Opponents targeting tired Bills defense

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
5:00
AM ET
The Buffalo Bills haven't done well stopping the run this season. Only one team allows more yards on the ground per game than the Bills, who give up 155 on average.

But there's a reason for that: Bills opponents have attempted more runs than any other team's opponents. And that is a product, in part, of this statistic: Buffalo ranks 31st in the NFL in time of possession, holding the ball an average of just 24 minutes, 47 seconds per game. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have a lower time of possession.

The common thread between the Eagles and the Bills, other than their 1-2 records, is their insistence on playing fast on offense. The Bills rank first in the NFL in seconds of play per possession, getting one play off every 21.4 seconds. The Eagles rank second, at 22.2 seconds.

When an up-tempo offense works, it's a thing of beauty. When it doesn't, the defense suffers.

A high number of third-down conversion opportunities and a low third-down conversion rate are symptoms of a struggling offense. The Bills have the sixth-most third-down chances (45) and the fifth-worst success rate (31.1 percent), so it's safe to say: Their speed-based offense hasn't been effective.

And their defense has felt the pressure, especially when defending the run. As the game progresses, the Bills' run defense generally gets worse:

First quarter: 3.28 yards per carry (6th in NFL)
Second quarter: 3.91 yards per carry (19th in NFL)
Third quarter: 5.81 yards per carry (26th in NFL)
Fourth quarter: 4.25 yards per carry (24th in NFL)

For the second half overall, opposing rushers have gained an average of 4.97 yards per carry against the Bills, ranking them 29th in the NFL.

The bottom line is this: Football is an interconnected game, and when one thing goes wrong, a domino effect can take over. What results is a tangled web where cause and effect become interchangeable.

In this case, the Bills' run defense has gotten worse as the game goes on (despite three games that have been closely contested in the second half), suggesting that the defense is getting tired out by having an abnormally high time of possession, itself the result of an offense that has faltered on third down, aided by a rushing attack that ranks 19th in the NFL on first and second down.

It's all tied together.

Buffalo needs to find a way to pull one domino out of the chain -- slowing down the offensive pace is just one option -- and disrupt what has been a vicious cycle.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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