This is probably the most simple statistic you will see in this series, but there is no need to complicate something that is so simple and obvious. CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson only combined for 12 total carries on Sunday afternoon. Twelve. Combined. The 2nd ranked rush offense in the league* and 27th ranked passing offense in the league attempted 12 runs and 38 passes on Sunday afternoon.
The reasoning behind the heavy dose of passing attempts was the fact that Houston was loading up the box to key in on the run, forcing Buffalo to try to beat them through the air. The 38 pass attempts Fitzpatrick totaled today was the 2nd highest total of the season for him (only against New England did he top that total, with 39). Despite Houston keying in on the run, CJ Spiller was still able to average 6.5 yards per carry compared to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 6.29 yards per pass attempt in this game.
Just to put this in perspective, CJ Spiller is leading the league in yards/carry at 7.3 (leading by over a yard and a half) and Ryan Fitzpatrick is 26th in the league, averaging 6.6 yards per pass attempt. The thought that the former was only given six chances to make a play while the latter was given 38 chances to make a play is utterly baffling to me. Besides the inherent risk involved with putting the ball in the air, running the ball allows you to control the clock to keep Buffalo’s defense that is struggling so mightily off the field. I am having a very difficult time wrapping my head around the concept that a team with a running back averaging more yards per attempt than a quarterback would opt to pass so consistently.
In past weeks, there were often times when Buffalo would go down multiple touchdowns and as such, be forced to pass to get back into the game (though that is certainly debatable as well). This week, the game was close throughout, the gap never growing any larger than the 12 points deficit they lost by. The rationale that they were forced to pass does not apply this time.
I would bring in some sort of comparison between number of carries in a game and record, but there are numerous inherent flaws in that. The bottom line is that the strength of this team is clearly their two running backs, so why do they continually force the pass with their below average quarterback to a receiving corps that is clearly lacking in threats? That is a question a lot of Buffalo fans will be left pondering following the Bills most recent loss.
* Based on yards per rush/pass attempt