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Texans further expose Bills as an offense that can't pass to win

By Tim Graham

HOUSTON -- Remember back in training camp and preseason when the Buffalo Bills would talk about being the type of team that won't worry about what an opponent's game plan is, that they want to line up with what they do best and dictate play?

The Bills have been the opposite of that, and Sunday's loss to the Houston Texans was a prototypical example.

The Texans controlled the game on defense. They coaxed the Bills into throwing rather than let C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson show why they entered Sunday with the NFL's fourth-ranked run offense.

The problem is, the Bills aren't a very good passing team. Ryan Fitzpatrick is adept at throwing screens and slants, but his arm isn't good enough to blow the top off a defense. The Bills' receiving corps doesn't strike fear in defensive backs.

On a third-and-5 play in the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick targeted Ruvell Martin.

That's why, even when Fitzpatrick doesn't throw an interception, as was the case Sunday, the Bills will struggle to win when forced to lean on their passing game.

Top receivers Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones each are averaging under 12 yards a reception. Johnson had three catches for 29 yards while dealing with an apparent quadriceps injury. Jones had six catches for 65 yards.

"They were playing seven big guys in the box against out three-wide sets," said Bills coach Chan Gailey, "and you're trying to [get] them out of that. You're trying to throw the football to [get] them out of it, and we weren't able to do it."

Since the lists aren't long, let's take a look at all of Spiller's and Jackson's carries:

C.J. Spiller

  • * 3 yards on first-and-10 (with 4:40 left in first quarter)
  • * 0 yards on third-and-1 (with 3:25 left in first quarter)
  • * 5 yards on second-and-1 (with 15:00 left in second quarter)
  • * 22 yards on first-and-10 (with 0:22 left in second quarter)
  • * 3 yards on first-and-10 (with 12:04 left in third quarter)
  • * 6 yards on second-and-8 (with 8:23 left in third quarter)

Fred Jackson

  • * 1 yard on second-and-10 (with 12:41 left in first quarter)
  • * -1 yard on first-and-10 (with 11:41 left in first quarter)
  • * 13 yards on first-and-10 (with 6:22 left in second quarter)
  • * 4 yards on first-and-10 (with 4:26 left in second quarter)
  • * 2 yards on first-and-10 (with 2:21 left in second quarter)
  • * 2 yards on first-and-10 (with 9:03 left in third quarter)

Neither had a carry over the last 23:23 of the game, even though the Bills were down 14-9 for half the third quarter and part of the fourth quarter.

Spiller and Jackson combined for three carries and 11 yards in the third quarter and had no carries in the fourth quarter. Spiller never had more than two carries in a quarter.

The busiest quarter for either back was Jackson's three attempts for 19 yards in the second quarter.

Buffalo entered Sunday averaging 28.4 rushing attempts per game.

"In certain situations, you can't run the ball if you want to," Bills right tackle Chris Hairston said. "When they give you certain packages and they stay in their base [defense] even though we have three and four wide out there, you can't just go to the run game with five linemen blocking eight in the box. That puts us at a disadvantage before we snap the ball.

"So I think our coaches put us in the position to be successful. I just think that we needed to make the plays that needed to be made at the right time."

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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 |