When Cam Newton looks across the line Sunday, he’ll see a Buffalo Bills defense that rarely looks the same on consecutive plays.
The Bills, under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, have shown through one week their propensity for various looks. They start in a 3-4 defense, then move to a 4-3 and, at times, even use five down linemen.
“The challenges are they have an explosive defensive line,” Newton said Wednesday. “We have to control them up front first. With (defensive end) Mario Williams, (defensive tackle) Marcell Dareus and (defensive tackle Kyle Williams), those guys are very explosive off the football, and they change up the fronts from even to odd and try to create distractions and different looks for the offense.”
Battling the Bills up front will be a Carolina offensive line that, despite its lack of depth, held up well last week against a strong Seattle defense. Newton was sacked just once and was forced to scramble only twice.
For Carolina’s line, the challenge won’t be multiple fronts as much as getting the protections called correctly, Ron Rivera said. And the person calling those protections will be three-time Pro Bowl center and team captain Ryan Kalil.
“If you’re taking your line and you turn to the right and they’re in a two-man front with four linebackers and they’re overloading to your right, your protection is perfect and you’re OK,” Rivera said. “If they’re in a three-man front and they’re overloading left and you’re calling protection right, you’re going to have trouble. The front doesn’t matter as much as the count and getting the calls correct. That’s probably the biggest thing because at the end of the day it’s just bodies.”
And though the Bills’ defense may be a change of pace for the Panthers, so, too, will Newton be for Buffalo. Newton’s dual-threat abilities contrast New England’s Tom Brady, who threw the ball for 52 times last week for 288 yards.
“You’re going from two extremes,” Mario Williams told Buffalo reporters this week. “When you’ve got somebody like Brady and now you’ve got a guy who is more mobile, more athletic and more liable to run, it’s definitely a change-up.”
Despite the Bills’ varying fronts, the Patriots were able to gash Buffalo for 158 rushing yards on 30 attempts. Running back Shane Vereen had 101 yards, one of only two running backs in the NFL to finish with more than 100 yards in Week 1.
DeAngelo Williams is coming off a strong Week 1 performance, 86 rushing yards on 17 carries, in which he hit his holes hard and finished with the fourth-highest rushing total of NFC running backs.
“You just got to do what you do better than what they do,” DeAngelo Williams said. “They fly around, and you got to block spots not guys. You got to make sure you know where everyone’s at on the field – Mario Williams all the way to (linebacker) Manny Lawson because they try to confuse you with their fronts.”
Williams, despite his solid rushing last week, fumbled twice, including one lost inside the Panthers 10-yard line in the fourth quarter that stopped a chance to regain the lead. He said he watched the film on Monday and put the game behind him.
“Last year was a tough season on him. There was a point where he easily could have gone the other way but he stayed professional and stayed prepared,” Rivera said. “And when we called on him to help, boy, he was something else. That’s what he’s doing now because without (running back) Jonathan (Stewart) right now the load’s on his shoulders, and he knows it and he’s accepted that.”
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