonville, which averages 140 yards per game. The Jaguars' 151.6-yard average since the start of 2006 is the best in the NFL.

The bulk of those yards come from the Jaguars' two-headed monster that is Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, who have combined for 1,173 yards this season.

"They believe in running the rock and they are going to run the rock," Bills linebacker Angelo Crowell said. "Our No. 1 goal is to stop the run because if we don't it's going to keep bleeding."

The Bills' run defense has been hit or miss for much of this season. The Bills are ranked 22nd in the NFL, allowing 119.3 yards per game. But that's much better than the 177 yards they were allowing in the first three games.

The Bills held three opponents under 100 yards over a five-game stretch, but have yielded an average of 135 yards in the last two weeks.

The Bills know they will have their hands full against Taylor and Jones-Drew, who combined for 178 of Jacksonville's 207 rushing yards in 27-24 loss at Buffalo last season.

"It's going to be a real challenge," nose tackle Kyle Williams said. "It's hard enough trying to stop one of those guys. But together, they are one of the best tandems, if not the best, in the NFL."

Taylor, 31, has six 1,000-yard seasons and 10,117 overall in his 10-year career. He is a big back (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) with surprising quickness and is shifty for a runner his size.

The 5-7, 212-pound Jones-Drew is built like a fire hydrant, but he's a physical runner with a low center of gravity and powerful legs that give him great balance and the ability to break tackles. Jones-Drew also excels at the goal line, scoring a team-high six rushing touchdowns.

"We're going to have to play an eight-man front," said Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "We're going to have to do a good job of fitting up the run and tackling. A big emphasis for us this week is tackling and getting more people at the point of attack than we've gotten in the past."

The Bills will try to make the Jags win by throwing the ball. They average 182.6 yards per game, 26th in the NFL.

But eight or nine-man defensive fronts, third down or even fourth down won't deter the Jaguars from doing what they do best. They lead the league with 25 fourth-down attempts, converting 13 of them.

"Jacksonville doesn't hide anything from you," Bills linebacker Keith Ellison said. "It doesn't matter if it's third-and-three or fourth-and-one or two, they are going to line up and run the ball because that's their strength."

The Jaguars will pass just enough to keep defenses honest, but they're more effective throwing the ball when they can set it up with the run. Quarterback David Garrard is a very efficient passer. He has not thrown an interception in the seven games he's played.

And if Taylor and Jones-Drew weren't enough of a concern, the Bills also must be wary of Garrard's ability to scramble.
"He's capable of running and breaking tackles himself," said defensive end Chris Kelsay. "He's a big man. Getting to the quarterback is half the battle. You have to bring the guy down.

"So with Garrard and their two great running backs, it's going to be a tough matchup for us. But if we play gap-sound defense and have everybody on the same page, we should fare all right."


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