The key to an offensive bounceback seemed simple.
After passing the ball 51 times in their Week 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, just what, exactly, the Buffalo Bills needed to do in order to get their offense back on track in their Week 2 matchup with the Miami Dolphins was not difficult to identify.
Run the ball.
And they did that early, handing the ball off to Devin Singletary on the offense’s second play of the game.
A 46-yard touchdown run in which the third-year back was untouched.
Singletary took the ball, made a slight cut to the left, and was off to the endzone, giving Buffalo an early lead that it would later stretch in commanding fashion. The run set the tone for Buffalo offensively, as Singletary and sophomore back Zack Moss combined for 108 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the day.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 19, 2021
According to head coach Sean McDermott, the early touchdown was a result of a week’s worth of preparation and a strong sideline energy.
“I’ve been around those [early game scores] before,” McDermott said while talking to reporters after the game. “It’s a long game, so that’s the approach and mentality you have to have as a coach and a player, and as a team, collectively, but I did like the start.
“Like I said, I could feel them in pregame. I could feel they were ready. Give credit to our guys, they put in a really good week of work and, more importantly, the focus and the mindset. We have to take that humble and hungry approach that we always talk about around here.”
The early score and establishment of the run game, in general, kept Buffalo’s otherwise-stagnant offense moving throughout the majority of the game, as quarterback Josh Allen largely struggled. He completed just 52% of his passes for 179 yards, with 76 of those yards coming on two deep passes.
Allen spoke about the rushing attack after the game, additionally praising the performance of the offensive line.
“Hats off to our guys up front and our running backs for establishing the run game early,” That helps us out so much. They did a hell of a job protecting all day, and again, our guys made some plays.”
Buffalo finished its 35-0 dismantling of the Miami Dolphins with 143 net rushing yards, which is, surprisingly, just 26 more yards than its total against Pittsburgh.
The Bills, however, seemed more committed to establishing the run against the Dolphins. In Week 1, the team’s running backs combined for just 15 carries. In Week 2, Singletary, Reggie Gilliam, and Moss – who made his season debut after being inactive last week – combined for 23 carries.
Moss’ season got off to a rough start when he fumbled the ball in the first quarter, giving the ball back to Miami in Buffalo territory. The second-year back didn’t let the giveaway impact him, however, as he bounced back to serve as the north-south complement to Singletary that the Bills’ brass envisioned him as.
He ended the game with two rushing scores, the second of which was an incredibly impressive run in which he stood Miami linebacker Elandon Roberts up at the goal line before powering into the endzone.
Second TD of the day for Zack Moss!
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 19, 2021
The run, which undoubtedly got a reaction out of the fans watching at home, even impressed Moss’ quarterback.
“That last run was sweet, too,” Allen said about the touchdown after the game.
Moss’ strong finish against adversity, his ability to bounce back after not only being inactive in the season opener, but fumbling on his third carry of the season, impressed his head coach.
“I thought it was important that he was able to reset and remain mentally tough, come back, and he made some really tough runs, particularly the last one at the end on the touchdown,” McDermott said. “That’s a great message to everyone and anyone on our football team, that you’re going to make some mistakes, and you have to be able to come back and get your game back. That’s what your teammates need from you.”
According to his teammates, Moss did not let adversity get to him. Offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said that Moss expressed confidence in himself after his fumble, confidence he would later back up with his two scores.
“It just shows that Moss is a guy of character, and he flashed that as well,” Dawkins said after the game. “Moss said, ‘look, the next time I touch this ball, I’m going to make it count.’ He did that two more times. He ran behind his big guys. He just put his head down and kept on chugging along.”
Buffalo’s commitment to establishing the ground game was evident and, according to Allen, well planned out. The quarterback said that the team added new run plays to its playbook in the days leading up to its Week 2 outing.
“We changed stuff yesterday, into our run game,” Allen said. “Put in new plays, and our guys rolled with it, and figured out a way to go out there and apply it.”
The Bills’ offense is obviously a pass-first unit. Allen threw the ball 572 times last season, and with him recently signing a quarter-of-a-billion dollar extension, you can expect that number to stay up there for the foreseeable future. On Sunday, however, we saw that the team can rely on the ground game if need be. Buffalo can center its offense around the ground game and still be successful, and in some cases, more successful than if it were to focus on the pass.
The team’s Week 2 outing, while far from flawless, showed that the team’s offense does not need to be one-dimensional.
According to Allen, that’s not a bad thing.
“To feel the way we feel, knowing we could have played better, winning 35-0,” Allen said, “I think that’s a good problem to have.”