When the Bills traded for running back LeSean McCoy, the organization dreamt that it could field the NFL's best rushing attack. Those visions have come to fruition, and while McCoy has been a key component to the team's success running the football, the Bills ground game showed Sunday it has plenty of other weapons.
The Bills gained 236 yards on the ground in their 16-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, and they were more successful carrying the football than they were throwing it, gaining 172 yards passing. The success in the run game came despite the fact that McCoy sat out with an MCL injury.
Replacement starter Karlos Williams (17 rushing attempts, 76 yards and one touchdown), and Mike Gillislee (nine attempts, 93 yards and a score) provided a spark for the offense in McCoy's absence.
"Karlos does a hell of a job running the football. He's a tall, punishing runner, and we feed off that energy," said left guard Richie Incognito. "[Gillislee's] a very talented guy. I think you see him coming into his own, being a professional and doing the little stuff to earn playing time, and then, when you get the playing time, you go out there and make plays, and that's how you make a name for yourself in this league."
While Williams, who became the first Bills rookie to score eight touchdowns since wide receiver Lee Evans in 2004, has flashed his potential all season long, Gillislee has been a pleasant end-of-the-year surprise. The former fifth-round pick showed tremendous burst again on Sunday, getting to the outside and dashing 50-yards for a touchdown. He has run 50-plus yards for a touchdown in back-to-back weeks, the first Bill with two touchdowns of more than 50-yards in consecutive weeks since wide receiver Terrell Owens in 2009. He is the first Bill to rush for two touchdowns of more than 50-yards since running back Antowain Smith in 1997.
"We have the best rushing attack in the NFL," said Williams. "We've had multiple backs be able to lead the way. Today, Mike led the way, running the ball inside, outside, being able to pound the ball down the field, and Mike hitting the outside and getting away like he did, that's something special. We have different backs that can do it, but the real credit goes to the guys up front. Backs change, but those guys, they stay consistent."
Certainly, a reliable offensive line and two, young, talented running backs help to make up for the loss of a Pro Bowl runner like McCoy, but the X-factor for the Bills run-game is quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor ran the football 14 times for 67 yards. He's now rushed for 517 yards on the season, surpassing Doug Flutie's franchise record of 476 rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season.
"[I'm] happy that I have [the record]," said Taylor. "It's not anything that I focus on, but it's definitely part of my game, but I'm glad to be recognized as the leading guy as far as quarterback rushing yards."
Williams summed Taylor's contribution to NFL's leading rushing attack best.
"I told him, 'You might as well be the running back."
The rookie runner smiled when he delivered the line to the media. He knows that he is a part of a strong stable of backs, and he is content to keep Taylor under center, but he and his teammates understand their quarterback is a unique talent, that their run-game wouldn't be the same without him.
"That's what separates [Taylor] from a lot of guys, his ability to run," said head coach Rex Ryan. "It's so hard to defend from a defensive standpoint when you've got a guy that has those kinds of options. [Dallas has] some really good pass rushers there, but his escapability is one of the tops in the league."