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Inside The Bills

No problem with Bills ‘O’ on 1st down

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 11:22 pm

First down is often a tone setting down for an offensive possession. Get off to a good start with a solid positive gain and you stand a good chance of having your possession last more than three plays. With Houston giving up an average of 5.9 yards on first down the odds were good the Bills would experience some success on first down and they did.

Buffalo averaged an impressive 6.9 yards on first down against Houston and did it with a great run-pass mix. On their 29 first down plays they gained 201 yards and scored both their touchdowns.  On their 13 runs they gained a healthy 5.46 a carry (not counting EJ’s 3-yard scramble) and on passes averaged 8.4 yards per play. There were no plays for negative yardage and only two that yielded no gain.

The problem with the Bills offense was what happened on second down in the game, which contributed to a lack of execution on third down Sunday.

Posted in Inside the Bills

2nd down proved tough for offense

Posted by Chris Brown on September 28, 2014 – 10:01 pm

While a lot is often made of an offense’s third down performance in a game, second down was one to keep an eye on in Sunday’s game against the Texans. The reason why was despite the fact that Houston was the number one third down defense going into the game, they were also the league’s worst second down defense.

Giving up an average of 6.84 yards a play on second down, the Texans were sitting at the bottom of the league when it came to defending on second down. The Bills needed to take advantage on this down in their series to avoid any bad down and distance situations on third down when Houston was more effective.

Buffalo unfortunately did not have a lot of success on second down. Not counting the EJ Manuel spike to stop the clock on second down just before the half, the Bills had 23 plays on second down in the game and gained 73 yards for an average of 3.17 yards per play. That unfortunately is less than half of what they had given up on second down in the first three weeks.

The Bills had six conversions on second down out of those 23 plays, but they also had seven incompletions and five other plays that resulted in no gain or negative yardage. It’s part of the reason why third down proved so difficult, particularly in the second half.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills offense runs another high play total

Posted by Chris Brown on August 17, 2013 – 2:55 pm

The tempo of Buffalo’s offense caters to them running more plays than the average NFL club on a game to game basis. After running 85 in Week 1 of the preseason, they came close to matching that total Friday night.

Again Minnesota, Buffalo ran a total of 78 offensive plays on 13 possessions. Last season Buffalo averaged 61.5 plays a game. So far in two preseason games the Bills are averaging 81.5.

Think about averaging 20 more offensive plays a game and what that means in terms of touches for C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson, Fred Jackson, etc.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills near top in offensive plays

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2013 – 1:49 pm

Granted it was just one week of preseason games, but with all 32 teams now with a game under their belt, Buffalo’s new up tempo offense is leading to a sharp uptick in number of plays per game.

Last season the Bills averaged just 61.5 plays per game, good for 28th in the league. Problems with third down conversions naturally contributed to the issue, but Buffalo also rarely went no huddle with a defensive unit that had trouble stopping people. The league leader in offensive plays per game last year was New England at 74.8 plays per game. This year the Patriots will have company.

With Chip Kelly running the offense in Philadelphia and Nathaniel Hackett in Buffalo, the Eagles and Bills will likely eclipse New England’s league-leading average of a season ago. Their initial outings this past week serve as indication of that.

Philadelphia and Buffalo were first and second in the league this past week in number of plays run in their preseason games. The Eagles ran 86 plays in a loss to New England, while the Bills ran 85 plays in their win at Indianapolis. Below is a list of the top 10 offensive play totals from NFL clubs this past week.

1 – Philadelphia – 86
2 – Buffalo – 85
3 – New Orleans – 83
4 – Houston – 74
T5 – New England – 72
T5 – Cincinnati – 72
7 – Washington – 71
8 – Baltimore – 70
9 – Jacksonville – 69
10 – Detroit – 68

Not to defend Miami, but in the Hall of Fame game they did run 76 plays. This past week they ran just 64 plays.

In 2012 Kelly’s Oregon team ran 84 plays per game while Marrone and Hackett’s offense at Syracuse ran 79 plays per game.

