Inside The Bills

Rush frequency impacted by time & score

Posted by Chris Brown on October 15, 2014 – 5:44 pm

The Bills run game has had its share of struggles not just this past week against New England, but the past three games. A good part of why is rooted in being behind on the scoreboard. Trailing in the game has contributed to calling more pass plays than usual, which is why Buffalo’s run percentage is down from what it was last season.

Last year when the Bills had the number two rushing offense in football they ran the ball 49 percent of the time. Over the last three games here is the run to pass figures for the offense.

Houston – 24 runs, 44 passes
Detroit – 22 runs, 43 passes
New England – 23 runs, 38 passes
—————————————-
Total – 69 runs, 125 passes

Three game run percentage – 35.5%
Three game pass percentage – 64.5%

“Obviously it’s very frustrating, but at the end of the day, the other teams do a great job of having a good game plan for trying to come in and trying to stop our running game. It’s going to take a group effort,” said C.J. Spiller. “Everybody has to do their job from the offensive line o the running backs to the tight ends to the receivers. It’s not going to be one person that just waves a magic wand around us and automatically change. It’s going to come from a group effort and we will. We’re working hard at it. The good thing is that we have another shot on Sunday to try and correct the mistakes.”

 


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Marrone: Fixing run game the top priority

Posted by Chris Brown on October 13, 2014 – 4:56 pm

By no means is it the only part of their game they’re looking to improve, but Buffalo’s ground game has found yards hard to come by the last three weeks. That’s why head coach Doug Marrone and his staff are going to do an in depth analysis as to just what is slowing down the identity of their offense.

“The major concern which was addressed in the team meeting, we talked about the run game. This is the third week in a row now, this isn’t the first time,” said Marrone in reference to the lack of production in the run game. “What happens is you start focusing and trying to make plays that aren’t there and that’s what we can’t do, from C.J. to Fred to (Boobie) Dixon. Up front, we’ve got to do a better job of finishing, getting on those players, not having a lot of color show where it’s showing.  And that means we’ve got to be quicker going to the second level and things like that.  Those things are correctable but we’ve got to put the work in to correct it.”

As Fred Jackson sees it, the miscues with turnovers and penalties kept them from running more, but he didn’t argue that their production was subpar.

“We’ve got to be better than that to win games and beat good teams,” said Jackson. “When you’re eliminating possessions that you have with turnovers and a lot of penalties and putting yourself behind the sticks that’s going to deter from what you can do in the run game. That’s something that we’ve got to get better at as an offensive unit. We can’t have penalties and fumble the ball and throw interceptions. It’s on us as an offense collectively and look at ourselves and be harsh critics and figure out what we have to get better at doing.”

Buffalo’s run game was ranked sixth in the league after Week 2 in rushing. This week on the heels of their loss to New England they’re ranked 22nd, with their average going from 153 yards per game to 101.

Marrone says it will be a group effort to get back to their typical level of production.

“It’s not one individual. It’s easy when it’s one individual, you just pull one out and put somebody else in,” He said. “But it’s up front, it’s hitting the holes, it’s believing and trusting in the scheme, the perimeter. We’ve got to go back and get this thing again.  You put so much emphasis on the other stuff, and you improve, and then it goes down.  That’s what you can’t have.  That’s what happens when you become inconsistent.

“Really we just have to go back, get ourselves on track and work hard from me to the coaches to the players.  That’s really what I spoke to them about today in the team meeting.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 7-4

Posted by Chris Brown on July 4, 2014 – 11:42 am

Happy Independence Day everyone! A proud day to fly the flag. Here now are your latest questions from email at AskChris@bills.nfl.net and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – Chris,

Given the new additions on offense do you see the Bills being run heavy or pass heavy? With Dixon and Brown there won’t be enough carries to go around. Getting 4 RB’s the ball seems like a tough task. Given the league is pass heavy and Watkins is in the fold how is the ball going to go around. Its a pass heavy league and EJ will need to throw 300 yards often. How do you see this shaking out?
Thanks,

Sean

CB: It’s my contention that the Bills want to be a run heavy team, but not to the point where they’re grossly imbalanced. Last year is a perfect example. With a rookie quarterback in 2013 the Bills ran the ball more than any other team in the league, but they still only ran the ball 49 percent of the time (546 times on 1,116 plays).

