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Bills forced into 'big nickel' vs. Chargers, and the personnel package flops again

With rookie corner Taron Johnson sidelined with injury, veteran cornerback Phillip Gaines suffering an elbow injury relatively early against the Chargers, and cornerback Vontae Davis retiring at halftime, the Bills were forced into a heavy reliance on their "big nickel" package in Week Two.

And, just like in the season-opening loss to the Ravens, the personnel grouping with three safeties on the field was highly ineffective for Buffalo.

Philip Rivers went 18 for 22 (81.8 percent) for 180 yards (8.1 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns against the Bills' big nickel.

Third safety Rafael Bush was the main extra defensive back on the field until he was dinged late in the game, stayed on the sidelined for a few plays and was spelled by rookie Siran Neal.

vs. Los Angeles 4-3 Under 4-3 Over Nickel Big Nickel
Completions/Attempts 1 for 1 0 4 for 4 18 for 22
Passing Yards 23 0 47 180
Rushes 2 4 4 15
Rushing Yards 1 31 23 54
TDs/Fumbles/INTs/Sacks 0/0/0/0 1/0/0/0 1/0/0/0 2/0/0/2

 

Big nickel did yield only 3.6 yards per carry for the Chargers, and Rivers was sacked twice when Buffalo had that personnel package on the field.

The numbers for big nickel through two games are brutal. Rivers, Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson combined to complete 31 of 36 passes (86.1 percent) for 336 yards (9.3 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns through the air. That equates to a quarterback rating of 133.3.

During many of Bush's snaps, the Bills utilized a 3-3-5 nickel defense with three down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs (three of which were safeties, technically making it big nickel).

In the first two games against regular nickel, Rivers, Flacco, and Jackson combined to go 8 of 15 (53.3 percent) for 68 yards (4.5 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 105.5.

With cornerback Ryan Lewis called up from the practice squad, the Bills will have the opportunity to run more classic nickel defense in Week Three against the Vikings.

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