On Sunday Buffalo ran 20 more offensive plays than Indianapolis in the victory.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Why Hackett prefers to be in coaching booth

Posted by Chris Brown on August 12, 2013 – 10:23 am

Some Bills fans are asking if offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will be in the coaching booth calling plays from above all season. The answer is yes and here’s why.

With Buffalo’s offense predicated on calling plays quickly (every 5-10 seconds when operating at top speed), it’s essential that Hackett know the opponent’s personnel grouping and if it is changing. It is far easier to see if the opponent is making a personnel change from above than down on the sideline.

In many cases when Buffalo’s offense is running plays quickly the opposing defense doesn’t have time to change their personnel anyway, but if for some reason they’re able to do so, being up in the coach’s booth affords Hackett a vantage point where he can identify the defense’s personnel a few precious seconds quicker.

That allows him to get his own play down to offensive quality control coach Jason Vrable sooner, and then Vrable can relay it into Buffalo’s quarterback through the walkie talkie.

In essence quicker identification leads to quicker play calling and speed and tempo is what Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett want on offense.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-19

Posted by Chris Brown on July 19, 2013 – 11:55 am

Alright Bills fans we’re down to the final week before training camp. Players are expected to report next Friday afternoon. Your wait is almost over. Remember during training camp to keep those questions coming at on email and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

I like the idea of an “up tempo” offense. It will be exciting to see more plays by the Bills in less time. Hopefully, it will keep opponents guessing and on their heels and wear down the defense. Just wondering……besides having the players to run this, won’t the Bills need to have better stamina than their opponent on both sides of the ball? Better Strength and Conditioning than opponent?

Brian Butch Williamson · Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania

CB: You’re right their conditioning will have to be superior and that’s why the offseason program changed noticeably in terms of the training. Practice tempo is also significantly accelerated to what it used to be under the previous regime. The coaching staff knows to run an offense that way they need to have players properly conditioned for it. They’ll be ready.

2 – Chris,

I’m concerned that the up tempo offense planned this season could also backfire.  Too many 3 and outs, puts a lot of pressure on our D.

Mark Francese · Canandaigua

CB: I actually had the same concern until I looked at what Hackett did at Syracuse. No huddle or up tempo offenses that fall victim to going three and out too often are typically going pass, pass, pass and then they’re off the field. Hackett doesn’t take that approach. He tries to strike a 50-50 run-pass balance.

As an example, last season at Syracuse in their up tempo offense, the Orange averaged 41.5 run plays per game and 37.5 pass plays per game. Hackett ran the ball 52.5% of the time. Syracuse converted almost 50% of their third downs (49.3%). Granted the college game isn’t as competitive, but that conversion percentage would’ve led the NFL last season. New England was the best third down conversion team in the league in 2012 with a success rate of 48.7%.


3 – Chris,

Thanks for the continued great work.  As a west coast Bills fan, your work helps us stay connected to the team and community.

I had a comment on the QB situation, and the Tarvaris Jackson move.  I think you addressed a related question last week about Jeff Tuel last week.  A fan said, “He hasn’t been mentioned in press conferences…

I beg to differ.  In almost all the national interviews I’ve seen or heard with Doug Whaley or Doug Marrone, it almost seems like they go out of their way to mention Tuel.  Interviewers mentioned the competition at QB, and would reference Kolb, Manuel and Jackson (before he was cut), and BOTH Marrone and Whaley would actually go out of their way to throw Tuel in the QB competition mix.  This happened repeatedly in national interviews.  Locally, perhaps it’s not something anyone wishes to discuss, with the focus being so much on Manuel.  But I noticed this effort to reference Tuel a few weeks ago, and commented on it among fellow Bills fans.  I even speculated that Tuel was a potential dark horse.  So when Jackson was cut, my “take” was that it had less to do with Manuel, and perhaps more to do with Tuel.  And his performance, however limited, was sufficient to make them comfortable enough to go with just one veteran into training camp.

