For the first time in 2016, the Los Angeles Rams return to the Coliseum to defend a winning record. At 3-1 with the opportunity to remain atop the NFC West, the Rams should have a full-throated crowd behind them on Sunday when they take on the 2-2 Buffalo Bills.
To figure out what they’ve got going on in Buffalo, I linked up with Chris Trapasso from Buffalo Rumblings, the SB Nation community for Buffalo Bills fans.
So a bit of callback to start. In our SBN season preview, you said the following about the Bills' start to the season:
The Bills would probably feel “OK” starting 2-2. The toughest game in the first month is against Cardinals in Week 3, but at least that game is in Orchard Park — and Buffalo travels to New England the following week....The Bills have as much overall talent — and a better quarterback situation — as they did in 2014 when they went 9-7. If they endure some major injuries and get a few bad bounces, they go 7-9 or 8-8. If they stay relatively healthy and get some good bounces, they go 10-6.
Has that changed based on how you guys got to 2-2 especially given the last two weeks?
Well, given the result of the first two weeks, the Bills are obviously ecstatic about being 2-2. I'll admit, I did not expect losses to the Ravens and Jets and wins over the Cardinals and Patriots, but 2-2 is 2-2. If anything, Buffalo feels much better going into this game on a two-game winning stream than it would have had they just lost consecutive games. What's changed the most over the past two weeks is the considerable uptick in efficiency on offense. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn has emphasized the short passing game, and, most importantly, Tyrod Taylor has looked for those quick passes frequently and been accurate on those throws.
We knew the Bills would be limited in the pass but productive in the run. After Week 4, you guys are 28th in total yards, 31st in passing yards and 7th in running yards, all per game. Are you worried about the disparity through four games? Is there something key between the two wins and the two losses pertaining to that offensive disparity?
As I mentioned in the above answer, the overall efficiency of the passing game has really improved over the past two weeks, especially against the Patriots in Week 4. In the season opener, the Bills aerial attack was non-existent, and against the Jets in Week 2, Taylor hit two long plays and not much else. You're correct in pointing out that Buffalo was always going to be a team that prioritized its run game, and that really hasn't changed.
How sorely missed have DE Shaq Lawson and ILB Reggie Ragland been? What's your general analysis of the defense thus far in their absence?
I think Shaq's been missed more, just because Reggie Ragland's stand-in, Zach Brown, has been incredible at the inside linebacker spot. Overall, the Bills have been effective getting to the quarterback -- they have 13 sacks, which is the third-best in the NFL -- but much of that pressure has been the result of Rex's scheme.
What was the one major favor in Weeks 1 and 2 that you guys fixed for the last two? What would the Rams have to do to negate that or exploit it?
Not meaning to repeat myself, but the short passing game. It's done wonders for moving the chains, keeping the defense rested by sustaining long drives. Tight coverage from Los Angeles' cornerbacks within the first five to 10 yards past the line of scrimmage would help the Rams a great deal.
Big picture. You guys are 2-2 in Year 2 for Head Coach Rex Ryan. Given how long it has been since you guys found the postseason, what are the demands for Rex in 2016? Chan Gailey, Dick Jauron and Gregg Williams all made it to Year 3. Doug Marrone and Mike Mularkey didn't. Is it possible that Rex doesn't either if things fall apart?
This is a polarizing topic among Bills fans. I'm of the belief that every NFL head coach should get at least three years. One of the biggest problems -- outside of not having a franchise quarterback -- during Buffalo's 16-year playoff drought is the constant head-coach turnover. If things really go south, there'll be plenty of people -- fans and media included -- calling for Rex to be fired. But I think they'd really have to end a few games under .500 for that to happen.
Thanks to Trap House for the time.