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Play to watch: Scheme allows Bills to go against grain for yards

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 9:47 p.m.
Singleback tight double inside zone weak
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The Bills' C.J. Spiller carries the ball against the Chiefs on Nov. 3, 2013, at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.

One of the reasons Doug Marrone was so attractive for Buffalo's head coaching opening last year was not only because of his vast experience, but his ability to adapt offensive systems to the strength of his teams.

When Marrone was hired away from Syracuse in February, there's no doubt he instantly recognized that the strength of the Bills' offense was running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

The two combined for 1,681 yards last year while running under then-head coach Chan Gailey. They have continued that this year under Marrone despite Spiller nursing an ankle injury for the majority of the season

The two have combined for 980 yards and seven touchdowns and are ranked in the top 20 in the NFL in rushing — the only such duo in the league.

Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett used a run-first offense while at Syracuse and have directed the Bills to an NFL top 10 rushing attack midway through the season. A lot of those yards have come while running the “single back tight double inside zone weak” — a run call that plays to the strengths of Spiller and Jackson and one that's resulted in a number of long gains this year. Jackson had a 59-yard run against the Jets, and Spiller had 46-, 54- and 61-yard runs.

The play is a basic inside zone blocking scheme by the offensive linemen that takes advantage of an over pursuing defense and a running back that can cut back against the grain.

The most important part of the play is the zone blocking scheme.

The linemen block to an area and move to the next level to block a linebacker as they go. There are a lot of double teams at the point of attack. The running back can pick his hole and cut back as the defensive front gets stretched along the line of scrimmage.

The key to the play is the running back cutting back to the weak side of the formation.

The Bills use the zone scheme cutback run out of a lot of different formations, including out of the shotgun, but the tight double is one of their favorite formations.

The play has tight end Scott Chandler lined up strong right with receivers Marquise Goodwin in the tight slot to the right and Robert Woods just outside him. Stevie Johnson is set far to the right side.

Chandler motions from the right side of the formation to the left just before the snap of the ball.

At the snap, quarterback E.J. Manuel will pivot and hand the ball to Spiller or Jackson, and it initially resembles a basic off tackle or dive play.

With the line inside zone blocking to the left, the running back has the option to bend the play back to the weak side where a lane can form because of over pursuit by the defense.

The play also can be used to set up the zone read for Manuel — a play the Steelers are all too familiar with since Terrelle Pryor's record-setting run against them.

The play requires a defense to be gap sound at all times.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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