Heading into Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, we talked about how the Buffalo Bills had been routinely shredded by the Patriots' running game - and how if they wanted to pull an upset win, they'd need to stop the run and make New England's offense unbalanced.
The Bills did exactly that in defeating the Patriots 34-31. Although the Patriots still managed to rush for 111 yards, the Bills slowed down their two top runners, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
In two games in 2010, Green-Ellis and Woodhead combined to rush for 337 yards - at 6.6 yards per carry - and scored three touchdowns in two Patriots wins. On Sunday, that duo combined to carry the ball 16 times for 39 yards - just a 2.4 yards-per-carry average. Tom Brady put the ball in the air 45 times while his top two runners totaled just 16 rushes. That's the epitome of unbalanced, especially considering New England played most of the game with a lead.
New England was able to pick up some fluky rushing yardage here and there. Wes Welker picked up 19 yards on an end around, and rookie Stevan Ridley gave the Bills some problems when he entered the game, rushing for 42 yards on six carries. That helped New England boost its rushing total, but the damage was done at that point; with Green-Ellis and Woodhead shut down, the Bills had already climbed back into the game.
Today, Buffalo's run defense ranks just No. 24 in the NFL, and they're still surrendering 116 rushing yards per game. That's still 54 fewer yards than they allowed a year ago. We've said all along that it'd only take moderate improvement against the run for the Bills to be more competitive. That's exactly what's happened thus far.
Of course, the fact that the Bills are averaging 37.7 points per game is helping matters, as well.