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Bills call play-action less often than any other team

FitzGaileyBy Tim Graham

No team used play-action less than the Buffalo Bills last season, and that's OK.

Football Outsiders data shows the Bills called play-action 11 percent of the time, or more than twice as much as Ryan Fitzpatrick would have guessed.

Football Outsiders assistant editor Rivers McCown broke down the numbers, showing the Bills trailed the NFL and came in well under the league average of 19 percent.

Fitzpatrick figured the Bills' number would be around 5 percent in Chan Gailey's spread system. The Bills gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL last year mostly because of the quick-read offense.

"We're more of a spread team, a shotgun team," Fitzpatrick said after today's voluntary workout in Orchard Park. "Play-action limits the amount of things you can do protection-wise and scheme-wise to go play action and throw it down the field.

"The other thing is our running backs are more involved in a lot of the routes and things. To us, that's more important than all the different play fakes and the quarterback turning his back on the defense."

The Houston Texans led the NFL in play-action reliance at 33 percent, followed by the Minnesota Vikings at 29 percent, Philadelphia Eagles at 25 percent, St. Louis Rams at 24 percent, and New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos at 23 percent.

Football Outsiders' review showed the Bills averaged 7.0 yards when they called play-action (NFL average 7.5 yards) and 6.5 yards when they didn't (NFL average 6.2 yards).

The New England Patriots led the NFL at 10.8 yards per play-action call, with the Green Bay Packers and Texans next at 10.0 yards.

The Eagles number could be worth noting for Bills backup quarterback Vince Young. He won't have to worry about play-action half as much if Gailey maintains his philosophy, and there's not reason he won't. The Bills tied the Detroit Lions for last in play-action usage in 2010.

Young was sacked on 6.6 percent of his pass plays last year with Philly, compared to 3.7 percent for Fitzpatrick.

(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |