It’s one thing to lead the league in rushing, but to do it in back-to-back seasons is pretty uncommon. How uncommon? Only two other teams have pulled it off in the last 20 years. Buffalo topped their league-leading rushing average of 152 yards per game in 2015 by a dozen yards in 2016 with a mark of 164.4. It was the identity of a Bills attack that finished in the top 10 in scoring and challenged opponents to stop them.
“That was our vision when we came into training camp,” said
Buffalo rushed for over 200 yards five times in 2016 with three of them going for more than 270 on the ground. The season-high came in Week 6 when they rolled up 313 on the San Francisco 49ers.
“That’s our thing,” said leading rusher
In addition to leading the league in rushing they also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns for a second straight season. The last time a team did that the late Walter Payton was carrying the ball in the Chicago Bears backfield (1984-85). Buffalo’s 29 rushing touchdowns this season set a franchise mark and tied for 10th most in league annals.
“I think records are meant to be broken and you always try to just do your best,” said McCoy. “The guys up front when you have a line like that it makes it a lot easier for the backs. I’m excited to be here.”
McCoy put up the kind of production expected of him when Buffalo acquired him in a trade with Philadelphia in 2015. He was slowed by hamstring injury last year and could manage only 895 yards on the ground. The dynamic back rebounded this season with almost 1,300-yards rushing (1,267) and 13 rushing touchdowns.
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“He’s got great vision, but the thing he does best though is how he sets defenders up,” said Incognito of McCoy. “He’ll be setting them up from about 10 yards away. He’ll straighten them up, get them to stop moving their feet and he’ll sprint right by them. It’s pretty amazing to see. He’s got such a knack for it and it’s so easy for him.”
The use of Taylor in Buffalo’s read option package proved deadly at times as Taylor had six rushing touchdowns on the season and went for 580 yards on the ground.
“What we do really well is we have our core set of runs, but then we have our quarterback driven stuff, and Tyrod is obviously a talented runner and puts stress on defenses,” Incognito said. “Even when he doesn’t have the ball he still on his fakes he holds a defender so it gives us an advantageous box count, even when they load the box.”
Gillislee lived up to his moniker of ‘Touchdown Mike’ contributing eight rushing touchdowns. He too went over 500 rushing yards on the season giving the Bills three rushers with better than 500 yards for the second straight year.
What makes the offensive players so proud of their rushing success is the ability to keep opposing defenses off balance with the wide variety of looks they can give.
“There’s so much eye candy, window dressing, whatever you want to call it, but then sometimes we’ll run that stuff,” said
And while the creativity of Buffalo’s run game makes it hard for opponents to get a handle on what’s coming next, the Bills also showed the ability to just mash with teams at the line of scrimmage as well.
“It’s our ability to still play physical,” said
Buffalo’s league-leading rushing attack finished with the third-most yards on the ground in a season in team history (2,630). Only the O.J. Simpson led Bills of 1973 (3,088) and 1975 (2,974) accumulated more yards on the ground.
“We have a very talented running back and our guys do a great job of creating holes up front, even Jerome Felton,” said Taylor. “That’s one of our strong points of course.”