Buffalo's running game has been very productive for most of the season in its first year under head coach Doug Marrone. Last Sunday however, proved to be tough sledding for the Bills ground attack. Heading into this weekend's game against a Jets run front that ranks number one in the league, Buffalo has to quickly get the rhythm back in their ground game.
"We're going to have our work cut out for us this week," said Eric Wood. "We've got to get it going. I don't think there's any magic formula other than just playing physical football up front and hitting the holes in the backfield, and then everybody making plays."
Coming off of their most recent rushing performance against the Steelers, Buffalo averaged 4.3 per carry, but managed a total of just 95 yards, their third-lowest output of the season.
Marrone said no one was blameless in the effort, but cited the battles at the line of scrimmage as the main culprit.
"Did we run the ball like we wanted to? Absolutely not," said Marrone. "I don't think you need to be a genius to figure that out. How come? Why not? Very simple—it always starts with up front, because I'm an offensive line coach. We could have done a better job up front."
"They did a good job of keeping us pretty lateral in our zones," he said. "They got stout guys up front, they did a good job. The times we did get to the second level, we were not necessarily eliminating guys very well. We had some effective runs, we just couldn't put it together and put drives together. When we got down to third-and-two or third-and-three, we have to make more of those and stay on the field and execute better."
The inside zone run play has been a staple of Buffalo's run game, but Kraig Urbik explained that when you play to a draw or lose the initial battle at the line of scrimmage with the down linemen it takes longer to get to the second level to get on a linebacker.
"It's definitely difficult with our inside zone," he said. "You want to stay on the down lineman for as long as possible to get some movement and sometimes you stay on him too long and the linebacker splits you which happened (Sunday) a little bit. And sometimes if you get off too early the down lineman will split you and make the tackle. So it's kind of a thing that you have to feel it out and go with it. That's what we have to do if we're going to win against the down linemen."
Marrone said there were other elements of the run game that lacked consistency as well.
"Were there times where we missed a read or missed a hole? Yes," said Marrone. "There are times that happened. We have to do a better job of that. Were we able to get the blocks on the perimeter sometimes, the tight ends and everyone? No. To be able to run the football, you have to do all those things well. I think at times, when we don't do that, it's very difficult for us to run the football."
In their first meeting with the Jets the Bills actually ran the ball pretty effectively averaging 4.8 per carry rolling up 120 yards on the ground in the 28-20 loss. Buffalo may take a similar total knowing the Jets are allowing less than 74 yards rushing per game and just 3.1 per carry on the year.
"The Jets are very good and we know that we played them earlier in the year and they kind of stopped us for the most part," said Urbik. "So we've got to be on with all of our technique and be a little nastier this week and get after it."
But Wood said it's more than just out mashing the opposing defensive line. It's about creating a healthy mix of run and pass plays to keep the Jets off balance.
"Yes, it's about guys doing their job better, but if we start making plays, the pass game opens up the run game, the run game opens up the pass game," said Wood. "When you're not doing either particularly well, you're going to struggle offensively. You can't just go out there against a good defense and say, 'Hey it's cold, it's windy, we're going to run the ball down your throats the whole game.' They'll stack the box and force you out of it. We've got to make plays altogether."