Inside The Bills

Red zone success rooted in variety, repetition

Posted by Chris Brown on October 2, 2015 – 4:48 pm

The Bills currently rank second in the league in red zone touchdown efficiency with an 83.3 percent success rate behind only Arizona at a little over 91 percent. Buffalo credits their success to a couple of factors.

One is variety. Buffalo has five red zone touchdowns on six trips to the red zone this season and they’ve come from five different players on offense. Boobie Dixon (1-yd run, Wk 1), Tyrod Taylor (7-yd, run, Wk 2), Charles Clay (9-yd rec., Wk 2), Karlos Williams (2-yd run, Wk 2) and LeSean McCoy (10-yd rec., Wk 3).

“To me that’s the crux of what we do because in this league pretty much anybody can take away anybody if they really wanted to,” said offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “If you’re trying to force the ball to a guy all game as you see some teams do, the results aren’t what we’re looking for. I think it just speaks to our breadth of talent. Guys who are able to be involved in the game plan and the quarterback distributing the ball to the right person.”

“We have a ton of playmakers that are going out there and winning their one-on-one matchups and it’s up to me to find those matchups,” said Tyrod Taylor. “Coach Roman gives me an opportunity to pick a side on certain plays that we call based on the look that we get. And I’m finding the open guy and they’re doing their job as far as winning and the line is doing a good job of protecting even when they bring the blitz.”

The second reason for Buffalo’s offensive success in the red zone is repetition. According to Bills head coach Rex Ryan they spend extra time each week on their red zone plays.

“We spend a little more time in the red zone,” Ryan told in his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment presented by Tim Horton’s. “More games are won and lost in the red zone than probably anywhere else. Third down is certainly important. You cover every facet, but we spend a big chunk of our time working on the red zone.”


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Jekyll & Hyde for Denver ‘D’ inside their 30

Posted by Chris Brown on December 7, 2014 – 12:25 pm

The Broncos defense is a top 10 unit in several key categories like total defense, run defense, pass defense and third down defense. But something happens when opponents crack Denver’s 30-yard line and their ability to stop teams takes a turn for the worse.

Once opponents are inside the Broncos’ 30, Denver gives up touchdowns at a rate of almost 59 percent, the third-highest rate in the NFL (58.7%). That’s more than 10 percent above the league average (47.9%).

Defending their red zone isn’t much better. When opponents move inside the Broncos’ 20-yard line they rank a mere 27th in the league giving up touchdowns almost two-thirds of the time (64.1%). That’s welcome news for a Bills offense that has struggled mightily in the red zone so far this season ranking 30th (41%).

Kyle Orton knows the importance of making the Broncos’ defensive figures inside their own 30 hold to form.

“These types of games third down in the red zone is a four-point play and third down staying on the field is even bigger,” said Orton.

Perhaps the most encouraging figure for Orton is the collective passer rating of quarterbacks that have faced the Broncos this season. Opposing quarterbacks have compiled a rating of 120.7 against Denver inside their own 30-yard line. It’s the highest passer rating allowed in that area of the field in the entire league.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Miami gets to red zone, scoring the problem

Posted by Chris Brown on November 11, 2014 – 1:46 pm

The Miami Dolphins have performed admirably when it comes to moving the ball down the field and inside an opponent’s 20-yard line. The problem is what happens after they reach the red zone.

Miami leads the league in red zone drives with 43 this season in their first nine games. The bad news is their touchdown efficiency in the red zone ranks 28th in the league (46.5%). Even worse is their goal-to-go touchdown efficiency, which ranks last in the NFL at just 50 percent. Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor

“Three weeks ago, I think we were third and then, last week, maybe we were tied for first or second in (red zone) opportunities that I saw,” Lazor said. “I guess if you look at the positives, it’s that we’re getting there and then it’s broken record, we’ve talked about it a number of times that we’ve got to do a better job and hopefully I gave some of my thoughts on the overall picture of why it’s harder there. We’ve got to be more detailed and get it done.

