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Inside The Bills

Where has the tempo gone?

Posted by Chris Brown on December 15, 2013 – 10:05 am

A lot was made about the up tempo pace at which the Bills offense was going to operate. A rookie learning curve however, has somewhat compromised the advancement of that tactic in Buffalo’s attack.

In his weekly interview with Buffalobills.com, head coach Doug Marrone didn’t get into specifics as to why they’ve had to curtail the speed at which they’d like their offense to operate, it’s clear that the shuffling at the quarterback position in the middle of the season due to injury played a role. Not to mention getting EJ Manuel back up to speed (no pun intended) when he was again healthy after a four-game layoff.

“I think the coaches have done a good job and the players have picked up on a lot of things,” Marrone told Buffalobills.com. “Again you go into this process and you have to keep bringing them along and keep pushing them. Obviously we want them at a point where they’re not at yet. And they want to be at that point. They need to know how hard it is to get there and once we all realize that and we hold each other accountable then we’ll be able to get there.”

Buffalo’s offense had four of its five highest play count games in Weeks 2-5. The only other game to make the top five so far this season was the Week 9 game against Kansas City, in which Jeff Tuel got the start. In fact two of their three lowest offensive play count games have come in their last two games.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has always stated that you need completions to keep the tempo and pace of an offense at peak efficiency. And while that might be the case most of the time, four of the lowest completion percentage games for the Bills this season came in their highest-play count games. What happened?

In those four poor completion percentage games Buffalo also had three of the five highest yards per carry averages on the ground so far this season. So it was the run game that not only kept the chains moving, but the play count up.

Week 9 against the Chiefs is a perfect example. Jeff Tuel in his first NFL start provided some big plays in the pass game, but finished the day 18-39 passing (46.1%). Fortunately the Bills run game averaged a season-high 6.3 per carry en route to a 241-yard rushing day and the offense wound up running 77 plays, just two short of their season high in Week 4 when they ran 79.

So there are more ways in which to keep the tempo up for Buffalo’s offense than just completion percentage, but once Manuel begins to connect on a higher percentage of passes week to week than his current 57.8 percent the Bills offense can move faster on a more consistent basis.

In fact it wouldn’t be surprising if pushing the tempo at times over the last three games was attempted to continue to get Manuel adjusted to the pace at which they’d like to operate more often than not.

Here’s a look at the offense’s play count week by week with the five-highest play count games in bold face.

Week 1 – 61
Week 2 – 73
Week 3 – 75
Week 4 – 79
Week 5 – 75
Week 6 – 69
Week 7 – 66
Week 8 – 68
Week 9 – 77
Week 10 – 64
Week 11 – 67
Week 13 – 63
Week 14 – 62


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Posted in Inside the Bills