On the opening possession of the Buffalo Bills' Week 16 matchup with the New England Patriots, the Bills ran the ball down New England's throats. Fred Jackson carried five times for 50 yards on the drive, and busted off chunks of 27 and 10 yards on two of those carries. C.J. Spiller added two runs of seven yards each, both plays run out of the shotgun formation. Ryan Fitzpatrick twice tried to hit Stevie Johnson in the end zone, but both attempts missed, and the Bills settled for a 26-yard Rian Lindell field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
Things were looking up. Then Buffalo's defense forced a punt on New England's first offensive possession, and things were looking slightly more up. Despite the ground game dominance on the first drive, the Bills went three-and-out on their second possession as they passed on three straight plays - an issue complicated by a false start called on Andy Levitre.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey explained the decision to go pass-heavy at that point as one dictated by New England's personnel shift.
"The first series we were out there, they played nickel defense against our nickel offense," Gailey told reporters after the game. "When we went out there the second series with the same offense, they put all their big people out there. They basically are saying 'We're going to stop the run by putting those seven guys up in there; you've got to throw it to move the football.' We couldn't throw it well enough consistently to move the football."
Gailey talked briefly about his team's offensive success in Week 3 running a spread offense; that success dictated their use of the personnel grouping again, and Buffalo's head coach offered up the following quote regarding Bill Belichick and New England's success against the same offense they saw in Week 3:
"It didn't work today. It worked one time, it didn't work this time."
Well, no kidding, Chan. You can take that one for what it's worth, folks.
After that first drive, Jackson and Spiller combined to carry 12 more times for 47 yards, with a Spiller fumble mixed in. Just one of those carries came with the Bills within one score of the Patriots, who built a 24-3 lead by halftime.