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PRO FOOTBALL : Jackson and Wilson Complicate Things for Bills' Defense

December 07, 1987|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

Everyone was watching Bo Jackson at the Coliseum Sunday, especially the Buffalo Bills.

When he would line up in the backfield, the Bills were focused on him like eagles on prey.

When he would line up at flanker, 22 defensive eyes were riveted.

The Bills' coaches in the press box probably were flashing down reports such as, "He's going to the bench. He's getting a drink of water . . . "

When the Bills got off the plane in Los Angeles Saturday, the first guy they looked for was number 34.

And so, although the Raiders won, 34-21, Jackson rushed for only 78 yards in 19 attempts--an off-day by Krypton standards--but there was one problem.

"Marc Wilson picked our defense apart," Bill linebacker Shane Conlan said.

That's the impact a Bo Jackson can have on a defense. While everybody was chasing Bo, Wilson completed 21 of 32 passes for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns--including 3 completions to Jackson for 36 yards and a touchdown.

And just when the Bills thought they had it all covered, Bo caught one for 23 from Marcus Allen, who seems to be doing a lot of things for him these days.

Bill quarterback Jim Kelly said: "We may have been worrying too much about the run, and they beat us on the pass."

Defensive end Bruce Smith explained the basic problem: "Anytime you have two backs in the backfield with their capabilities, there's a great deal to think about. We were unable to put a whole lot of pressure on (Wilson) because we had to play so disciplined."

It worked, as far as it went. Four times the Bills tackled Jackson for losses.

Smith, who got him twice, said the secret is, "Don't let him turn the corner. You let him turn the corner, it's all over."

But that also meant the Bills had to check Jackson first, then go after Wilson.

Kelly: "Anytime he gets that much time to pass, Marc Wilson is gonna score. When the quarterback has 5 or 6 seconds to throw the ball--I mean, sitting in the pocket for 5 or 6 seconds--he'll find something."

Kelly tried to match Wilson's effort, completing 22 of 36 for 315 and a touchdown. But he was constantly playing catch-up.

"I wish I had--well, I do get that much time sometimes," Kelly said. "But in these type of games the offense just has to score and score. It's a shoot out."

Bill Coach Marv Levy: "I feared the Raiders. Last week (a 37-14 win at Seattle) they all of a sudden emerged as a good team.

"The balance they have is so difficult to cope with. Marc Wilson is a good passer, and with this kind of running weapon you have to pay a lot of attention to that."

What you have developing here is the Tim Brown decoy syndrome--only Jackson is a lot more than a decoy. When the Raiders isolate Jackson as a flanker on passing downs--as they did when he caught his 14-yard touchdown pass--the defense's problems are compounded.

Free safety Mark Kelso said, "They had shown that a little. But with Bo, they have so many weapons, they can put him out there and run him in a pattern, or bring him in motion or run a reverse. They have a lot of options when they go to that formation.

"It's like having two great receivers on both sides--(tight end Todd) Christensen and Bo and then the slot on the other side."

Because the Raiders didn't take a back out for an extra wide receiver--Bo being both--the Bills didn't even try to match up their defensive personnel.

Levy said, "We realized they would complicate our substitution, so we just substituted by down and yardage. We just said, 'Someone's gotta go out there and cover him.' "

Any volunteers?

"I met him head-on," Kelso said. "He's a heck of a runner, but I knew that. I knew I couldn't take him on one-on-one, but I brought him down a few times.

"He got a few extra yards after I hit him, but when he goes to make a collision he gets really low to the ground and keeps running hard. He has such good leg drive that a guy my size (5-11, 177), there's no way I'm gonna get him down or knock him back. I just have to hit him and hold on."

Said Levy: "He's a great weapon to have. His presence helps the passing attack."

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