Inside The Bills

Why 1st down could determine game today

Posted by Chris Brown on September 14, 2014 – 10:24 am

Very often we hear keys to the game like third down or preventing big plays. For the Bills and Dolphins today it’s going to come down to the first play of every series. Here’s why.

Buffalo and Miami are two teams that like to lean heavily on their running game. Both have multiple backs that they can deploy in their offense to gain yards. The Bills have three (Dixon, Jackson, Spiller) that they appear prepared to use through the course of the season regularly. Miami has Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno.

Last week against New England the Dolphins converted 54% of their third downs (7-13) and the big reason why was due to their success on first down on offense. Miami had 31 first down plays in their win over the Patriots. They ran the ball 18 times and averaged 5.39 a carry (18 for 97 yds). That very often set up 2nd-and-medium and kept their full playbook open. It also led to a lot of shorter third downs. Of the Dolphins 13 third down plays nine of them were 3rd-and-4 or less.

Similarly the Bills had comparable success running on 1st-and-10 against the Bears. Of their 20 first down plays they ran the ball 15 times and did even better than Miami. Buffalo averaged a whopping 6.53 yards per rush on first down gaining 98 yards on just 15 carries.

The difference this week is both offenses are going against run defenses that are considered superior to the ones they each faced in Week 1. But with both teams having developing quarterbacks running their offense Miami and Buffalo will continue to emphasize running on first down. Whichever defense has more success holding them to minimal gains could shift the balance of the game.

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