Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
ORCHARD PARK - With three running backs at their disposal, all of them capable of being starters in the NFL, the expectation was that the Buffalo Bills were going to be a run-first team this year.
They sure weren't on Sunday, though, during their dispirited 15-10 season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Because the Dolphins were stacking eight men in the box, and often had all 11 of their defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage, the Bills were unable to get the ground game established with C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.
Recognizing that, head coach Chan Gailey figured the only way to attack was through the air. However, with Trent Edwards reverting to his reliance on short passes, and the offensive line unable to give him enough time to do much of anything else, the passing game was muted as well.
When it was over, the Bills rushed only 17 times for 50 yards, and Edwards dropped back to throw 37 times and produced a net total of 166 offensive yards and nine first downs.
"We know that we're a much better football team than how we played yesterday," wide receiver Lee Evans said on Monday. "There were a lot of plays to be made, we just have to make our share. We have high expectations for ourselves. We expected to play well and we didn't, but we'll be better in the future."
Spiller started the game, and the Dolphins were more than ready for the prized No. 1 pick. Their size up the middle forced the Bills to try to attack on the edges, but linebacker Karlos Dansby discouraged that idea right away as the Dolphins' big-ticket free agent signee blew up several plays early on.
"He was trying so hard and he went so fast that he wasn't letting things develop in front of him," Gailey said of Spiller. "He's got to realize that he's got that gear, just let it develop and then hit that gear. He'll get better as time goes on."
Spiller wound up with just seven yards on six carries, so Gailey gave Lynch a chance, and then Jackson. They weren't much more productive.
"We've got to get better at running the football," Gailey said. "Obviously it didn't go as we planned, that would be an understatement. We felt we had some things working, but we didn't make the plays we made in the preseason and that's mostly my fault. I've got to get this thing where we're on the same page and going in the same direction on a consistent basis."
Gailey admitted that part of the running problems had to do with Miami not respecting Buffalo's passing game, because there wasn't one to respect.
"Well, you have to be able to throw it effectively to get them out of that," Gailey said of crowding the line to stop the run. "You have to be able to throw the football. I think if we can throw it effectively, it helps your running game."
The Bills did move the ball in their two-minute offense when they fell behind 13-3 in the fourth quarter and it resulted in their lone touchdown. But part of that was because the Dolphins softened up a bit and tried to prevent the big play. Also, the two times that Jackson operated out of the Wildcat formation, he ripped off decent runs.
"We just executed that better," Jackson said. "It was one of those things we spent a lot of time on and that was one of the better things that we did."
It was. Unfortunately, it was one of the only things the offense did well.
"We didn't get the run game going the way we wanted to and that's on us and we have to fix it," Edwards said. "There's going to be days like that when we don't get it going. We're three-and-out or we're shooting ourselves in the foot. That's going to happen, that's the NFL."