Every team in the league strives for balance as much as possible, but I believe Doug Marrone wants to be able to run the ball whenever he wants regardless of whether the defense knows it or not.

And as much as you want to call it a pass heavy league here’s a look at the 12 teams that ran the ball the most last season. Eight of them were playoff teams including the last two NFC teams standing last year. Yes, some of them also threw it ton (New England, Denver), but it wouldn’t surprise me if Marrone wanted his offense to be similar to that of San Francisco. The 49ers ran 52.5 percent of the time last year, and knowing the pace at which the Bills want to run their offense if they’re successful they’ll be more plays and thus more opportunities for more backs to carry the football.

Don’t kid yourself there will be a pecking order and some backs will see less of the field than others, but if their offense operates as they anticipate there will be more than enough carries to go around.

2013 Total rush leaders
1 – Buffalo – 546 rushes
2 – Seattle – 509
3 – San Francisco – 505
4 – Philadelphia – 500
5 – NY Jets – 493
6 – San Diego – 486
7 – Carolina – 483
8 – Cincinnati – 481
9 – New England – 470
10 – Tennessee – 462
11 – Denver – 461
12 – Green Bay – 459

2 – Hi Chris,
With all the talk around EJ Manuel and his progression, I have a question. I’ve listened to Coach Marrone and Coach Hackett say how good he is coming along, then I hear Marrone talk about the playoff drought. If EJ Manuel doesn’t pan out by the 3rd or 4th game, is he willing to pull EJ and replace him with either Lewis or Dixon? I am also curious as to why he has not been asked this by the reporters, because as fans we want a winning team as well. I’m curious as to why Marrone hasn’t been asked this and what his response would be. Just bought my season tickets this morning for the first time!! GO BILLS.

Thanks,

Lee
CB: First, thanks for supporting the team. We look forward to seeing you out there this fall. The reason coach Marrone hasn’t been asked this question is because coaches don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, especially those that deal with replacing players in the lineup. So if the question was asked it wouldn’t be answered.

Now to speculate on the situation you present is difficult. The organization has said from the day they drafted him that they’re all in on EJ Manuel. That plan is not going to be scrapped if he gets off to a slow start. That being said every plan has a breaking point. What that breaking point is for this coaching staff however, is hard to pin down now.

I think the staff is under more pressure to win in light of the ownership void. They know victories validates them as coaches, but only coach Marrone has to what lengths they’ll go to get wins and he’s not going to cross that bridge until he comes to it.
3 – Hey Chris,

I’m still trying to form a conclusion of whether or not the Sammy Watkins trade was a good one.

Don’t get me wrong, I was one of the people jumping off of my couch yelling “Sammy or Mack!” when the trade first scanned across the screen.  But after the dust has settled, and now that we are in OTAs and such, we tend to come back to reality and realize that afterall….Sammy is just one guy.  Yes Sammy is a playmaker, but statistics show that most rookie WRs do not produce heavily.  Plus you factor into the equation that Manuel was very inconsistent (to say the least) with his accuracy…along with a bunch of other variables working against Sammy.  So with all that being said, I guess I have 2 questions for ya.

1)  Would YOU have done the trade or would you have stood pat and taken say…Ebron or Beckham for much cheaper of a price in the 1st round?

2)  Since you were in the war-room, what was Buddy Nix’s reaction to the trade?  In the video and pictures of the warm room, everyone was clapping, cheering and celebrating the pick.  Buddy, however, was the ONLY one NOT celebrating.  I know it’s just Buddy, but he is still an advisor that has a wealth of knowledge and a history of not making trades on draft day.  So I’m just curious if you got the sense that he wasn’t thrilled about the value that was given up.

As always, Thanks for all you do.

And GREAT work on your draft coverage.

