The Bills have been a heavy run team on 1st down this season. They went into Sunday’s game against the Jets with a run percentage of better than 60 percent on 1st-and-10 (60.2%) good for third-highest in the league. After Sunday’s game Buffalo is now tops in the league when it comes to running on first down. The Bills run it on 1st-and-10 62 percent of the time now. To outside observers it might be painfully predictable, but with head coach Doug Marrone there’s a reason behind everything.
In Sunday’s game Buffalo ran the ball on 12 of their first 13 first down plays. Against the Jets number one ranked run defense some might have seen that approach as foolhardy. The results might indicate that as well. Not counting EJ Manuel’s kneel down at the end of the half, Buffalo managed just nine rushing yards on those 12 first down carries. Not one of them went for more than three yards and three went for negative yardage. But here was Marrone’s idea with the approach.
“At the end of the day we all know that we were not satisfied with how we ran the ball, but the one thing was we weren’t going to go away from it,” he said. “What hurt was going into the game we said to ourselves, or our goal and philosophy was we didn’t want any negative plays. We had too many negative plays running the ball. We wanted to keep it in that 3rd-and-3 to 4, that type of range. We wanted to be careful when we took our shots vertically down the field. So we wanted to do a couple of those things and keep going and keep maintaining it.
“Yes, we weren’t where we wanted to be running the football (Sunday), but being able to keep doing what we did, even though the production wasn’t what we wanted, enabled us to have the production in protecting our quarterback and throw the ball. Sometimes people lose sight of that.
“Do we want to be great at both? Absolutely, and I give them all the credit. They are one heck of a run defense, and people are saying, ‘Look at them they’re banging their heads against the wall. They keep trying to run it.’ But that stuff does help you in protection down the road.”
Never was that more evident than in the third quarter. After running on first down 16 out of 18 times, Buffalo dialed up a bomb down the left sideline to T.J. Graham that covered 40 yards moving the Bills into New York territory. On the very next first down, they called another vertical route, which went for a 43-yard touchdown.
“Sometimes we get a little bit too analytical or we get too cute at times where we try to set things up, but that was an example of it really working in our favor,” Marrone said. “We hit a big play down the sideline. Now we’re going during the game and after the big play everything says we’re going to run it and boom we throw another go (route) and get the touchdown. We were fortunate to take advantage of the situation.”
What’s evident with this approach is they’re trying to keep the offense ahead of the sticks instead of behind it even if it means short gains on first and second down. They feel 3rd-and-manageable is a better formula for EJ Manuel’s success than throwing it all over the yard on first or second down and getting into more 3rd-and-longs than they would like.
Tags: 1st down run percentage, Doug Marrone, EJ Manuel
Posted in Inside the Bills