Before the final drive of the game for the Bills, CJ Spiller only had nine total touches. He picked up a pair of receptions on that drive to bring his overall number of touches to 11 on the day. Fred Jackson also had 11 touches. Of the 54 plays the Bills ran, Jackson or Spiller had the ball on 40 percent of them.
Nine of the 22 touches the backs had come in the passing game, leaving only 12 total rushes between the two. That is 22% of the offense that went through the running game (excluding runs by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brad Smith). Yes, less than a quarter of the offense went through a running attack ranked in the top five of the NFL.
That isn’t to say that CJ Spiller didn’t produce. Outside of getting stuffed on a few runs, he still averaged 6.5 yards per carry and has 102 all-purpose yards. That is a whopping 9.2 average per touch. So, while the rest of the offense sputtered, Spiller was capable of nearing first down yardage every time he touched the ball (on average).
All of this has become fairly public knowledge, of course. The Bills have repeatedly put the ball in the hands of their erratic quarterback hoping that the magic from the first five weeks in 2011 might return. However, all that has occurred are turnovers and let downs.
Chan Gailey is indeed an offensive wonder. He created an offense that complimented his quarterback and allowed him to succeed. However, the wheels came off late last season and they’re still on the side of the road looking for the lug nuts. Buffalo’s passing offense has managed to create some impressive numbers this season. Yet, it has also been the cause of many of the team’s defeats. That isn’t to say that porous defensive performances against New England, San Francisco and Tennessee aren’t to be ignored. The fact of the matter is that Gailey continues to turn to his passing game despite every indication that the opposite course of action is the proper decision.
Sunday’s loss didn’t necessarily directly fall on the shoulders of Fitzpatrick. He was perfectly adequate against the Texans. His yards per completion were below average and he continued to show that he isn’t capable of throwing deep passes. Yet, he didn’t do anything that cost the Bills the game.
The Texans came into the game knowing that the Bills bread and butter was to come on the ground and short passing game. Wade Phillips knows well enough that a creative defense can cover both aspects in a base set. He did just that, leaving his talented front seven on the field as often as he could without fearing a mismatch on the outside. A sputtering run game early on – due in part to the Texans defensive strategy – allowed Gailey to turn to his passing game, no matter how ineffective it might be.
Give Gailey credit for knowing what he can and can’t do with his quarterback. He doesn’t give Fitzpatrick many chances to set fire to drives by calling conservative plays when in the red zone. It hasn’t hurt the team much this season until Sunday. A trio of red zone trips that ended in field goal attempts were highlighted by the lack of balls thrown to the end zone.
No matter how many times different members of the team and coaching staff say it, nothing will show that the Bills want to stick with the run until it happens. It was clear that the Titans weren’t capable of stopping either Spiller or Jackson two weeks ago. Gailey took advantage of that to the tune of 34 points. However, the inexplicable decision to start airing it out late ended up unraveling what should have been a sure win.
This week was different. The run game didn’t get going immediately and Gailey tossed it out immediately. The passing game was average and failed to help the Bills move the ball. Andy Levitre voiced his concern about dropping the run too early and he is probably right.
As the Bills prepare for the Patriots, the passing game will likely be featured heavily. This is particularly likely against a team that has struggled to stop the pass this season. However, the Patriots showed exactly what they’re capable of last time these two teams met. Perhaps a ground and pound attitude will help to control the clock and feature that actual engine that powers the Buffalo attack.
Time for Change
UPDATE: With Terrence McGee and Erik Pears going to IR and John Potter getting released, the Bills have some room to figure things out. Marcus Easley will be activated and take one of the three empty spots. He will also help ill in some talent at wide out. I’d take a run at Stanford Routt to fill in the obvious void at corner in addition to bringing back Reggie Wells to offer some veteran depth on the offensive interior.
One player who hasn’t done much of anything this year is Dorin Dickerson. However, I think he has more to offer. He only has four touches all year – one being that misguided goal line reverse – for 41 yards. He is a speedy H-Back/tight end who can bring an Aaron Hernandez wrinkle to the offense. He’s fast enough to stretch the field but is built to be effective in Chan Gailey’s underneath attack. Get him a few more touches to see if he was truly worth the roster spot.
I have a pretty good feeling that the report on Mario Williams’ torn ligament was 100% true, no matter what comes out from the team. Watching him do anything other than grab on and try to power into the backfield told me that his left wrist was useless. He was certainly more active on Sunday after the procedure to clean up what was going on in there. I’m cautiously optimistic that his play will improve over the final half of the season. Will it justify his pay? Probably not. But I think it would elevate him out of bust contention.
Count me as a Chris Hairston fan. I didn’t hate him last season as a rookie and I think he has done quite well as the swing tackle in 2012. The Bills may be onto something with he and Cordy Glenn as a tandem on either side of the line.
Bills MVP: CJ Spiller had a good game, despite minimal opportunities to touch the ball. I also thought Stephon Gilmore had a good showing. He wasn’t a shut down force, but he wasn’t victimized either.
Bills LVP: Got to be Chan Gailey. He has a top-five running attack but continue to force an ineffective passing game.
It was over when: Andre Johnson torched Aaron Williams to set up the second touchdown of the day for Houston.