The issues are many, and so far the solutions have been few for the Buffalo Bills when it comes to solving their problems in the red zone.
“Obviously the first thing you look at is efficiency. We’re trying to go back and see if we can put them in better situations,” coach Doug Marrone said.
“We’re just not making the plays that we need to make. Whether it be blocking-wise, throwing, catching or running, it’s a group effort,” center Eric Wood said.
“It’s ugly,” is how receiver Stevie Johnson summed up his team’s effort of late inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, before offering up a solution. “Just look for 13.”
The Bills have fallen to 31st in the NFL in the percentage of times they’ve scored touchdowns inside the red zone, at just 42.3 (11 of 26). Only the putrid Jacksonville Jaguars are worse, at 25 percent (5 of 20). On the other end of the spectrum are the Denver Broncos, who have scored touchdowns 78.4 percent (29 of 37) of the time inside the 20.
“We’ve gone around and looked at a bunch of things around the league. What’s trending around the league with the teams that have been successful and then we just have to see if that suits what we can do and if we can do that,” Marrone said. “That’s what we’re looking at right now.”
There have been a couple of memorable failures inside the red zone, particularly on the goal line. Against Cincinnati in Week Six, the Bills ran four straight plays from inside the Bengals’ 2-yard line, but were held out of the end zone. Then on Sunday against Kansas City, the team had three straight plays from the same distance that failed (in addition to a pass interference call against the Chiefs). Running back Fred Jackson was stopped on two straight runs.
On third and goal, quarterback Jeff Tuel threw an interception that was returned 100 yards for a touchdown by Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith.
“That’s an opportunity that we relish. I pride myself on goal-line situations and didn’t get the job done,” Jackson said. “In the end, that could be what cost us the seven points. When your number is called you want to get into the end zone. The first two carries, I didn’t get in in there and to end up, we threw the ball and we didn’t get any points and gave them points at the same time.”
“We have to get things fixed because that’s twice that we’ve struggled on the goal line this year,” Wood said. “As physical as we generally play on the offensive line and as a team in general in the run game, we’d like to be more successful.”
The Bills actually started the year strong in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on four of their first five trips. But the team went 0 for 3 in its Week Three game at the New York Jets, starting a streak of going just 7 for 21 the last seven games. That includes 0 for 2 against the Chiefs.
The Bills, of course, have used three different starting quarterbacks in that time, but Wood said that has not made much of a difference.
“I mean, if EJ Manuel in year two has a revelation in the red zone, we might be able to say that, but at this point, I think it’s everybody involved,” he said.
Although the touchdown numbers have plummeted, Tuel’s interception Sunday actually marked the first time all season the Bills haven’t gotten points inside the red zone. The Bills have 13 field goals to go with their 11 touchdowns, meaning they’ve scored 92.3 percent of the time. Only Indianapolis, at 100 percent (25 of 25) has a higher scoring percentage.
The Monday Morning Quarterback Club has announced that former Bills center Al Bemiller has been selected to receive the 28th annual Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Distinguished Service Award for the 2013 season. Bemiller will be honored during a pre-game ceremony at the Bills’ next home game Nov. 17 against the Jets, and at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club luncheon the following day at the Adam’s Mark.
Bemiller was with the Bills from 1961-69, making 126 consecutive appearances over nine seasons. He was a starter on the both the 1964 and ‘65 teams that won American Football League championships.
Bemiller has been an active member of the Buffalo Bills Alumni Association, and is a certified official and coach in Western New York youth wrestling and football. He lives in Orchard Park with his wife, Wanda. The couple has four children and five grandchildren.
The award was established in 1986 by the Monday Morning Quarterback Club to honor former players for long and meritorious service to the team.