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Buffalo's Momentum: Time to Go Up-tempo

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Shane Vereen of the New England Patriots is hit as he carries the ball but breaks the attempted tackle during NFL game action by Da'Norris Searcy of the Buffalo Bills in a recent game. Is it time for Buffalo to up the tempo? Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images.
Shane Vereen of the New England Patriots is hit as he carries the ball but breaks the attempted tackle during NFL game action by Da'Norris Searcy of the Buffalo Bills in a recent game. Is it time for Buffalo to up the tempo? Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images.

The Buffalo Bills need to come alive faster and stronger on game day as the season wears on. In recent games, the Bills have taken too much time to warm up before making decent plays; that time is a gift too lavish to expend on their rivals, and too harmful for themselves.

“We’ve obviously got to get better early in games,” said Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone previously. “We’ve shown we get better as the game goes on. I don’t know if that’s our tempo wearing on the defense, us getting more comfortable or what, but we’ve got to start the game better. We know that and that will be a premium coming up.”

The coach has talked the talk, but his players have not yet done the walk, giving up huge plays and racking up penalties against adversaries like the New England Patriots and the New York Jets.

“We’re doing some things well, but when I watch the tape all I think is we still have a lot of potential. We’re leaving a lot of plays out there. All 11 guys could be playing a little bit better and like I said, there’s so many plays out there that we’re not making right now that we should be scoring a lot more points,” Marrone said.

Those 11 on the field have worked harder than ever, because Buffalo had to fill its roster with players from the secondary, after injuries in the first few games took out the Bills’ leading defensive players. Coaches also shifted some of their players, notably safety Aaron Williams to corner back.

Forfeiting Williams’s development into a potentially good safety freed up the Bills to strengthen its defensive line using Williams at corner, Marrone said.

“We know that’s where he’ll be with us back there,” he said of Williams’s reliability. His move to corner back was not set in stone, nor is anything else on this befuddled Buffalo team.

“The back end, what we’re doing is obviously Leodis [McKelvin] is in the mix still. It’s day to day,” Marrone said before the Baltimore Ravens game. “While he’s not out there, we’re going through different combinations being, obviously, ready for him to come back -- different combinations of players, different combinations of schematics, man, zone, matchups, things like that -- seeing what [is] the best thing for us, so it gives us the best opportunity to be successful.”

Corner back Leodis McKelvin, who suffered a hamstring injury, said he is taking care of himself.

“Would you put yourself out there without being able to go out there 100 percent, especially [if] what you [have to] do is be able to run fast and be able to cover people?” McKelvin said. “You have to watch it very closely, especially with your hamstrings. I’m going to work my behind off to get back out there.”

Previously, Marrone had addressed the problems in the defensive back end, saying, “We just have to tackle. We’ve got to be able to tackle…It’s really a combination of making sure we’re squeezing, pressing, getting off blocks up front…Make sure we’re taking advantage of what we see. If we see it, we need to go get it and then obviously tackle better.”

Fans are smitten with middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, even after Buffalo was unable to wrest a win from the penalty-laden Jets.

“I think we fought hard but we still have a lot of areas where we can improve, including myself,” Alonso said. “So we just have to get better starting at practice and keep getting better.”

Looking good in practice is not the same as playing a grueling game, and the Bills need to adapt, accordingly.

“During the course of a game, you have to be able to make adjustments. You have to see early on what the team’s thought process is in how they’re attacking you and then you make those adjustments,” Marrone said before the Jets game. “You have to be ready for that from week to week. I don’t think there’s ever a comfort, from the standpoint of our end offensively, of where we are. I think there’s always a chip on our shoulder, knowing what we have to do and knowing what the challenges are.”

Knowing the challenges and meeting them are two different things, and the Bills have yet to meet them and master them. To do that, Buffalo must take control of the game offensively, and reduce their penalties, much sooner than they have so far.

Marrone, speaking about personal issues between coaches, returned to the topic at hand: position on the field.

“The one thing that we have to do a good job of is making sure we’re putting them in position to make plays,” he said, “and, really, that’s our responsibility.”

With so many injuries already this season, Buffalo has re-evaluated its defensive line just to put players in position. This week, the Bills brought back defensive tackle Jay Ross, less than two weeks after they dismissed him from their 53-man roster.

With Ross’s experience in the Bills’ training camp and the early season, further review of the tapes, and even more hard work, Buffalo might, again, make some plays. If they do, they had better make them earlier and more often.