I’m not suggesting Tuel will necessarily win the job.  Given the investment in Manuel, the Bills’ brass will obviously do all it can to allow E.J. to win the job.  But I think the job is probably Kolb’s to lose, and my opinion is that cutting Jackson wasn’t so much about Manuel, but more about Tuel.  His physical skills, while not freakish like Manuel, are certainly sufficient and even elite in some areas.  Do you see any scenario, however remote, that Tuel could actually win the starting job?  Or maybe even win the backup job over Manuel (or perhaps if Manuel wins the starting job, the Bills cut Kolb).  I know it seems ludicrous on the surface, but the extra effort made by Whaley and Marrone in the interviews I’ve seen with those two makes me think they’re much higher on Tuel than perhaps most people realize.  What do you think?

Jeffrey Suchocki

CB: While I do believe the Bills offensive staff feels Tuel is a quarterback they can develop, the decision to release Jackson was made purely with the aim of making sure the remaining candidates for the starting job (Kolb, Manuel) get enough snaps so the staff can make an accurate evaluation. Splitting QB reps three ways makes it too hard for any of the candidates to separate themselves from the competition because they’re not getting enough time on the field.

The second part of that is as important as it is for Coach Marrone and his offensive staff to make an accurate call on the starter, whoever it is, they also need to get both candidates ready to play. That also could not happen with a three-way battle. Whether it’s Kolb or Manuel starting come September, both have to have enough work on the practice field executing plays so they’re ready to run the offense efficiently and effectively to help the team win games. In fact that’s probably the most important goal.

In this new offense the staff needs to have one of them ready to play come September 8th.

4 - @ChrisBrownBills

What schemes are taking shape of Defense? How often are they blitzing?


CB: The best way to explain the defense under Mike Pettine is it’s a multiple scheme with varied fronts and versatile personnel. There is no true identity to the defense, which is what makes it so effective. They might have base sets in their scheme, but the personnel and varied looks keeps them unpredictable.

As for blitzing they were doing it a ton in the practice setting this spring. I think you can plan on Buffalo’s defense to be aggressive without being reckless. How often they blitz however, will only be determined by the opponent each week as well as time and score.


5 – @ChrisBrownBills

Do you expect a No1 Quarterback to be decided before the start of the season? #bills


CB: I’m expecting that decision to be made somewhere after the second preseason game. At the latest after the third preseason game. That’s kind of the tipping point to give the majority of the first team reps to someone so they’re fully prepared to run the offense at the start of the regular season.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Points per game home vs. road

Posted by Chris Brown on November 25, 2012 – 10:15 am

When it comes to points scored and points allowed by the Bills thus far this season there are some disparities between home and the road.

Heading into today’s game Buffalo has averaged 10 more points per game at home (29) than on the road (19).

Flipping it over to defense it’s almost identical. Buffalo has given up an average of 29.5 points per game at home. On the road that figure is slightly higher at 30.2.

The sample size for the road is larger (6 games) than for home (4 games), but a 10 point difference in offense is pretty significant.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Some other lofty September numbers

Posted by Chris Brown on September 26, 2012 – 9:37 am

As we profiled on the home page of this morning, the Bills offense is at the top of the league in several key categories in the month of September (2011-2012). Here are a few other categories where the Bills are among the league leaders including a defensive category that might surprise you.

Buffalo is one of six teams to average over 400 yards per game in September since 2011. Their 401.0 total yards per game is sixth-most behind New England, Detroit, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Baltimore.

C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson rank first and tied for third respectively in rushing, with an average of 9.1 and 6.0 yards per game in September since 2011.

Buffalo’s defense is also second with 10 interceptions in September (2011-2012) with only Atlanta logging more (11).

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills rank #1 in NFL in a few categories

Posted by Chris Brown on September 17, 2012 – 1:59 pm

The exploits of C.J. Spiller have Buffalo atop the league after two weeks in a couple of rushing categories, but there’s an even more important category where the Bills rank tops in the NFL after two games.

