Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) during the second half Sunday. Bills beat the Cardinals 33-18. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)
Stopping the run sounds like such a fundamentally easy concept.
With the Buffalo Bills, it’s anything but. On Sunday, the Bills ran roughshod over the Cardinals defense in a 33-18 win at New Era Field in Orchard Park that interjected a much-needed shot of life into the team from Western New York.
LeSean McCoy ran just 17 times but totaled 110 yards, including touchdown runs of 24 and five yards. Their quarterback, the newly minted Tyrod Taylor finally paid dividends, running the ball nine times for 76 yards, including a 49-yard gallop and a 20-yard touchdown run.
Even Mike Gillislee, the third-year back out of Florida (second in Buffalo), made his 2016 debut, carrying three times for 20 yards.
In all, the Bills ran 32 times for 208 yards. It’s a big reason why the Bills are averaging 4.7 yards per carry over the first three weeks, fourth best in the NFL. All of these numbers should not come as a surprise as Rex Ryan is the Bills head coach.
“It’s a very complex run game,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “It has a lot of different facets to it. It has both zone and a scheme element to it, along with the quarterback run. And certainly, when you take a look at the guys up front, they do a great job of blocking and staying on their blocks. They’re big and strong and they drive guys off the ball. They do a great job of just staying with it.”
“Their running game definitely gives you a lot of problems,” Belichick said Monday. “The overall scheme that they employ is challenging as well with the read-option scheme, zone schemes, and then some blocking scheme plays. Double teams, pullers, combination blocks; they have all of that. I also thought that Gillislee gave them some good, strong runs in some short-yardage and red area type situations as well. Obviously, McCoy is as good as it gets. The production that he has had is outstanding so he’s a very difficult guy to handle. So yeah, they give you a lot of different problems there between, like I said, not only the players but also the different schemes that they employ.”
“Ground and Pound” has always been a Rex Ryan staple and now, with first-year offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn re-joining Ryan in Buffalo after serving as Ryan’s running backs coach, the philosophy is more prevalent than ever.
“One thing definitely with their offense, both with Coach Lynn and also Rex, they’re going to stay with the run game and they’re going to keep coming after you,” Patricia said. “It’s something you constantly have to be able to defend on all down and distances, which is always very difficult.”
Six of Buffalo’s nine top plays Sunday were runs, three to the left, two to the right and one up the middle.
“As far as the run game is concerned with Buffalo, it’s a very explosive, big-play run game and the additional threat that you now have to deal with is the quarterback. So, obviously Taylor out in space is an issue. We saw that in the game [Sunday], and combined with McCoy, who has tremendous burst and speed and excellent vision, even Gillislee, when he was in the game. So, I think that the combination of making sure that you obviously have good force, can set the edge and do all the things on the defense that you need to do.
“I’ll think also what you saw from the film the other day was their ability to run inside. They do a great job of mixing the schemes, there’s zone schemes, there’s cap schemes. They’ll do both. They have pullers from both across the ball and the same side of the ball. So they’re trying to create some divide or separation in the defense and really give those backs or even the quarterback to make some room. They can turn those plays into obviously into very fast, quick big-play touchdown-like explosive runs.”