The Statistical Quandary of the Buffalo Bills' Uptempo Offense

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The Statistical Quandary of the Buffalo Bills' Uptempo Offense
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Bills head coach Doug Marrone (above) runs an up-tempo offense.

Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone knows the benefits of an uptempo offense from his time at Syracuse.

Now, in just three games with the Bills, he is quickly learning about its drawbacks.

Football Outsiders tracks the amount of time in seconds spent per offensive play. Not surprisingly, the Bills offense displays the fastest pace in the NFL, averaging 20.6 seconds per play.

That, in and of itself, is not damning by any stretch.

Couple it with the fact that the Bills also rank 26th in offensive plays per drive and the picture becomes clear: The Bills offense is getting off the field at a blinding pace, which is putting the team's defense in a bind.

Across the board, the stats point to an offense that is simply not staying on the field.

Buffalo Bills offense, 2013
Seconds per play 20.6 1
Plays per drive 5.4 26
Total third downs 45 26
Third down conversion % 31.1 28
Time of possession per drive 1:51 32;

The one indicator that might be the biggest problem is the Bills' third-down performance. Converting just 31.1 percent of its third downs into first downs, the offense has the fifth-lowest percentage in the NFL. 

Time of possession, plays per drive, third-down percentage, all of it looks bad for the offense. As pointed out by ESPN's Mike Rodak, however, the Bills defense has been worse for the wear.

Only one team allows more yards on the ground per game than the Bills, who give up 155 on average. 

But there's a reason for that: Bills opponents have attempted more runs than any other team's opponents. And that is a product, in part, of this statistic: Buffalo ranks 31st in the NFL in time of possession, holding the ball an average of just 24 minutes, 47 seconds per game. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have a lower time of possession.

Rodak adds that the Bills are yielding an average of 4.97 yards per rush attempt in the second half, the fourth-highest figure in the NFL. That's compared to a first-half per-carry average of 3.58, the 11th-lowest in the NFL. 

The Bills' opponents have run an average of 40 offensive plays per first half, which is good for third-highest in the NFL.

The uptempo offense is brilliant in theory, but if and when it doesn't work, the offense is not the only unit that suffers for it. While Buffalo doesn't necessarily have to slow down the offense, it must be better at picking up first downs and sustaining drives.


Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.

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