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Advanced Stats: Bills have used zone-blocking majority of time

After rushing 33 times for 178 yards in the win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, let's take a close look at the Buffalo Bills run game before the team hosts the Oakland Raiders at New Era Field in Week Eight.

Pro Football Focus recently published an article which showed the percentages of zone-blocking run plays for each NFL team.

The Bills have run a zone-blocking play on 70.2 percent of their rushes, the seventh-highest percentage in football. That should come as no surprise with the presence Buffalo's offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, a long-time zone-blocking enthusiast.

Here's what PFF senior analyst Sam Monson wrote about the Bills.

"The Buffalo Bills have gained 415 rushing yards on zone blocking plays this season, with 50.8 percent of their zone runs being outside zone, even if they have dialed back the bells and whistles hanging off them in terms of option looks and RPOs. They have gained 19 first downs on zone runs."

Mark Gaughan wrote about the occasionally multi-faceted nature of Buffalo's run game, and provided these specific insights on the variation between zone and gap plays in the past two games, starting with the most recent contest against the Buccaneers:

When the Bills pulled linemen in gap-scheme runs, they gained 37 yards on seven carries. That included a 23-yard run on a third-and-1 toss sweep. Cordy Glenn and Dion Dawkins led the way. But the zone scheme worked, too, against the Bucs. Bills backs rushed 20 times for 83 yards on mostly inside and outside zone runs.

There's a misconception that Dennison has been inflexible in sticking to zone running, which is key to his offensive plan. But Dennison has been mixing it up in recent weeks, even before the bye.

In the loss at Cincinnati, the Bills ran 13 zone-scheme runs for 64 yards (a 4.9-yard average) and nine gap-scheme runs for 26 yards (a 2.8-yard average).

How about the Raiders?

They've utilized zone-blocking on 67.6 percent of their runs so far in 2017, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL.

Monson's write-up on Oakland's ground game was interesting:

"The Oakland Raiders have run as much outside zone as any team, with only Chicago and Buffalo having more carries than the Raiders using that run concept. They have four rushing touchdowns using zone concepts and are averaging 3.9 yards per carry on those runs."

Buffalo's defense will need to limit a run game very similar to its own on Sunday.

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