Sincerely,

Tim in NJ
CB: I think if I believed that Sammy Watkins was the best player in the draft and I had an opportunity to get him I would certainly take a swing at it. Doug Whaley said himself he wasn’t their top receiver, he was their top player in the entire class.

Yes, there’s no doubt there are variables that can impact Watkins’ production. He is dependent on quarterback play and such, but I think A.J. Green is a good indicator as to what Sammy can be in his rookie season. Green was also the fourth pick in the draft and he played with a young quarterback at the time in Andy Dalton. Green had 65 catches for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns as the number one receiver in the Cincinnati offense. I don’t think those are unrealistic numbers for Watkins.

As for Buddy’s reaction in the room, you have to remember the dynamics at work there. It was the first draft Buddy was attending since stepping down as GM. It was Doug Whaley’s first draft and he just completed a huge deal. I think Nix was being respectful of Whaley’s role now. It was Doug’s room, Doug’s draft and Nix was letting Whaley and the personnel staff enjoy the moment.

And so you know Whaley and Russ Brandon consulted Nix on about a dozen occasions through the course of the draft, most often when they were done having conversations with other clubs on the phone. So Nix is still a highly respected man in that personnel department.

 

4 – Hi Chris,

Thanks again for all you great coverage.  Makes it easy for us not living in Buffalo to get our daily fix of the Bills.

Two questions about the defense:  Is Marcell Dareus facing a suspension from either the team or the NFL for his drug charge and driving incident?  And are you concerned about Jim Schwartz’s defensive scheme looking a lot like Dave Wannstedt’s scheme from two years ago.  Both Jim and Dave said they rely on the front 4 to get pressure on the QB and our D from two years ago was not exciting, never blitzed, and seemed to never be aggressive or in control.  Mike Pettine’s D was exciting, aggressive, and confusing for offenses.  Which Defense do you expect to see more of this year?

Pat

CB: Thanks for the kind words. With Dareus the cases are just going to have to play out and based on their results the NFL will decide if disciplinary action is warranted. So they’ll have to reach their conclusions before the league steps in if at all.

As for Schwartz’s defense I’m not concerned about the Wannstedt comparison. Schwartz is a cutting edge coordinator in this league. He’ll blitz a whole lot more than Wannstedt ever did. And if I have to trade in 10 sacks in exchange for the best third down defense in football (Detroit was #1 last year) and a top 10 run defense (Detroit was 6th last year) then I’ll do it.

 

5 – Chris,

I’m interested in you thoughts on how Mike Caussin has been a Bill since 2010. He has almost no NFL production to his name and has an injury history, but continues to keep getting camp invites year after year. Does he have immense potential? Has he shown something in camp in previous years that keeps him around? I’m just used to seeing guys with his history off the roster after a max of 2-3 years. Thanks for all your work.

Nick in Baltimore
CB: I think what’s most appealing about Caussin’s game is his athleticism. He’s a pass catching tight end that has uncommon agility for a man his size. He’s also trying to develop as a backup long snapper to Garrison Sanborn. Yes, injuries have largely derailed his career. That’s why this is likely a make or break camp for him with tight end as deep as it’s been in a while in Buffalo.


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Why we’ll see run, run, run on 1st-&-10

Posted by Chris Brown on December 29, 2013 – 1:01 pm

If the season long numbers are any indication, when the Bills have the ball today in their season finale against the Patriots we’ll see an awful lot of run plays on 1st-and-10.

We’ve seen for a while that the Bills aren’t shy about running the football on 1st-and-10. They lead the league in run percentage on that down and distance at a gaudy 64.1 percent. With Thad Lewis at quarterback that figure is likely to hold true, especially in a road atmosphere and armed with the second-ranked rushing attack.

Making it even more likely is the fact that most New England opponents have found good success running on 1st-and-10 against them. Patriots opponents gain at least four yards running on first down more than half the time (51.4%), which sets up favorable down and distance on second down.

Not surprisingly, opponents choose to run on 1st-and-10 against New England almost 54 percent of the time (53.8%).


