The Buffalo Bills rushed for 125 yards on 25 attempts in their Week 4 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Those numbers are respectable, considering they averaged 5.0 yards per rush. When we look closer into the numbers, we find that quarterback Josh Allen accounted for 11 of those rushing attempts and gained 70 yards. Furthermore, a majority of those yards came on scramble plays, not designed runs. This leaves the contribution from the running backs at 14 carries for 55 yards, which...isn’t great.
Let’s take a look at some of the designed run plays and see how the offensive line performed. Disclaimer: Offensive line play is extremely hard to analyze without knowing both the play call and each player’s assignment. Since I have zero knowledge about any of the Bills’ play calls (I wish I did, that would be cool!), I’ll just call it as I see it with my own eyes. Let’s hit the tape!
This play was an unsuccessful 3rd & 1 run early in the second quarter. The line of scrimmage is pretty crowded because Buffalo has two wide receivers and one tight end on the left side of the screen. The offensive line actually blocks this play well and collapses the defensive end and defensive tackle inside. This should leave a lane for running back Zack Moss to take it outside of offensive tackle Spencer Brown. As you can see, that lane closes quickly because wide receiver Gabe Davis comes off his initial block and leaves a defender in the hole. I think if Davis would have stayed on his first block, it would have given Moss a crease to get the first down.
Another 3rd & 1 play in the second quarter here—but this time it produced a better result. Here, the Bills spread out the Ravens’ defense with their receivers out wide. A good double-team block from center Mitch Morse and guard Rodger Saffold creates a large lane for running back Devin Singletary to pick up the first down.
The Bills run a “pin and pull” toss play to perfection and gain 18 yards. Take a peak at wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie making a great block on defensive end Odafe Oweh! This key “pin” block by McKenzie allows tackle Dion Dawkins and tight end Quintin Morris to “pull” around the end and lead the way for Singletary. Great play call, even better execution!
The Bills were one block away from a big gain on this “zone” run play. The DT simply beats Dawkins on this play. It was definitely a tough block because the DT was lined up on the gap inside of him, but we still expect to see a better block than what was shown here. A solution could be to have Saffold “back check” until Dawkins gets in a good position. This technique would be especially useful in this situation because it would allow Saffold to help Dawkins make a better block while Morse handled the other DT.
This draw play didn’t fool the defense, but Buffalo was still close pulling off a successful run. Brown initially has good technique, enticing the DE to go upfield so he can block him out of the play. The only problem here is when that DE realizes it's a draw play, he fights back towards the ball and pushes Brown off balance. If Brown could have executed this block better, the Bills would have had a nice gain.
This was a four-yard gain by Singletary on the Bills’ last drive of the game. A four-yard run is nothing to complain about—not every play can go for a big gain. On this play, Buffalo’s o-line pushes the d-line three yards backwards! This run didn’t go for a touchdown, but we’ll take a nice run of this sort where the offensive line dominates its opponent.
The Bills are known as a passing team and, quite frankly, I prefer it that way. But there’ll certainly be points during the season when effective running will be necessary. As you can see, the Bills were really close to turning some bad runs into big gains versus the Ravens. I’m sure they are actively working to refine their run game and produce better results. Let's hope we see that come to fruition in the near future.