Run game fails Bills vs. Steelers
With third-and-goal at the 1-yard line, the second-best rushing team in the AFC had its rookie quarterback throw into the end zone.
The pass was incomplete, and the Buffalo Bills settled for a field goal.
“You always want the ball down there,” said Bills running back Fred Jackson, who had gained 6 yards on first down but only 2 yards on second. “You always want an opportunity to score points. But that's the play that we went with.”
Facing a Steelers run defense that's among the NFL's worst statistically, Buffalo couldn't rely on the run. The Bills rushed for 95 yards on 22 carries Sunday in a 23-10 loss at Heinz Field, unable to duplicate the 241-yard output their backs had last week.
Jackson had 55 yards on 12 carries. C.J. Spiller had 23 yards on eight.
It hurt that rookie quarterback EJ Manuel struggled on a windy afternoon. Manuel, who'd missed four weeks with a sprained knee, completed 22 of 39 passes for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Bills had averaged 145.8 rushing yards. But the stretch runs that worked against Kansas City didn't work this week.
Buffalo's longest run was 11 yards by Jackson.
“We'd shown how effective we could be at that,” Bills center Eric Wood said, “and they did a good job defending it.”
The Steelers had allowed an average of 131.2 yards, inflated by 197-yard efforts by Oakland and New England the past two weeks.
“You'd seen that they were giving up some rushing yards,” Jackson said. “What (caused) it was they were out of their gaps. They did a tremendous job today making sure they weren't.”
The Steelers are 0-6 this season when allowing 100 rushing yards. They're 3-0 when they don't.
“We tried to bounce too many things outside, which is always difficult to do against this defense,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said.
The Bills twice chose to pass on third-and-1. The first was at the goal line on their first possession. Trailing 10-3 in the third quarter, Manuel again threw incomplete at Buffalo's 37.
“One-on-one with Stevie (Johnson) outside we felt was a good matchup for us,” Wood of the goal-line throw.
But the second he attributed to a lack of confidence.
“We hadn't run the ball as effectively as we wanted to,” Wood said, “(so) your number is not going to get called.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.
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