Through the first 11 minutes of the first quarter, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets each had just one first down. No possession lasted more than five plays. Even the Bills first touchdown drive—aided by a shanked punt—spanned only 25 yards.
But then the Bills began to roll, chipping away on the ground. On the team's fourth offensive drive, which began with 4:19 on the clock in the first quarter, it gained 70 yards on 13 plays. The possession ended with a two-yard touchdown run by running back Karlos Williams on 4th-and-1.
The drive became the first of four Bills possessions to last 13 or more plays. Those drives became the calling card of the Bills offensive performance that led them to a 22-17 victory over the Jets in the season finale. The team put together scoring drives of 13, 15, 14 and 13 plays, and it bested the Jets in time of possession, holding the ball for 39 minutes and 13 seconds. The four double-digit-play drives accounted for all but eight minutes of the total time of possession.
"[Those long drives] are confidence builders," said left guard Richie Incognito. "They give the play caller confidence. They give us confidence. It's great for us to keep them off the field."
While center Eric Wood agreed that the long drives are important for an offense's confidence, he said that they take a toll on the players.
"We're worn out now," he said, smiling. He also credited his team's defense for the lopsided stat.
"Our defense did great, [forcing their offense into] three-and-outs and short drives. Time of possession is truly a team stat."
The Bills sustained such successful drives by committing to their NFL-best rushing attack, which came into the game averaging 150.2 yards per game and 4.8 yards per attempt. While the team averaged just 2.6 yards per attempt against the Jets on Sunday, it remained committed to its bread and butter, running 43 times for 113 yards. The Jets rush defense came into the game ranked first in the NFL, allowing 81.5 yards per game on the ground.
"We weren't that successful [running the ball] today," said Wood. "We had over 100 yards, but it wasn't pretty. We grinded it out into some pretty heavy fronts with the wind and the cold, and obviously they know we want to run the ball. We're proud of our rushing attack."
Incognito said that it isn't difficult for this game to commit to the ground game.
"What makes us special is that G-Ro has a lot of confidence in us, and he knows that if he keeps pounding those things that the big runs are going to come. We did it against a Jets defense that is very big. They have some play makers all across the board over there. It's one of those things that you just have to keep pounding."
This game is the second of the season in which the Bills ran for more than 100 yards against the top-ranked Jets run defense. In Week 10, the team ran for 148 yards. Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy accounted for 112 of those yards.
This week, the Bills were without the services of McCoy. They also lost rookie running back Karlos Williams to an injury after just six carries. Before leaving the game, Williams reached 517 rushing yards on the year, becoming the third Bill to reach that number. The last time three Bills players rushed for 500 yards in a season was 1962.
While McCoy and Williams both bring plenty of talent to the Bills backfield, Incognito believes the team can be successful no matter who the running back is.
"We have a lot of talented guys that run the ball and make us look good, but I think us having success with a lot of different guys this year just shows the level that we're playing at up front, and it's given us something to build off of this offseason," he said.
Wood offered one amendment to Incognito's claim.
"I don't know if we could [be successful] with [head coach] Rex [Ryan] running the ball," he said. "The guys they brought in this year have been high quality. Mike [Gillislee] came in and did a great job for us. Karlos did a great job. Boobie [Dixon] at times. LeSean. These guys are ball players."