Buffalo Bills running backs James Cook and Devin Singletary ran the ball extremely effectively against the New England Patriots. The two Bills running backs rushed for 4.5 yards per carry on 16 attempts. Let’s take a look at what made the combination of Cook and Singletary so effective in Week 18.
Play-action and pancakes
At the snap, quarterback Josh Allen went play action with Cook from the gun. Right tackle Spencer Brown blocked edge rusher Matthew Judon out of the play (to the point where he pancaked him to the ground). Buffalo’s center and right guard double-teamed the defensive tackle off the ball. Then left tackle Dion Dawkins pulled right as a lead blocker and blocked the linebacker coming into the hole. This all allowed for Cook to get the five-yard gain.
Running like he’s Mike Singletary
Singletary made a fantastic run here. As the play started there was a mesh in the middle that prevented Singletary from running there. As such, Singletary had to bounce it outside. Cornerback Marcus jones was in the nickel position to start. Jones’ job on the play was to fill in the run game, keep contain, and then make the tackle. Jones was also ahead of the line of scrimmage so if he made the tackle the Bills would be faced with fourth down. Singletary simply ran through Jones for the first down.
Freezing safeties, blowing up the interior
Buffalo did two very subtle things that made this run play work so well. First of all, the Bills used tight end Dawson Knox to take the safety (last line of defense) out of the play by going out for a pass. Second, the read option between Allen and Singletary froze the edge rusher and prevented him from committing to crashing down and blowing up the play. The more obvious thing that made this run play work was the interior defensive line and linebackers badly getting blown backwards.
Expert blocking makes Cook more dangerous
Brown and center Mitch Morse made good blocks at the second level for this play. Offensive lineman Roger Saffold blocked the defensive lineman out of the play. Tight ends Quintin Morris and Knox both held their own and didn’t give up too much ground against their defenders. This allowed for Cook to shoot through the gap with no one to tackle him until he was already down the field.
All told, Singletary averaged 4.1 yards per carry while Cook tallied five yards per carry. A big key the team’s effectiveness in the run game was the physicality of the offensive line. The Bills fielded excellent run blocking and outright dominated the Patriots’ interior in many ways.