Buffalo ranks first in rushing yards per game with an average of 198. They also lead the league in average yards per carry with a mark of 6.4.

But the Bills are also tops in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage. The Bills are a perfect five for five on red zone possessions putting the ball in the end zone every single time. No other NFL club is perfect through two weeks. We’ll see how long the Bills can keep it up.

Buffalo is also number one in the league in punt return average thanks mainly to Leodis McKelvin’s 88-yard punt return for a touchdown.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

A look at yards per pass play

Posted by Chris Brown on November 14, 2011 – 12:39 pm

A lot of fans on the live blog on Sunday were critical of the offense’s lack of downfield pass attempts. Sunday the Bills did produce their lowest yards gained per pass play, but downfield pass attempts haven’t been the bread and butter of Buffalo’s offense to begin with.

Here’s a look at Buffalo’s average yards gained per pass play game by game this season.

Week 1 at KC – 7.4 yards per pass play
Week 2 vs. Oak – 5.7 yards per pass play
Week 3 vs. N.E. – 9.2 yards per pass play
Week 4 at Cin. – 5.4 yards per pass play
Week 5 vs. Phil. – 6.7 yards per pass play
Week 6 at NYG – 6.6 yards per pass play
Week 8 vs. Wash – 8.7 yards per pass play
Week 9 vs. NYJ – 6.2 yards per pass play
Week 10 at Dal – 4.3 yards per pass play

Buffalo’s four losses do represent four of the five lowest yards gained per pass play averages this season, but that’s to be expected. You usually don’t move the ball as effectively in losses or you’re lacking big plays. The Bills had just six plays of 15 yards or more in the loss to Dallas with the longest covering just 21 yards.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Look for Bills to spread it out

Posted by Chris Brown on October 2, 2011 – 7:50 am

Cincinnati’s defense has done well through the first three weeks this season, but there’s one thing they haven’t seen yet in 2011.

The Bengals haved faced a couple of offenses that have West Coast systems and a more traditional pro-style offense in Denver. They’ve yet to face a spread offense like Buffalo’s.

That’s why it’s probably safe to assume that Buffalo will be spreading the field early and often. They have to believe that their top four receivers are better than Cincy’s top 4 corners, and that means mismatches.

They’ll then run out of those four wide sets as well and even go empty backfields and spread the Bengals secondary even thinner.

Simply put the Bills spread attack is not a good fit for Cincinnati’s defense.

Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills offense set season lows

Posted by Chris Brown on November 10, 2008 – 6:14 am

Buffalo’s offense set nine new season lows in their lackluster performance at New England Sunday. Here’s the rundown.

Points – 10 – previous low 16 (@ Miami)

First downs – 10 – previous low 13 (vs. Sea., @AZ)

Rushing first downs – 2 – previous low 3 (vs. Sea., vs. NYJ)

Total net yards – 168 – previous low 277 (@ Stl)

Net yards passing – 108 – previous low 166 (@ Stl)

Pass attempts – 23 – previous low 24 (@ AZ)

Pass completions – 13 – previous low 15 (@ Stl)

Intercepted – 2 (tied previous low vs. NYJ)

Yards per pass – 4.3 – previous low 5.7 (@ Stl)

Time of possession – 22:20 – previous low 23:44 (@ AZ)

Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills lacking rhythm

Posted by Chris Brown on November 2, 2008 – 8:04 pm

The Bills just haven’t found any kind of rhythm on offense the whole game. Dropped passes, poor protection, poor blocking, penalties, turnovers, Buffalo’s play has been more bad than good and if it continues much longer it will cost them the game. (6:41 left in third)

Posted in Inside the Bills

3rd and longs for Bills offense

Posted by Chris Brown on October 26, 2008 – 6:14 pm

On the last two possessions the Bills are getting themselves in 3rd and long situations. They’ve got three 3rd-and-7s and a pair of 3rd-and-10s thus far.

Posted in Inside the Bills