Colts-Bills game was snow going for everyone except Shady McCoy
Running back struggled less than everyone else with changing direction
The Buffalo Bills’ 13-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday was beautiful but not pretty. The scene was a picturesque white field blanketed by a thick layer of snow, but less than ideal football conditions. Some people consider that football weather. I do not. Weather like this transforms NFL football into youth football.
Like you’ll see in every youth football game, in the first two drives there were bad snaps, both teams went for it on fourth down, and there was a badly missed field goal. By the end of the first half, there were 10 pass attempts and four completions between both teams. All three of the Bills’ completions and the lone first-half touchdown were to the big kid, Kelvin Benjamin. And in youth football there is always one kid on the field who is clearly better than everyone else. That kid was LeSean “Shady” McCoy.
In youth football, the offenses are not disciplined enough to go on long, methodical drives. And the defensive player can’t consistently execute his proper responsibilities, so almost all scoring drives include some big plays. That is true in bad weather games, too, but not for the same reasons. Cold and slippery conditions make it difficult for receivers to get open and catch the ball multiple times. For defenders, changing direction and shedding blocks is a challenge, which can create unmanned running lanes.
That was perfect for McCoy, who seemed to struggle less with changing direction than everyone else did. Headed into a game like this, conventional wisdom would suggest that the team with Frank Gore, the bigger, more bruising runner, would be better equipped to succeed. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. Gore was solid. He had 130 yards on 36 carries. It is astounding that the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer can still be such an important part of an offense. But in a game that was decided by big plays, his longest run of 10 yards wasn’t enough.
McCoy’s balance, agility and acceleration were the main reasons for the Bills’ win. He was able to make big plays for his team with cutbacks. The first Bills touchdown came after two 20-plus-yard runs in which McCoy initially took the defense in one direction and cut faster and more effectively than they could.
This game was not without some schematic adjustments. In the second half, the Colts’ defenders were being aggressive against the run off the edge. The Bills countered by motioning the tight ends and receivers to the end of the line to slow the Colts’ attack. The second major Bills adjustment came much later. Nathan Peterman started the game at quarterback because of an injury to Tyrod Taylor’s knee. But Peterman was knocked out of the game in the third quarter, and Joe Webb replaced him.
The Bills held on to their 7-0 lead until the final minutes of the game. The Colts scored on a zone read run-pass option (RPO) play in which Jacoby Brissett opted to throw to a wide-open Jack Doyle. Admirably, the Colts went for two points. Another RPO left Doyle open for the conversion and the 8-7 lead, but the play was called back because of a controversial offensive pass interference call. Adam Vinatieri hit a 43-yard extra point to tie the game.
The Bills got the ball with 1:08 left, and Webb promptly threw an interception. Fortunately for the Bills, Vinatieri missed the 43-yard field goal attempt. But it seemed the Bills’ coaches learned from that interception. In overtime, Webb had three designed runs before they allowed him to throw a 1-yard pass to the tight end. The next play was another designed quarterback run. Then, on third-and-6 with two minutes left, they let Webb throw a deep pass to Deonte Thompson. Thompson made a fantastic 34-yard catch at the Colts’ 27-yard line. From there they handed the ball to McCoy three times in a row. On the third play, Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito executed an impressive combo block, climbing to the linebacker after driving the tackle out of the play. And McCoy made another unbelievable cut, rushing 21 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
It is hard to learn much about a team from a game like this. But the win keeps the Bills in the wild-card hunt with three games left. If they make the playoffs, I hope their game is against Jacksonville. After what they just endured, they deserve a trip to Florida.