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Seeking offensive rhythm

Posted Nov 29, 2012


They had a good roll going in New England in Week 10 when they put up 31 points, but since the team’s Week 8 bye, finding a consistent rhythm on offense has proven difficult for Ryan Fitzpatrick and company.

“Unfortunately, the last month or so, we’re heading in the wrong direction, our production has dropped off and it’s not where we want it to be,” said Fitzpatrick. “For us, that’s disappointing. But we just have to continue to work and continue to try to fix the things that we’re not doing well.”

The biggest drop offs for the Bills from their first seven games to their last four have been in points per game, third down conversion percentage and red zone touchdown percentage, which not coincidentally are all interconnected.

In the first seven games Buffalo averaged 24.4 points per game. Over the last four it’s down a touchdown to 18 points per game. That can be directly attributed to a 10 percent drop in third down conversion percentage from 42.3 percent in the first seven games to 32 percent in the last four.

The red zone touchdown percentage drop off however, has been the most severe. Through the first seven games Buffalo was punching a red zone possession into the end zone 65 percent of the time (13-20), but in the last four games it’s fallen to a less than 30 percent success rate (5-17, 29.4%).

At the beginning of the season there was a lot of talk about making use of their no huddle package, but they haven’t turned to it all that often. When the offense sputters early, as was the case last Sunday in Indianapolis, players were asked about the merits of jumping into a no huddle approach if even just for a series or two.

“Yeah we do have it in the playbook, and we haven’t used it as much and that’s a coach’s decision,” said C.J. Spiller. “If coach Gailey feels like we need to use it we will. We were just off, we had a couple of early three and outs and couldn’t get it going. But once we did start making those plays there was no need to get into that up tempo. We know we’ve got it, and we know we can use it.”

Ryan Fitzpatrick believes it could serve a purpose at a time when they’re struggling.

“When we don’t have any momentum, when we’re kind of dead out there, when we’re three and out, or four, five, six plays and out, just going on the ball and getting some stuff going (it could help),” he said. “But a lot of the time when we do that, it limits the amount of runs we have, it limits the amount of touches we can get for C.J. and Fred. I think that’s why we’ve gotten away from it a little bit this year.  That’s always something that we need to consider though, because that’s something that can liven up the offense if you need a spark.” 

Head coach Chan Gailey is in agreement with Fitzpatrick that the no huddle limits the options in the rushing attack, which has been Buffalo’s most consistent element on offense this season.

“We’ve done (no huddle) some but it’s been more revolving around the pass game and we’re trying to make sure we get the running game going,” he said. “When you do no-huddle, sometimes it revolves too much around the pass game and we don’t want to get into that. We want to keep our balance between our run and pass.”

Over the last four games Buffalo’s play calling has been just under 60 percent pass (59.8%) and just over 40 percent run (41.2%).

“Everything’s up on the ball, and we’re calling things,” said Fitzpatrick of the no huddle. “We’ve got plenty of runs, but we don’t have our full package of runs that we would have in the game. With the quarterback calling the plays on the field, especially with one-on-one matchups on the outside, you tend to throw a little bit more.”

With no margin for error in the win-loss column, the no huddle is an option the players are ready to turn to if their head coach sees it as a solution should inconsistency strike the offense again.

“I believe Chan would do that when it’s necessary and we believe in that whenever you want to turn to a no huddle situation we’ll be ready for it,” said Stevie Johnson. “I can’t control that and I don’t think Fitz can control with that type of tempo. Whenever Coach Gailey says to turn up the tempo then that’s when we’ll do it.”