The Buffalo Bills defeated the Chicago Bears, 35-13, in a cold and windy Week 16 matchup. The Bills ran all over the frozen tundra of Soldier Field, racking up 254 rushing yards on 31 attempts for a staggering 8.2 yards per carry, while also accounting for three touchdowns on the ground.
Leading the way for the Bills’ rushing attack were running backs Devin Singletary (who ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries) and James Cook (who ran for 99 yards and a TD on 11 carries). Singletary led all running backs in snaps played with 37 snaps (58%), while Cook played 26 snaps (41%).
After Week 16, the Bills now lead the NFL with 5.3 yards per carry. Let’s take an end-zone camera angle view look at how Buffalo found success running the ball against the Bears.
24-yard run by Cook
Here, the Bills run a well-executed draw play that results in a 24-yard gain. The offensive line really sells the pass, and entices the defensive linemen to rush up the field. Cook reads this play well — he declines to take the wide-open hole straight up the middle, and instead follows his lead blocker to the outside. That lead blocker, left guard Rodger Saffold, makes a pancake block down the field, which helps Cook gain extra yardage.
15-yard run by Singletary
The amount of moving pieces in this play can be overwhelming, and it proved to be so for Chicago’s defense. The Bills run pre-snap jet motion across the line of scrimmage, then at the snap they fake a handoff going to the backside of the play — and they also pull the backside left tackle to be a lead blocker on the play side. On top of that, they run a read-option look with Allen — and Singletary forces the outside defender to focus on Allen, which allows Singletary to run free into the secondary. I enjoyed this play design by offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. There was a lot of misdirection, which fooled the Bears.
16-yard run by Cook
Another draw play by the Bills here, but this time the offensive line is a little more deliberate in their run blocking. Notice how there weren’t any big “pile driving” blocks on this play. All of the linemen used their leverage to position their backsides inside, creating running lanes for Cook. Cook makes an excellent cut to start this play. He continues to impress as the season progresses.
33-yard TD by Singletary
The Bills run an inside one-back power run play by pulling the backside tackle to be the lead blocker. The double team block by center Ryan Bates and right guard Greg Van Roten knocks the defensive tackle on the ground, and allows them both to get to the second level. Tight end Dawson Knox executes a perfect cut block on the backside defensive end. Right tackle Spencer Brown pulls from the backside to deliver a perfect lead block, which clears the way for Singletary to run untouched to the safety. Singletary puts an impressive juke move on the safety and scampers into the end zone. The Bills will take their running backs one-on-one with a safety any day of the week. Well executed all the way around by the Bills’ offense.
27-yard TD by Cook
The Bills dial up a zone-blocking run play for this 27-yard score by Cook, and the only person to touch him was wide receiver Stefon Diggs, just before he crossed into the end zone. Once again, the Bills’ offensive line really only “get in the way” of the Bears’ defensive linemen to make holes for Cook to run through. Cook makes this cutback at the end look easy, but I can assure you that any change of direction while running full speed on frozen grass isn’t as easy as it looks. Maybe Diggs can wait until Cook crosses the goal line next time before he gives a celebratory push?
26-yard run by Singletary
Singletary has an innate ability to squirt out the other side of a crowded line of scrimmage, just like he does in this play. The double-team block by Brown and Van Roten moves their defender just enough to create a hole for Singletary to explode through on his way to a big chunk gain.
The Bills will need to run the football effectively as the playoffs approach. In Week 16, the Bills were forced to run the ball more often than normal because of the weather conditions, and they excelled at it. Looking back on the 2021 season, Singletary separated himself as the lead back in the last four games of the season, helping the Bills to win four straight matchups while averaging over 80 yards rushing per game and scoring six total touchdowns. This type of performance by Buffalo makes me feel comfortable with their stable of running backs heading into the playoffs, because this year they have two guys getting hot to end the season.