ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Even with waves of changes from the front office down through the Bills' roster, opponents know this constant remains: stop the run, and you stop the Buffalo offense.
The Jets couldn't do a thing about stopping LeSean McCoy in Week 1, but the Panthers had a spectacular day in that endeavor, and now the Broncos' highly-regarded defense will take its shot Sunday at New Era Field. Denver may not be as talented in the front seven as Carolina, but it will regularly commit eight men to the box until the Bills prove they can throw the ball downfield.
"We certainly have to work on getting better separation and winning our one-on-ones and that's not just the receivers, that's the backs, the tight ends, up front, we have to do a better job of winning our one-on-ones," coach Sean McDermott said of the passing game.
At Carolina in Week 2, Bills' wideouts combined to catch seven passes for 66 yards. The longest completion was 15 yards as Tyrod Taylor threw for only 125 yards on 17 completions. Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones and Andre Holmes have not been able to get open regularly enough for Taylor, and compounding matters, Taylor is not a quarterback who takes chances. When a target isn't open, he's going to take off running.
It won't be any easier this week.
"That's a battle each and every week," said Taylor. "You face good corners each and every week. There's going to be one-on-one battles that we have to win. I have confidence in all the guys that line up at wide receiver for us and we're going to make those one-on-one battles work in our favor."
One of the issues confronting Taylor and the Bills is that his top two receivers from 2016, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, now play for the Rams. Matthews came to Buffalo in a trade with the Eagles but got hurt in his first practice and has had very little time with Taylor. Jones is a rookie finding his way, and Holmes joined the team as a free agent.
"It's a work in progress," said Taylor. "I mean, you're not going to learn guys within two weeks or three weeks. Sometimes, it takes a full season. But, we're doing our best to get on the same page day in and day out. Staying back after practice, talking over film, just trying to get on the same page and making sure we're seeing the same thing. But it's not going to be something that happens overnight. It's over time and like I said, we're working hard."
Defensively, the Bills have been excellent in the first two games.
They have allowed just one touchdown and have given up the second-fewest yards and fourth-fewest points. Against Cam Newton last week, their pass rush was elite and they sacked the elusive Newton six times for 50 yards in losses.
They also did a nice job in the run game, limiting the Panthers to 2.8 yards per attempt. However, the Broncos have a strong offensive line and C.J. Anderson is second in the league with 199 yards. Denver, which put up 42 points on Dallas, is going to score, and the Bills are going to need a great performance on offense if they hope to keep pace.
"Well, they're a talented group, obviously," Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said of the Denver defense, a group he knows well after spending two previous seasons as the Broncos' coordinator. "They rush the passer very well and they've got great DBs, they all have great ball skills. Put the balls around them, they think it's theirs, so you've got to be careful. Like any other defense, they're loaded with talent. We have our work cut out for us, but just like we did last week, we'll find a way to move the ball."
SERIES HISTORY: 37thth regular-season meeting. Bills lead series 19-16-1. These teams haven't played in Buffalo since 2011, a 40-14 rout by the Bills as they sacked Denver quarterback Tim Tebow four times and intercepted three of his passes. The last game between the teams was a 24-17 Broncos victory in Denver in 2014.