Bills LBs vs. Read Option
Job one in containing Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco offense was defending the read-option run plays. Don’t let Kaepernick pull the ball out of the belly of running back Carlos Hyde and run wild off tackle. One way to do it is have the defensive end stay home to protect against the off-tackle run. Another way is to have the end or edge defender crash to the running back on the dive play. Then a linebacker scoops around the edge to take the quarterback off tackle. The Bills did the latter a bunch. On a second-and-19 play in the first quarter, Kaepernick read edge defender Lerentee McCray crashing on the dive and kept the ball. Zach Brown spilled the QB for a 3-yard loss. Preston Brown got fooled on one read option run. But other than that, Kaepernick’s only rushing yards came on scrambles.
Dennis Thurman vs. Jim O’Neil
Both defensive coordinators are proteges of Rex Ryan. Both were faced with trying to contain exceptionally mobile quarterbacks. Thurman had a better day. The Niners blitzed a lot more than the Bills. Buffalo played more of a containment game against Colin Kaepernick.
Tyrod Taylor made four key plays against blitzes. On the first TD drive, he hit Robert Woods for 18 yards down the right sideline. On the field-goal drive to end the first half, he beat a blitz on a third-and-5 play with a pass to Woods to keep the drive alive. On the drive that made it 31-16, Taylor eluded a third-down blitz and found Charles Clay for 14 yards. Then he scrambled away from a blitz for a 21-yard gain. Thurman has worked for Ryan the past 15 years. O’Neil got his NFL start under Ryan with the Jets, then worked for Mike Pettine.
Bills DL vs. Niners OL
The Niners have one of the weaker offensive lines in the NFL, and it was outplayed by the Bills’ defensive front. San Francisco running backs carried 20 times for just 67 yards, a 3.35-yard average. Niners right guard Joshua Garnett is a rookie first-round draft pick who was making his first start. Center Daniel Kilgore has made 16 starts in six years. Left guard Zane Beadles is a former big-ticket free agent who washed out in Jacksonville and who struggles in pass protection. The middle three got no push against the Bills.
“I don’t think we ran the ball very well in the second half,” said Niners coach Chip Kelly. “We have to give credit to Buffalo in terms of shutting down some of the things we did. But we didn’t get the production out of the running backs that we needed to get to be successful.”