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Chunk yardage plays troubling for Bills defense

By Tim Graham

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills defense gave up a frightening amount of chunk-yardage plays to the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night at Mall of America Field.

Seven Vikings offensive players had at least one gain of at least 21 yards.

On just three series, the Vikings' starters posted plays of 21, 33, 16, 19 and 35 yards. And star running back Adrian Peterson didn't play.

Let's take a look at the big gains the Bills surrendered and the down and distance on each. Many of these big gains happened in the middle of the field and in what should have been highly favorable situations for the defense.

First quarter

* Percy Harvin, 21-yard catch and run: Short Christian Ponder toss to the right at line of scrimmage (second-and-8).

* Jerome Simpson, 35-yard catch and run: Short Ponder toss to the left (second-and-13).

* Toby Gerhart, 16-yard run: Handoff up the middle (second-and-18).

* Gerhart, 19-yard catch and run: Short Ponder toss over the middle (second-and-4).

Second quarter

* Michael Jenkins, 35-yard reception: Long Ponder pass down right sideline (second-and-13).

(Bills, Vikings starters out)

* Joe Webb, 41-yard run: Scramble to the right (third-and-8).

* Stephen Burton, 26-yard reception: Long Webb pass down the middle (second-and-10).

* Webb, 23-yard run: Scramble to the right (first-and-10).

Third quarter

* Allen Reisner, 18-yard catch and run: Short Webb pass to the right (second-and-1).

Fourth quarter

* Matt Asiata, 22-yard run: Off right guard (second-and-10).

* Emmanuel Arceneaux, 48-yard reception: Deep Sage Rosenfels pass down the middle (first-and-10).


Buffalo surrendered 11 plays of at least 16 yards. At least eight of those chunk plays came against Buffalo's first- and second-units, which is disconcerting. One of the biggest sources of excitement this summer has been over how supposedly deep the defense is.

Some problems were with coverage, some with lack of pressure up front, some with missed tackles. Those elements work off each another.

Perhaps even more alarming are the situations in which Minnesota was able to thrive so wildly. Eight of those big Minnesota gains came on second down and one more on third. That's a damning number for nickel and dime packages.

Of the second-down plays, the average distance Minnesota needed for a first down was 9.6 yards.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |