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Bills able to run when it counts

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Lynch, Bills making plays when it counts (buffalobills.com)

As the Buffalo Bills continue their season - a season I need not remind you in which they've started off with wins in 5 of 6 games - we're going to keep hearing about "flaws" the team has as we're broken down by upcoming opponents.  We all know what they are - mostly because y'all are astute enough to pick up on them yourselves - and we're going to be questioned about them by outside observers until those areas are tightened up.

Perhaps the most prominent of those areas has been the Bills' lack of consistency in the running game.  Star running back Marshawn Lynch is averaging a paltry 3.5 yards per carry.  As a team, the Bills are only barely scraping an average of 100 rushing yards per game.  The offense is, quite clearly, controlled by Trent Edwards and the passing game.

But there's one important factor with the run game that we often leave out of the equation: the Bills are finding ways to run the ball well when they need to, and it's keeping their offensive attack properly balanced.

Bills run it well in second half vs Chargers
In building a 13-7 halftime lead against San Diego, the Bills did most of their damage through the air.  Edwards amassed 179 of his 261 passing yards in the first half, and his two-yard score to Lee Evans occurred in the second quarter.  The Bills rushed just 10 times for 24 yards in the first half; to say that the Chargers had them stymied is an understatement.  Lynch had 9 of those carries for just 21 yards.

Lynch, however, was a much bigger factor in the second half.  His per-carry average jumped to 4.9 (10 carries, 49 yards), and his 9-yard touchdown run was his fifth on the season and put the Bills ahead to stay.  Jackson was less efficient, gaining 30 yards on 8 carries (3.75-yard average), but the fact that the Bills' two backs combined for 79 yards in the second half speaks volumes about the adjustments made at halftime.  Don't forget, either, that it was Jackson ploughing through CB Quentin Jammer, creating a massive lane through which Lynch scored easily.

Without this second-half yardage, Buffalo has a much more difficult time winning this football game.  In fact, they might not win it at all.

Marshawn the Closer
Lynch has been labeled a "disappointment" by a lot of fantasy owners due to his low yardage outputs (he hasn't rushed for more than 83 yards in a game this season), but he's keeping those folks happy with his five touchdown rushes.  Of those five scores, four have been of "lengthy" variety (9 yards or longer).

The fact that the Bills are able to pick up large chunks of ground yardage which directly lead to points is indicative of their ability to run well when it matters most.  Even Jackson's lone touchdown on the season, a 22-yard score in St. Louis, fits this mold.  The Bills' two running backs - Lynch in particular - are closers.  The team has survived with Edwards between the tackles; it's the running back duo that has stolen the show in the red zone.

Clearly, the Bills have some work to do in the running game.  They're going to have a hard time winning games in cold weather if they can't pick up more yardage on the ground in a more consistent manner.  But don't discount what the unit has accomplished, either - the Bills have been successful offensively because they've been able to grind out yards in clutch situations.  As long as that continues to happen (and Edwards stays healthy), Buffalo's offense will be just fine.