FanPost

Charting The Buffalo Bills Offensive Passing Game

Six weeks of the NFL season is behind us and the Buffalo Bills are 4-2 heading into their bye week. They've won some games against some really good opponents and have been competitive in every single game they've played losing by a combined 6 points in their 2 losses - one of those losses was a field goal as time expired.  

I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some aspects of the Bills offense and try to chart some tendencies of the Bills passing game.  I wanted to look at how Fitzpatrick threw the ball short (Right, Left, Middle) and deep (Right, Left, Middle) so I used NFL.com's playbook and basically searched for key phrases in every game.  It sounds tedious but it really only took me about 25 minutes to do so it wasn't that big of a deal.  

A short pass is designated as a pass that travels 15 yards (at least that's from what I can tell, there is no legend) and a deep pass is one that is 16 yards or longer.  I thought it would be better (and easier for me, honestly) to include passes where penalties were assessed on pass plays because we can still see how the Bills were going to attack the defense.  So if you're counting the pass plays and see Fitzpatrick had more throws than what the stat sheet said that's why.  

Philadelphia

Giants

Cincinatti

New England

Oakland

K.C.

Totals

Pass Short Middle

12

6

7

5

7

2

39

Pass Short Right

8

7

5

13

8

10

51

Pass Short Left

3

9

8

8

14

3

45

Pass Deep Middle

0

0

2

0

1

0

3

Pass Deep Right

0

0

0

3

0

2

5

Pass Deep Left

0

2

0

3

0

0

5

Incomplete Pass Short Right

1

4

4

3

4

2

18

Incomplete Pass Short Left

1

2

0

3

2

3

11

Incomplete Pass Short Middle

2

0

3

3

8

1

17

Incomplete Pass Deep Right

0

1

4

1

2

3

11

Incomplete Pass Deep Left

1

0

3

2

2

0

8

Incomplete Pass Deep Middle

0

1

0

0

2

0

3

Total Passes

216

 

Total SL

56

 

Total SM

56

Total SR

69

Total DR

16

Catch

5

Total DL

13

Catch

5

Total DM

20

Catch

3

General Points

It doesn't take a Harvard Graduate (see what I did there?  I know, pathetic) to know that the Bills and Fitzpatrick throw the ball short.  What struck me is the balance in the short passing game.  Gailey has said that he likes to stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically and these numbers bare out how the Bills are trying to attack a defense horizontally.  Obviously with Fitzpatrick being a right handed QB it makes sense for him to be more comfortable and throw right so you see there is a 13 rep difference between short left/middle and short right passes but it was kind of interesting to me that after 6 games there is an equal number of passes short left and middle.

Another thing that stood out to me is that you can almost see how the Bills wanted to attack a defense.  Other than Fitzpatricks more or less consistency throwing short right the Bills were attacking certain areas of a defense as evidence by say 12 short middle passes against Philadelphia's sub-par LB's.

The Deep Pass

The Deep Pass has been a point of contention among Bills fans for some time and these numbers really bring out how inefficient our offense is at the deep pass.  I know that passes that travel further than 15 yards are more difficult to complete because your offensive line has to hold up and the receiver and QB have to be on the same page because it's easier for a DB to break on the ball but there is some serious work that needs to be done in this area.

The fact that the Bills have attempted 39 deep passes (16 yards or longer) and only completed 13 of them seems kind of pathetic.  If I were a defensive coordinator i'd flood the short passing zones and make Fitzpatrick beat you deep.  He hasn't shown that he can do that on a consistent basis and i'm certain that the Bills will see more man coverage deep because of Fitzpatrick's lack of success on the deep ball.

With Fitzpatrick and the Bills affinity for the short passing game you can also see how the Bills don't attack the entire field - which means that teams will hone in on what they are trying to do more easily in the passing game as the season wears on.  Against the Eagles the Bills completed no passes longer than 15 yards.  Against the Giants they didn't complete a deep pass right or middle.  Against the Bengals they didn't complete a pass deep right or left and so on and so forth.  

Conclusion

None of these numbers really surprised me when I was doing my research, but what is concerning to me is our inability to successfully attack all areas of the field; especially deep. If the Bills attack more deep areas a few times a game in order to keep defenses from focusing in on one aspect of our passing game then you could really see this offense be more explosive.  I don't think this offense is overly predictable but it's predictable in the fact that you know some areas of the field aren't going to be targeted nearly as much so defenses are going to force Fitzpatrick to throw those deep routes more.  At the same time that'll make our offensive line hold their blocks longer so you could see some really bad games if defenses play us like that, which I fully expect.

One good thing about this past game and the 2 interceptions that Fitz threw is that he recognizes that he has to work on those passes.  You could see it in his post game press conference that he knew that was the reason they lost that game.  I really think the Bills are going to make that a priority, along with pass rush, over the bye week.  They need to open up this offense more often during a game while still being efficient in the short areas of the field.  Fitz has the short passing game down about as good as one can get it, now he has to turn his attention to the deeper throws to keep the underneath plays open for business.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.

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