“I think we have a good plan going in. The players know what the plan is and, again, like we talked about with the deep ball, I’ll be the optimist and say this will be the week.”

Part of the problem for Miami has been ball security in the red zone. The Dolphins have coughed up the ball four times in the red zone this season, second most in the NFL. Lazor said execution has to be at its best inside the opponent’s 20 because there is less space to work, so precision has to be on point.

“As you get to the red zone, in the run game, the safeties get closer, so your margin for error is less,” he said. “In the pass game, the windows get smaller, your margin for error is less. So it’s really an amplified example of the detail of doing it exactly right and it’s certainly lagged behind for us on some of the other areas, I’m not surprised because it’s harder and there’s a reason why everyone puts emphasis on the red zone, because things happen faster, windows are tighter and we better get better fast.”

The Dolphins were one for two in the red zone in their first meeting against the Bills back in Week 2.


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Fan Friday 8-29

Posted by Chris Brown on August 29, 2014 – 8:36 am

The preseason is now in the books and rosters will all be down to 53 by Saturday at 4 pm. For now let’s get to your questions from email at and on Twitter @ChrisBrownBills.

1 – @ChrisBrownBills do you have an early projection for which wideouts will make the team?


CB: I honestly believe the wide receiver position is pretty cut and dry in terms of personnel. Most of them have solidified their roles either on offense or their contributions on special teams. I think the bigger question is how many do they keep?

In Doug Marrone’s first season as head coach the Bills kept six receivers. I think this time around there is a realistic chance they keep seven. Now that obviously means they would have to trim from another position, presumably on offense. Do they only keep two quarterbacks? Do they keep one less tight end?

The Bills will also have an extra roster spot to play with knowing that Nigel Bradham will presumably go on the reserve suspended list and not count toward the 53-man roster.


2 – @ChrisBrownBills Will Coach Hackett be on sideline or in booth this season?


CB: The Bills offensive coordinator made a move down to the sidelines last season and intends to stay there. He’s been on the sideline all preseason so I’ve got no reason to think that will change this coming week.


3 – Chris:

Thanks for your coverage on the team!
I have a question on the Bills Offensive philosophy in short yardage and Red Zone.  It appears (at least in the preseason) that the Bills are going the stay with the tight formations on short yardage and goal line situations (basically power on power) why don’t they use the spread more?  Not to bring up previous situations but the Bills seemed more consistent and successful (under Chan Gailey) spreading the defense which opened more running lanes and the middle of the field. Do you see the Bills incorporating some of that offensive thinking?


CB: I think what you saw in the preseason is only some of what you should expect in the regular season. The Bills have spent the better part of the last two offseasons trying to increase their size and girth on the offensive line. That was done with winning those short yardage battles by plowing straight ahead in mind. In all likelihood that will be the approach a good amount of the time this season, but I wouldn’t rule out some spread looks as well.


4 – Chris,

So far through the preseason games, the Bills run defense looks a lot better than it has in years. I feel a big reason for that has been the addition of Brandon Spikes at MLB (and of course, Jim Schwartz as DC). I know Spikes signed a one-year deal with the Bills in the offseason, do you see the Bills offering him a long-term contract extension sometime during the season? I would love to see Spikes re-signed as I feel he’s been a great mentor to the younger players on the team, as well as being a great MLB.

Thanks for the great coverage on the Bills!

Steve B.
Fredericksburg, VA
CB: There’s no question that Spikes is a guy that younger players follow. They respect his instincts for the game. To further illustrate that I’ll let LB Ty Powell explain it himself.

“Me and Preston Brown are usually side by side, following Spikes and stuff,” said Powell. “Spikes has a lot of knowledge of the game, he has great instincts, so we just follow him around.”

The young linebackers on the roster are just trying to soak up whatever they can about playing linebacker in the NFL from Spikes.

