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With healthier cornerback group, Bills' normal nickel package thrived vs. Vikings

Getting rookie corner Taron Johnson back from injury was a godsend for the Bills defense.

With him available, Buffalo was able to utilize its normal nickel package -- two linebackers and three corners on the field -- for the majority of their demolition of the Vikings in Week 3.

That was an important development because through two games, against the Bills' "big nickel," which is three safeties on the field instead of three corners, opposing quarterbacks had completed 31 of 36 passes for 336 yards (9.6 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 133.3.

Kirk Cousins completed 13 of 15 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo's big nickel package -- with Rafael Bush as the extra safety -- but he went 6 for 7 for 76 yards on the final drive of the game. Also, both runs big nickel faced netted just one yard for Minnesota's offense.

The real story centers around the dominant performance of the Bills' nickel package that featured the rookie Johnson on the field typically manning the slot corner spot. It held Cousins to a pedestrian 4.6 yards per attempt. All three sacks of Cousins came with the Bills in nickel. The same goes for all three turnovers Buffalo created. On the ground against nickel, the Vikings mustered nine yards on three carries.

At Minnesota 4-3 Under 4-3 Over Nickel Big Nickel
Completions/Attempts 0 0 27 for 40 13 for 15
Passing Yards 0 0 184 104
Rushes 0 1 3 2
Rushing Yards 0 0 9 1
TDs/Fumbles/INTs/Sacks 0 0 0/2/1/3 1/0/0/0

 

Through three games, Buffalo's normal nickel package has yielded the following stat line to opposing quarterbacks; 35 of 54 (64.8 percent completion) for 252 yards (4.6 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and one interception. That equates to a quarterback rating of 73.9.

Per Pro Football Focus, the Packers have three wideouts who've been on the field for more than 150 snaps heading into Week 4 -- Davante Adams (202), Randall Cobb (188), and Geronimo Allison (155). So there's a strong likelihood Buffalo will have to utilize some variation of their nickel package on Sunday.

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