Lynch, Bills finally rushing effectively (buffalobills.com)
After nine games of 2008 Buffalo Bills football - which at the time included three straight losses - Bills fans were screaming one thing: "Run the ball!"
Well, maybe we were yelling more than that. Trent Edwards and Dick Jauron seem like guys that may or may not have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse over the past month or so. But more than anything, Buffalo's rushing attack - so promising at the outset of the season - was floundering in a big way. The Bills were forced to pass, compromising Edwards' confidence and the Bills' trust in their offensive line. Something needed to change.
Over the past two weeks, that change has come in a big way.
The Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, it should be warned, are not good run defenses. The Browns rank 27 in rush defense, surrendering 146 yards per game; the Chiefs are even worse, giving up 166 per game, second worst in the league. They are two defenses, however, that Buffalo's much-maligned offensive line and running game needed. A lot of us want to talk about the confidence boost of Trent Edwards; of equal importance, however, is the confidence boost and re-emergent vitality of Buffalo's running game.
In the past two games - one win, one loss - the Bills have rushed for a whopping 357 yards, have registered four rushing touchdowns, and the results have been profound for the offense and the team as a whole. In these two games, with Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and even Edwards running wild, the Bills have scored 67 points - and that's not including the 14 additional points provided by electrifying rookie Leodis McKelvin.
The Return of "Beast Mode"
The Marshawn Lynch that we know and love is back. He's rushed for 198 yards on 43 carries the past two weeks; that 4.6 yard-per-carry average is nearly a yard higher than his 3.8-yard average on the season. He's piled on an additional 83 receiving yards on a whopping 15 receptions as well. Better yet, he's scored twice. Freddie Jackson has added 116 rushing yards on just 21 carries (5.5 yards per) in the recent upswing. Edwards has been in on the action, rushing for 45 yards on 9 "carries" and THREE scores in the past two games. The Bills are getting it from every angle, and the ripple effect has been very noticeable.
Buffalo was finally able to establish a play-action passing game in Kansas City, leading to a resurgence for the young signal-caller. The offense has been largely balanced over the past two weeks. The Bills have controlled the clock. Even better, the offensive line - helped by the return to health of right guard Brad Butler - has performed well. They pushed around the woeful Browns and Chiefs run defenses. Edwards hasn't been sacked in two weeks. Keep it in perspective, clearly - again, Cleveland and the Chiefs aren't standard-setters defensively - but the signs are very promising.
Now let's do it consistently
Next item on offensive coordinator Turk Schonert's "to do" list: keep it up. 32 rushes per game is outstanding. The balance that the offense found in Kansas City was perfect. This production simplifies the game not only for Schonert himself, but for the young quarterback he's so carefully molding. This is exactly the type of offense that Edwards (or any competent quarterback, for that matter) excels at running, because the pressure on his position is minimal. Clearly, the kid's not ready to carry the team yet - four straight losses proved that. But he can also make plays on a consistent basis, as he's proven during the good times this season.
This whole season is about Edwards. Playoffs in 2008 or not, building up Trent is the biggest necessity for the long-term viability of the franchise. Turk has done a masterful job of it over the last seven quarters of football. With the run game clicking again, the sky is the limit for this offense. Now we just need to do it against good teams.