After getting upset on the road to Jacksonville by a 9-6 score to begin the month of November, the Bills made a schematic change by putting quarterback Josh Allen under center to operate a more conventional rushing attack. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has probably been asking Allen to do too much — especially out of the shotgun formation. Buffalo also incorporated running back Matt Breida in more rushing plays against the Jets. The result was a 45-14 victory where they ran the ball 24 times for 139 yards. Breida ran the ball only three times but it was the first time he got touched the football since September 12th. His 28 yards on those three carries earned him more playing time.
The game script the following week kept the Bills from continuing their ambition to run the football more. They fell behind Indianapolis 14-0 in the first quarter before going into halftime trailing by a 24-7 score. Perhaps an early score to pull within 10 points could have allowed head coach Sean McDermott to get back to running the football to open up the ancillary benefits to that tactic. But the Colts scored 14 points in the third quarter to take an insurmountable lead that could only be overcome by scoring quickly in the passing game. In the end, the Bills ran the ball just 13 times in their loss to Colts while having their offense on the field for just 22:13 minutes. Breida’s contributions were encouraging moving forward as he gained 51 rushing yards on five carries.
Running the football will help the Buffalo offensive line and keep the energy up for their defense. I expected this formula for success to be what McDermott strived for in their bounce-back game in New Orleans against the Saints. Sure enough, the Bills ran the ball 32 times for 113 yards in a 31-6 victory against the Saints. Allen was only asked to throw the ball 28 times. He completed 23 of these passes. Breida ran the ball nine times for 26 yards. Interestingly, McDermott opted to have Zack Moss placed as a healthy scratch in that game leaving the primary rushing duties to Breida and David Montgomery.
Buffalo held New Orleans to only 190 yards. The Jets gained 366 yards in the first game after McDermott had Daboll redesign the offense, but much of that was in garbage time. The Colts game got away from the Bills early, but expect McDermott to continue having Allen play under center with a renewed commitment to relying on their running backs as their primary ball carriers.
Asking Allen to do less may be the most beneficial aspect of this change of tactics. Allen has rushed the ball 69 times for 382 yards this season. He only had two rushing attempts in the games against the Jets and Colts respectively before running the ball ten times in New Orleans. But running backs (or wide receivers in specialty plays) ran the ball 20 and 24 times in those games. McDermott will still want Allen to take advantage of his legs -- especially when the team needs a big play. But expect the running backs to take a higher load of the rushing attempts moving forward.
Best of luck — Frank.