Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine told reporters Wednesday that he'd be lying if he said his first matchup against Rex Ryan was no big deal. He also said that trying to predict what Buffalo will see from the crafty play-caller is near impossible.
Sunday could be the first of many head-to-head battles Pettine has against his protege, and most believe the showdown will be a straight chess match between the two defensive coaches. Pettine agrees, but only to a degree.
"I think the strength of the system that was built defensively was its flexibility," Pettine said. "The ability to adapt each week to a particular opponent, so again Rex has 10 years’ worth of material to draw from and tighten that down to a 30 or 40 call game plan. You’re just chasing ghosts when you go, ‘You might see this or you might see this.’
"To me it comes down to execution and you’ve got to get your players lined up and play sound and hope that your guys can out execute their guys on that given day."
As far as execution goes, Ryan's Jets have the upper hand thus far, ranked sixth against the pass and fourth against the run in the league. Pettine's Bills have struggled against the run thus far, allowing a little more than 140 yards a game on average, though its pass rush has been solid, thanks in part to the recent 4.5-sack performance of Mario Williams.
Williams and his fellow defensive frontmen, however, have helped the defense as a whole force four turnovers, while Gang Green has been less of a threat in the backfield through two games and coincidentally has fewer turnovers (2).
Regardless of whether Pettine and Ryan decide to bring pressure or drop into coverage on Sunday, Pettine reiterated that it all comes down to how the players perform, not the plays relayed onto the field.
"As Rex said earlier, the strength of the system is to make it player driven, as we’ve done here," Pettine said. "We’re not significantly different from New York, but we are different with the personnel that we have here. Just as his personnel has changed slightly in New York and he’s adjusted his system accordingly.