ALAMEDA – Rex Ryan coined the phrase “ground and pound” when he was head coach of the New York Jets, reflected his desire to run often and run vertically with power. He’s with a different team, but the term traveled with him.
Ryan like to control the football, so it’s no surprise Ryan’s Buffalo Bills are the NFL’s best rushing attack. They average 157.4 yards per game on the ground, a massive total led by lead back LeSean McCoy and speedy quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Bills average 5.3 yards per carry and run a ton, nearly 30 times per game. That’s second only to Dallas. And, to top it all off, they’ve only fumbled twice running the football.
The numbers are awesome, but the ground and pound may not fit. The Buffalo Bills do it all running the football, meaning the Raiders defense must be ready for anything during Sunday’s game at Oakland Coliseum.
“They really do everything that I can think of that I’ve ever seen in the run game, they have it one form or fashion,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “They basically throw the gauntlet at you. They’ve got a formation thing and they see how you want to play it. Then they’ve got a series of plays they get to and they’re very good at it. No. 1 in the league, and that’s saying something.”
They have a feature back in McCoy, who revived his career in Buffalo. He has 819 yards and nine touchdowns through 11 games, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He has exceeded 100 yards seven times over two seasons in Buffalo. In those games, the Bills are 7-0.
That might spell trouble for the Raiders. They rank 26th with 116.9 rushing yards allowed per game, and have given up a triple digit total in five of the last six games. While those totals aren’t great, the Raiders have won five straight.
That’s all that matters, though the Bills rushing ways might impact the final result. The Raiders have fallen victim to misdirection and schematic quirks, especially off the edge. They’ve been better in those areas lately, though chunk plays are still a problem. They’ve given up seven plays of 20-plus yards and three of 40 or more.
Stopping the run will be harder without Stacy McGee and Darius Latham in the interior rotation. That puts an onus on Dan Williams, Denico Autry and Justin Ellis to take more snaps and plug gaps in the middle. Stopping the run always involves discipline and sure tackling.
Doing that will be important, considering the Bills rank dead last in passing offense. That makes slowing the run imperative.
Taylor is the team’s second-leading rusher, with 639 yards on 6.3 yards per carry. That led Khalil Mack to say they have “two rushers in the backfield.”
Even so, it all starts with stopping Shady.
“McCoy is a type of runner, he can start to the right and he could end up on the left,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “It kind of reminds you of the old days, Barry Sanders. He could be anywhere. It’s important each player who’s involved in the defense and in charge of the gap, you have to be solid, you have to sound and you have to be disciplined and understand that we’re all connected. Everybody plays together. Not one guy tackles him. The whole unit is responsible for the running game.”