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Bills offense switches from up-tempo to smashmouth

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills didn't look new-fangled today against the Baltimore Ravens.

Buffalo's fast-paced offense, criticized for leaving its defense on the field too long through the first three games, pumped the brakes.

Buffalo's offense huddled at times, ran way more often than it threw, used its fullback and played the kind of style your grandfather would recognize.

The result was a 23-20 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion.

The game was played at Ralph Wilson Stadium, not the Rockpile.

The Bills ran 55 times, 10th in club history and their most since December 1996.

They played with the lead for most of the afternoon and held the ball for 36 minutes, 26 seconds.

"We wanted to be physical today," Bills quarterback EJ Manuel said, referencing formations that deployed two tight ends and a fullback. "I think it worked out well for us. We ran the ball great. The offensive line did a huge job for us getting off the ball."

Bills coach Doug Marrone admitted he made a mistake by not slowing down at the end of the first half of last week's loss to the New York Jets. The Bills had a three-and-out series deep in their own territory and gave the Jets enough time to tack on a field goal before halftime.

Rather than manage the clock with a late lead against the New England Patriots on opening day, the Bills pressed to score more points. The Bills failed. They punted the ball back with plenty of time for the Patriots to kick the winning field goal in the final seconds.

"Different situations are going to present different tempos," Bills center Eric Wood said. "In the past, we haven't necessarily had those types of situations -- I guess minus New England, when we felt like we wanted to get another score.

"We showed today that given the right circumstances, this can be a really diverse and dynamic offense."

Not only did the Bills win time of possession for the first time this season, but they also improved on their previous best, when they beat the Carolina Panthers, by a whopping 10:07.

The Bills slowed down so much, they had the ball for 10:39 longer than in last week's loss to the New York Jets but ran only four more plays.

Even if the sight of Buffalo huddling wasn't enough to demonstrate that ball control was a priority, the presence of fullback Frank Summers should've hammered home the point.

Summers played a season-high 33 offensive snaps, according to The Buffalo News' unofficial count. Summers had zero snaps in Weeks One and Three (losses to the Patriots and Jets) and 22 snaps in Week Two (victory over the Panthers).

"We wanted to stop them from running," Marrone said. "I thought our defense did a heck of a job there. We wanted to be able to run the ball. We had some good runs early on in the game and used some of the play-action pass."


C.J. Spiller | Doug Marrone | Eric Wood | Frank Summers | Fred Jackson
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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 |