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Buffalo Bills offense had NFL’s highest first-down conversion rate following a sack in 2016

Examining a recent study conducted on the impact sak sacks on offensive drives in the NFL.

Fueled by Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy, the Buffalo Bills were more immune to sacks than any other team in the NFL a season ago, according to Derrik Klassen of Bleacher Report and Optimum Scouting.

In the first installment of his compelling, informative study, Klassen found “939 out of 1,118 sacks (83.99%) last year resulted in a drive being killed. Conversely, just 179 out of 1,118 sacks (16.01%) resulted in the offense being able to bounce back and sustain their drive, even if just for one more set of downs.”

The down in which an offense gave up a sack led to different percentages of at least being able to pick up a first down on that series:

1st down: 31.02%

2nd down: 19.35%

3rd down: 3.46%

Here’s Klassen on putting this into perspective:

“Considering the context of having given up yardage on the first play of a drive, a 31.02% drive success rate doesn’t sound too bad. However, according to Football Outsiders’ “Drive Success Rate” stat, roughly 70% of four-down series convert for a first down or a touchdown.

Even on the least harmful down to give up a sack, the impact of the loss of a down and any amount of yards is dramatic enough to cut in half an offense’s likelihood of success on a given series.”

In the second installment of his sack study, which looked at first-down conversion rates team-by-team, Klassen found the Bills offense “converted a first down after being sacked” 28.26% of the time, the highest percentage in the league.

The Lions came in 2nd (27.03%). The Cardinals came in 3rd (26.83%), and the Patriots finished 4th (25%). Interestingly, the Panthers and Raiders (5.56%) finished last in the NFL in this category.

*Only the Browns (14) converted more first downs than the Bills (13) after a sack in 2016.

This is what Klassen wrote on some of the highest conversion-rate teams:

“Atlanta, Buffalo, and New England are unsurprising above-average teams. All three teams ranked top ten in Offensive DVOA last season and they each employ quarterbacks that have the skill set to overcome tough down-and-distance situations. Buffalo was especially aided by Tyrod Taylor’s athletic ability, a trait that boosted Buffalo to the highest post-sack conversion rate in the league.”

Looking forward with this, Klassen’s work pinpoints the resiliency of Buffalo’s offense heading into this season.

Figures from last year don’t guarantee anything for any team in the future, and the Bills will need to fill a sizable void where Mike Gillislee — and to a lesser degree, Robert Woods — impacted their attack a season ago. However, the vast majority of Buffalo’s key offensive pieces are back, and chances are Sammy Watkins won’t miss eight games in 2017 like he did in 2016.

While Tyrod will probably always be near the top of the league in sacks, a proven track record of being able to rebound from those quarterback takedowns better than any team in the league is vital. Technically, it means a sack isn’t as damaging to the Bills as it is for other teams, which gives Buffalo’s offense a clear leg up on the rest of the NFL.