As for an extension I would expect that to be a wait and see situation, but the run defense is probably the most encouraging thing about this team to come out of the preseason.


5 – Hello Chris,

Love the work you do for the Bills and Fan Friday. I am wondering if the I-formation seen in preseason, is what we will be mainly seeing by the Bills. With all the talent they have a wideout, Williams, Woods, Goodwin, seems crazy they wouldn’t stick to more of a spread offense? Plus this would create space for Spiller. Maybe they are just not showing much of their packages at this point but still. Thanks for the Bills Coverage.


CB: My suspicion is that while that is a part of their offensive playbook we won’t see nearly as much of it in the preseason. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has always been about putting his five best playmakers on the field for the offense. That should mean more wideouts on the field more often come the regular season.

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Posted in Inside the Bills

Wood: Red zone execution was terrible

Posted by Chris Brown on September 23, 2013 – 12:29 pm

The Bills went 0-for-3 in the red zone on Sunday when it came to punching the ball in for a touchdown. Buffalo had to settle for three field goals as gaining yards inside the Jets 20 proved hard to come by. Eric Wood didn’t think much of their efforts.

“Just a lot of mistakes on offense, and red zone execution was terrible,” said the Bills co-captain. “If we score on a couple of those when we were down there it’s a totally different ball game. We don’t give up six sacks because they’re not able to tee off on us.”

On Buffalo’s three red zone opportunities they ran a total of 10 plays. All together those 10 plays gained a total of 13 yards. The three third down situations Sunday went as follows.

3rd-and-8 – incomplete pass

3rd-and-6 – one-yard gain

3rd-and-5 – incomplete pass


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Posted in Inside the Bills

Bills go without a red zone TD

Posted by Chris Brown on September 22, 2013 – 11:49 pm

They were down there more than once on Sunday against the Jets, but none of Buffalo’s three red zone trips resulted in a touchdown and it proved costly in a seven-point loss to the Bills.

Early in the second quarter they had a 2nd-and-8 and a 3rd-and-8 at the Jets 19-yard line, but C.J. Spiller rushed for no gain on second down and EJ Manuel’s pass to the right to Robert Woods fell incomplete.

After a Jim Leonhard interception set the offense up at the 21, Buffalo got a good first down carry from Fred Jackson for eight yards, but the Jets ‘D’ tightened down from there allowing a total of two yards on the next three carries by Buffalo. On a 2nd-and-11 at the 11, Manuel ran off the left end for five yards to get down to the six-yard line.

Nathaniel Hackett dialed up a pass play to take a shot at the end zone on 3rd-and-goal, and Manuel couldn’t find anyone so he scrambled, but could only get a yard leading to another field goal attempt.

Again the defense set up the offense on another short field after Kiko Alonso’s interception, which put them 1st-and-10 on the Jets 13. The Bills again chose to run the football on first and second down, and gained five yards. On 3rd-and-5 however, Manuel could not connect with Stevie Johnson and again a field goal was the result.

Head coach Doug Marrone commented on why they were dead set on running the ball on early downs in the red zone Sunday, and it was not to be conservative with EJ Manuel down close.

“When you go into the red zone where they play coverage and our point is if they’re going to play coverage and make sure we don’t throw the touchdown we want to be able to run the ball,” he said. “I think when you do that, when you’re able to do that, run the ball in there, you look at the percentage of the offenses that are better in the red zone, eight out of 10 can run the football down there. That was our plan more than trying to protect EJ.”

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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

Red zone futility

Posted by Chris Brown on December 8, 2008 – 8:51 pm

The red zone woes of the Bills offense the past two weeks (0-5)  have naturally dropped Buffalo to the bottom third of the league in touchdown percentage in that area of the field.

The Bills rank 26th in red zone touchdown percentage, reaching pay dirt just 45.2% of the time.

Only the Vikings, Bengals, Browns, Raiders, Bucs and Rams have been less successful this season.

Posted in Inside the Bills
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