Bills Need Improvement on Short Yardage situations


One of the biggest areas that the Bills need to improve on is when the offense is faced with 3rd-and-short. While each coach generally classifies this situation differently, for the sake of continuity, I went with the Football Outsiders (FO) classification of the situation as being any 3rd down with 1-2 yards to go.

In 2019, the Bills were ranked 24th in FO’s DVOA metric on 3rd-and-short, and it was a mixed bag on why they were so putrid in that critical situation. First was the fact that they were very predictable. I chose to add 4th-and-short into this analysis, and with that added, of their 51 3rd/4th-and-short situations, they ran the ball 43 times. Running it in this situation 84% of the time keyed the defense into the play-call, which is why the Bills only averaged 1.7 yards per carry and a 65% successful run rate, which is below the league average of 68%. It’s a small sample, but when the Bills chose to pass it in short yardage situations, they averaged 8.4 YPA and an 88% success rate.

Courtesy of Sharp Football Stats

The workhorses in these short-yardage running situations were quarterback Josh Allen and running back Frank Gore. Allen carried the rock 21 times in these situations and converted 76.2% of the time, and even managed to convert two into touchdowns. But when Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll inserted Gore, the offense failed to pick up several key 1st downs, as he only converted 25% of his attempts and one touchdown.

Not seeing Motor’s number called more often was one of the issues I had with Daboll’s play-calling in 2019 because any time he touched the rock, he made plays. While he only carried it five times in short yardage situations, he converted 80% of those into first downs. Sure, it’s a small sample, but short yardage situations have always been a part of his game. While it was a completely different offense than Singletary ran at FAU, he showed that he could make people miss and extend drives on 3rd/4th-and-short.

This also applies in the red zone for Motor. He should have been given more chances once the Bills got inside the five-yard line. Once the Bills got to their opponents’ two-yard line, Gore was coming in.

Inside the 2-yard line

Allen is a beast when the Bills are within two yards of the end zone, converting all four attempts into touchdowns, but at some point Daboll should have given Singletary more opportunities in this area. His small stature makes him difficult to track, and his vision, elusiveness and contact balance allow him to find a crease and slither through.

Now that Motor is penciled in as the starter, he will get a lot more opportunities to be an integral part of the offense in these situations. However, the Bills should also look to augment their running back room with another option who will make their offense less predictable while being adept at converting these short yardage situations in order to extend drives and put points on the board.