Buffalo Bills get creative with play-calling to jump start run game

Matt Breida, Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Matt Breida, Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

All year long, the Buffalo Bills run game has struggled to run the ball up the middle. The guards have struggled to open up holes, and when the holes have opened up, the running backs haven’t been quick enough to hit them. So even when opposing teams have sold out for the pass and dropped seven players in coverage, the Bills have struggled to run the football. A week ago, the lack of a running game doomed the Bills, but some adjustments that were made against the New York Jets could unlock a formula for long-term success.

Instead of pounding the ball up the middle, the Bills took advantage of their athletic offensive line and started running outside the tackles. Dion Dawkins and Mitch Morse are very athletic and are excellent at pulling and getting to the second level of the defense to make blocks. We also saw the most carries for Matt Breida and for Isaiah McKenzie that we have seen all year, two-speed guys that excel on the outside. They bring something that nobody else in this Bills lineup can bring with their speed.

The threat of their speed opened up some pre-snap jet motion that confused the defense and got the Bills into good looks, and when they got the ball in their hands both players did a great job of getting to the outside and picking up yardage.

In Week 10, the Bills also welcomed back tight end Dawson Knox and right tackle Spencer Brown, who made a considerable impact as blockers. Spencer Brown is a mauler at right tackle, but he is also very athletic, which we saw when he got upfield and made a monstrous block on a pitch play to Matt Breida, resulting in a touchdown.

Not only does Spencer Brown provide the Bills with an upgrade at right tackle, but he allows them to slide Darryl Williams in at right guard, where he has been excellent this year. This gives the Buffalo Bills an upgrade at two positions on the offensive line.

In his return, Dawson Knox didn’t have a significant statistical game. Still, he continuously brought defenders with him across the field, opening up deep one-on-one opportunities for Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis.

Again, it was an unconventional rushing attack. Still, Devin Singletary, Matt Breida, Zack Moss, Emmanuel Sanders, and Isaiah McKenzie combined for a very effective twenty carries, for 139 yards and four touchdowns in a dramatic turnaround performance for the Buffalo Bills run game.

At 14% of the snaps, it was the most Matt Breida has played all year, and he rewarded the decision by putting up 50 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on six touches. He did give away a fumble at the end of the game, but that should not deter the coaching staff from giving Breida more playing time in the future; he added a new element to this offense that they desperately needed.

Buffalo Bills need to remain creative in terms of their rushing attack

Going forward, the Bills will need to abandon traditional strategy and continue to do some more unconventional things to get this run game going. This Bills roster will never be able to turn around and give one running back 20 carries a game and let him get 100 yards. However, there is enough talent on this roster that if the personnel is used correctly, the Bills can have sustained success running the football. The Bills are a passing team so they don’t need the run game to be wildly successful; it just has to be good enough to open up the passing game.

With the run game opening things up against the Jets, Josh Allen had one of his best games as the Bills quarterback on Sunday, and almost every throw he made was right on the money thanks in part to leaning heavily on play action. Allen finished his day completing 21 of 28 passes for a colossal 366 yards passing. There wasn’t a defensive back on the Jets defense capable of stopping Stefon Diggs, and he burned them to the tune of 162 yards and a touchdown.

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It was a near-perfect performance from the Bills’ offense and one they needed after falling flat a week ago. However, coming up the schedule will get more challenging for the Bills as they embark on a four-game stretch consisting of the Colts, Saints, Patriots, and Buccaneers.