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Posted in Inside the Bills

46 runs in a game rare for Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on December 3, 2012 – 11:44 am

The Bills had a season-high 46 carries Sunday for 232 yards, the most Jacksonville has given up in a game all season. Buffalo’s season-high for carries in a game, is also the high for the last seven Bills seasons.

Buffalo hasn’t run the ball 46 times in a game since the 2004 season. On Nov. 7, 2004, the Bills ran 46 times for 157 yards and a touchdown in a 22-17 win over the Jets. Willis McGahee handled most of the load with 37 carries for 132 of those 157 rushing yards.

Bills head coach Chan Gailey however, said expecting a consistent diet of 40-plus carry games is unrealistic.

“Ideally that’s exactly the way you’d like it to happen, but it doesn’t in this league a lot,” Gailey said in his weekly radio appearance on WGR Sportradio 550. “There are a lot of good teams that do a lot of different things that don’t allow you to do exactly what you want to do. You can’t go out and stuff the run every week. You can’t go out and run it 46 times a week. That’s not the way it goes sometimes.”

Buffalo ranks a very respectable ninth in the league in average carries per game with 28.5, which is slightly above the league average (27.1). The top three teams in the league in rushes per game are Houston (34.4), New England (33.4) and Seattle (32.8).

Only three other teams have run 46 times or more this season. New England ran the ball 54 times against Denver back in October. Kansas City ran it 51 times against Baltimore in October as well and Houston had 48 carries against Jacksonville back in Week 2. Buffalo’s 46 carries Sunday was the fourth-highest number of rushes in 2012.

 


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Fan Friday 11-16

Posted by Chris Brown on November 16, 2012 – 12:35 pm

Alright Bills fans, here’s the latest edition of Fan Friday courtesy of your questions sent to AskChris@bills.nfl.net and @ChrisBrownBills on Twitter.

1 – Chris,

Don’t you think maybe it is time to have an offensive coordinator instead of Chan so he can concentrate on the real problems and evaluate first half problems? I think maybe he has too much on his plate. The head coach needs to evaluate all aspects of the game and talent. I don’t believe he is doing that.

Bob

CB: I think there is merit to your comment. When Chan Gailey was first hired he did say that eventually he would turn over play calling duties on offense to his coordinator Curtis Modkins. When eventually is remains to be seen. It certainly won’t be any time this season. I believe coach Gailey has to get the offense to a point where execution is so consistent that he feels a coordinator and the unit can work in concert effectively week in and week out.  

 

2 – Chris,
Here is the dreaded Marcus Easley question. With Ron Brooks back and assuming the special teams gunner, could Easley replace Martin. Martin only plays special teams. It’s time to see what Easley’s got. Martin really doesn’t add to the passing game. Easley has potential and with Nelson out for the year they need to add another WR

Thanks, 

Josh 
CB: Easley did play there some in training camp. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Easley line up outside in this offense. I think what has held him back to this point is while he has 4.4 speed, it’s build-up speed. What that means is it takes 8-10 strides for him to get up to full speed. This quick timing offense is predicated on the receivers getting quick separation to make receptions.

Easley has improved in this area, but because his strength is deep speed and not quickness in short areas, it doesn’t make him an ideal fit for what Chan Gailey wants executed in this attack. I think he can be an NFL receiver, but I don’t know how much his game can expand and progress in this offense.

I’d be inclined to use him in the red zone knowing he’s capable of elevating and making plays on jump balls.

 

3 –  Chris,
What are your thoughts on why the Bills don’t run the ball with conventional offense at times?   With QB under center and use of fullback now and then as blocking back.  SF has a middle tier QB (similar to Fitz) and they’re successful using the run to set up the pass with play action. It seems the Bills still utilize the pass to set up the run with most of their running plays coming out of shotgun.  Also, with use of so many empty backfield sets, there is 0% chance of a run, and now defenses can tee off on Fitz.  Have been pleased with Gailey as play caller until now, it seems like we could show more looks and keep keep defenses off balance more.

