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Bills offense is rolling

Posted Sep 20, 2011

It’s been only two games, but the Bills offense has very quickly shown that in year two under Chan Gailey and the offensive staff they could be among the league leaders in point production.

After two games Buffalo’s offense leads the league in points per game as they average 39.5 per outing after scoring 79 through the first two weeks of the 2011 season. The Bills are currently the best in football averaging five touchdowns a game, but even they know maintaining that type of production in the NFL is going to be difficult.

“That’s a tough pace to keep up, in term of the points and we know we’re not going to go out and score 39, 40 points a game,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick. “We’re going to try, but it’s just not going to happen sometimes.” 

Buffalo’s signal caller credits the consistent play of the offensive line through the first two weeks as the main reason for the success.

“I think it starts with the guys up front,” he said. “The way that we’re running the ball right now, the holes that are opening up for Freddy (Jackson) and C.J. (Spiller), those guys are running great. The protection on 46 passes without letting up a sack. Those guys are playing really well right now.  I think that is what’s keeping us going, allowing plays to happen in the passing game and allowing those guys to break free on the runs.”

Fitzpatrick is currently tied for a league best seven touchdown passes, all but one of which have come in the red zone where Buffalo’s touchdown scoring percentage is tops in the NFL. The Bills have put the ball in the end zone on eight of their 10 red zone opportunities (80%), going 4-for-5 in each of their first two games.

“We think we have some good weapons down there, some good matchup problems,” said Fitzpatrick. “So far we’ve been able to exploit those.”

“The bottom line is execution and being able to defeat the defenses that you face each week,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “The guys have done a good job of understanding that we need to score touchdowns down there and we’ve done it a variety of ways running it and throwing it. More throws than runs, but we’ve got to continue to do that. If you can score touchdowns instead of field goals it helps you win games because you may have to score 30 or 40 points sometimes to win games.”

Perhaps the most eye-opening success story for Buffalo’s offense is their running game. Through the first two weeks of the season the Bills lead the league in rushing, averaging 190 yards per game. Fred Jackson has been the workhorse with 229 rushing yards on just 29 carries, which is also a league best thus far, but he’s not focused on individual statistics.

“I just feel we’re playing well as an offensive unit,” Jackson said. “Everybody is contributing and as long as we do that we feel like we can win a lot of games.”

As a team the Bills are averaging 5.9 per carry, second only to the Philadelphia Eagles (6.0), who have Michael Vick running around a fair amount at quarterback. And it’s the Bills running game that has kept drives alive every bit as much as their passing game. Buffalo has converted 21 first downs on the ground through the first two games, good for second in the league. That’s just nine fewer conversions than their passing game has produced.

“That’s what you have to do if you want to be the best team in this game you have to continue to do the things you’re doing well,” Jackson said. “We have to still be consistent in what we want to do and mix the run and the pass together and keep Fitz upright so he can make plays for us.”

Part of that conversion rate can be attributed to the big plays Buffalo has produced on the ground. Fred Jackson had runs of 34 and 43 yards against the Raiders Sunday and C.J. Spiller chipped in a 26-yard run. Against their first two opponents Buffalo has 12 rushes of 10 yards or more. Only Minnesota and Philadelphia have more (13).

While it’s hard to figure whether the Bills attack can maintain this high octane pace the offense does take stock in their ever improving consistency in making plays, sustaining drives and putting themselves in position to score more points.

“It has been a lot of fun. We had a real long season last year, lost a lot of close games, but felt we had a good core group of young guys,” said Fitzpatrick. “So we’re glad we got off to a fast start.”

“It comes down to consistency more than anything,” said Jackson. “We know there are going to be games where we won’t put up 30 points. We’re going to be in dogfight games like 17-14 or 10-7, but as long as we’re consistent we feel like we’ll be okay.”