The Buffalo Bills averaged 6.1 yards per carry Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, easily a season best even without LeSean McCoy.
The Bills had yet to top 3.8 yards per carry in any of the first six games, so on the surface Sunday’s effort looks like a positive. It does, however, bring into question why the running game hasn’t been able to do more when McCoy has been in the lineup.
“There’s obviously two different ways to look at it, right? I mean, you look at why we haven’t been able to do that when he’s been in the lineup,” coach Sean McDermott said Monday. “But overall, I look at it from a positive standpoint. That was growth right there. I’d like to see us do it earlier in the game at times to establish the line of scrimmage that I talked about earlier. I think that’s important for us in setting the tone offensively early.”
The Bills might be without McCoy again in Week 8. He’s in the NFL’s concussion protocol after being hurt Sunday on the team’s second offensive play. The running back was able to travel back to Buffalo with the team Sunday night, but outside of that, the Bills didn’t have an update on his condition. Recovery time for concussions can vary greatly, meaning the team might be forced to go with Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy against the Patriots on Monday Night Football.
“I’m confident in both of those guys. They’re good players,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. “Both of those guys have proven when they have the opportunities that they do a nice job for us.”
Daboll admitted that the Bills’ rushing average was inflated Sunday by some longer runs the Colts were content to give up in the second half to keep the clock moving. Nevertheless, the performance of Ivory and Murphy was one of the very few bright spots on an otherwise dreary day for the offense.
“After sitting out three or four games, it felt good to be back on the field,” Murphy said. “We’ve been doing a good job up front. Hopefully Shady can be back for next week, but we’ve just got to come out and be able to execute if he’s there or not. We’ve got to continue to fight, continue to try and improve and just take it day by day. If he can go, that’s great. If he can’t, we’ve got to pick it up.”
The Bills carried the ball six times in the first quarter against the Colts, producing just 9 yards.
“It wasn’t the step we wanted to take. I didn’t think we won the line of scrimmage, which is key to winning football games, both offensively and defensively,” McDermott said. “From that, things didn’t go our way. We’ve got to make sure we establish the line of scrimmage moving forward, both in the run and the pass game, because things really fall from that whether it’s stopping the run, being able to run the football, affecting the quarterback, and then keeping our quarterback with a clean pocket.”
On the Bills’ first possession of the second quarter, Ivory ripped off gains of 7 yards and 21 yards as the offense reached the red zone, but a lost fumble by tight end Charles Clay stopped the momentum. The Colts scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession, opening up a 14-0 lead and making the Bills go to the air more with Derek Anderson, who made his first start with the team.
“It’s not the ideal situation,” Ivory said. “A guy coming in, I give it all up to him to be able to come in and learn the plays he was able to learn within a short time. That’s big on his part. To be able to run the offense, I thought, was pretty good on his part. We wanted to put a win together, and we didn’t do it.”
Ivory was also banged up in Sunday’s game, coming out briefly in the third quarter.
“I’m good to go,” he said after the game. “Had a little issue out on the field, but now I’m good to go.”
Murphy is also coming back from a rib injury that kept him out in Week 4 against the Packers and has lingered even though he has been removed from the team’s injury report.
“It was good to get some time to heal,” he said. “If my number’s called, I just want to be ready to make the play and execute when I get the chance. You never know if you’re going to get in or not.”
If Ivory and Murphy can adequately produce against the Patriots, it raises an interesting question – does that increase the likelihood of McCoy being moved before next week’s trade deadline? McCoy’s injury status might complicate that, but it’s something to consider in a season that has spiraled away from from the team.