-Jim

CB: The Bills run a spread offense and their line works best with a hat on a hat approach. Their inside zone run game is their bread and butter and works very well. I’m not sure why you would want to change a run game that ranks second in the league in yards per carry. Also San Fran, while they do line up a fullback more than the Bills, a good portion of the time they move that FB out of the backfield as a receiving option or to seal the edge.

 

4 - Dear Chris,

I have been a Bills fan for years now and know we have struggled over the years. I have noticed that we have been doing terrible against the run, especially up the middle. We have done a great job ont blocking runs to the outside. On defense we have also not did that great in disturbing the pass, mostly in man coverage on the outside and zone coverage in the middle of the field. On the blocking the run should we start have more corner or safety blitz’s while disguising them at the same time? Also, while disrupting the pass, should we try putting some corners in different areas of the field, and who?

 

CB: I think we saw some of this against the Patriots in Week 10. There were some run blitzes with the safeties that worked well. Dave Wannstedt doesn’t call blitzes a whole lot. The numbers this season have proven that. Changing things up couldn’t hurt knowing the unit’s relative lack of success overall this season. We’ll have to see what happens down the stretch.

 

5 – Chris-

Just wondering if Justin Rodgers has been or will be considered to start opposite Stephon Gilmore? Leodis seems to have really settled into his role playing special teams and an occasional appearance in nickle or dime packages. He has had plenty of chances on that corner, and be it lack of ball skills or whatever, it just looks flat out like it’s not the spot for him.  Rodgers on the other hand, from where I’m sitting, seems to have at least earned a shot out there. He has been making plays from the moment he stepped on the field in his 1st training camp. I realize that doesn’t mean he necessarily will be able to handle a starting CB spot, but by now, having seen both his, and Leodis’ body of work, doesn’t it at the very least earn him a chance? Is there something else holding him back that we as fans are unable to see?

 

Tommy

CB: I think Rogers has had an up and down season working in the nickel since unseating McKelvin there. I think they want him to focus on playing the slot receiver knowing his quickness and great change of direction ability caters to playing inside. He’s also on the smallish side so matching up with the larger outside receivers would prove to be a stiffer challenge, both off the line and on jump balls. He’s a better fit inside.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

What Bills focus on most in run game

Posted by Chris Brown on September 22, 2012 – 10:22 am

There are a lot of elements to a successful rushing attack, but thus far this season the Bills have been focused on one area of their run game in particular.

It’s blocking downfield. Buffalo became a very good screen team in 2011 thanks in large part to improved timing and blocking downfield by the offensive linemen. They’ve made second level blocking by the linemen and downfield blocking by receivers and tight ends a major focus this season.

“That’s the main thing we’ve been trying to stress is blocking downfield,” said C.J. Spiller. “If you look at all the big runs in the NFL you see receivers and tight ends blocking downfield. That’s where it comes from. Everybody is doing their part and pitching in and I’m just trying to make the reads and be more decisive.”

Stevie Johnson had a big block downfield on Spiller’s 27-yard screen play along with Cordy Glenn and Chris Hairston had a pancake block on Derrick Johnson on Spiller’s big 38-yard run.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Chan: We’re pass-to-set-up-the-run

Posted by Chris Brown on October 8, 2011 – 8:42 am

The Bills rank fourth in the NFL in yards per carry average at 5.3 per rush, but they’re 16th in carries on the season with 104 in four games. Part of that can be chalked up to coming from behind in games and having to throw, and part of it can be the recent struggles on third down conversions. But head coach Chan Gailey said it’s also part of their offensive identity.

“You’d love to run it more,” Gailey told Buffalobills.com. “Really most teams are either pass-to-set-up-the-run or run-to-set-up-to-the-pass. You kind of fall into one category or the other. We have fallen more since the first of the year into a pass-to-set-up-the-run situation. We’re spreading Fred (Jackson) out, getting him some catches and trying to get him the ball some other ways. So our run totals have gone down. I’d like to get them back up as time goes on. I hope as we get to the end of the year we get to be somewhat balanced.”

More rushes come later in the season would be a wise idea, knowing the weather turns pretty sour in Buffalo come mid-November and throwing the ball a lot can prove to be a difficult approach when the winds start howling off Lake Erie. Three of Buffalo’s four December games this season are at the Ralph, and running the ball will be imperative, but more and more the NFL is becoming a passing league.


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Run game creeping higher

Posted by Chris Brown on November 6, 2010 – 1:48 pm

After Week 2, the Bills rushing yards per game ranked 22nd in the league. Entering Week 9 Buffalo’s rank in that category has jumped nine spots to 13th in the NFL. Why?

Head coach Chan Gailey answered that question for Buffalobills.com Friday.

“I think one of the biggest things is we’re able to throw the ball effectively,” Gailey said. “When you throw effectively it opens up some run lanes. I think our guys understand the blocking schemes we’re trying to use and we’ve been able to knock off some big runs which really helps your average.

“We’re not running it a lot of times, but our average for carry is pretty decent. If you can stay between that four and five which is where we are now (4.5 avg.) you have a chance to be a decent rushing football team. On top of that Fitz is a good runner. He gets about 20 to 30 yards that you can tack on to that rushing total each week.”

After Week 2 Buffalo was averaging 87 yards rushing per game and 3.6 yards per carry. That average has been increased by more than 27 yards (114.4) as they’ve tacked on almost a yard to their per carry average (4.5).

The Bills ground game will face a tough test however, in the Bears. Chicago ranks fifth in the league against the run, giving up less than 90 rushing yards per game (89.3). The Bears surrender just 3.6 yards per rush good for sixth best in the NFL.


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Bills have run game problem moving forward

Posted by Chris Brown on November 3, 2008 – 3:45 pm

Without question Buffalo’s run game is their biggest problem moving forward. First and foremost because it’s making the team one dimensional and putting too much of a burden on the passing game. That allows opponents to come after Edwards, leading to more pressure and it’s forcing Edwards into more mistakes.

Second, with the bad weather coming, teams like the Bills who play all of their remaining games at home in Buffalo (one Toronto game inside) or in what will be cold weather cities the rest of the season (NE, KC, Denver) they will have to run the ball. If they cannot their fortunes are not promising.

Third, of Buffalo’s eight remaining opponents, only the Browns (27th) have a rushing offense that ranks worse than the Bills (26th).


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No Ferguson would mean good things for Lynch and run game

Posted by Chris Brown on October 23, 2008 – 2:13 pm

Miami is ranked a very respectable 12th against the run this season, which is three spots better than Buffalo. The Bills run game issues on offense are well known, but the task could get a bit easier if Dolphins NT Jason Ferguson can’t go Sunday, due to an oblique muscle strain suffered last Sunday.

According to the Miami Herald, it’s not looking good for the veteran defensive lineman to play Sunday. His backup as we’ve mentioned here is Paul Soliai, a 2nd-year plugger out of Utah. Soliai is massive (6’4″ 355), but nowhere near the player that Ferguson is. Stay tuned.


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Dockery on boosting the run

Posted by Chris Brown on October 23, 2008 – 1:45 pm

While the offense hasn’t been struggling to put points on the board, they’re still not where they want to be running the football. Getting Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson to the second level has been a struggle, with gap penetration an issue at times.

Standing 23rd in rushing with the longest carry covering 22 yards this season, the linemen know those numbers have to improve with the weather set to turn colder soon and nastier.

“I think we just have to be consistent,” said Derrick Dockery. “It’s a tough division that leads around running the football game. Because coming into the game, as an offense you know you have to run the ball and as a defense you know you have to stop the run. And so I think teams have done a very good job early of getting extra guys in the box to stop the run, so we have to find ways to get Marshawn (Lynch) to the second level. We have to do a better job up front with our technique and just finishing blocks. I believe that pretty soon that he’ll hit stride and we’ll hit stride and we’ll get the running game going.”

The coaches have talked about finishing blocks before. Everyone in the locker room knows Lynch has to average more than 3.5 yards a carry and you can’t pin it on Lynch all that much. The guy runs hard all the time. Hopefully it turns.

The next four run defenses they face are currently ranked 12th (Miami), 4th (NYJ), 19th (NE) and 26th (Clev).


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