The Philadelphia Eagles conducted a graduate-level clinic in how to run the hurry-up offense on Monday night.
The Buffalo Bills, comparatively speaking, went through “Up Tempo 101” in Sunday’s season-opening 23-21 loss to the New England Patriots.
Under new coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles on Monday night ran 53 plays in the first half alone — the most of any team since 1998 — putting up 322 yards, 21 first downs and 26 points in a dazzling display.
The Bills managed to run just 61 offensive plays against New England. That total ranks tied for 20th in the NFL after opening weekend. The Patriots, who run an up-tempo scheme of their own influenced heavily by Kelly’s offense — ran a NFL-high 89 plays against the Bills.
“We would have liked to have their number of plays and wear them down a little bit more,” Bills center Eric Wood said. “When we were able to put drives together, I felt like our tempo was great.”
Far too often, however, the Bills were unable to get into that tempo. On 13 possessions (excluding the desperation final play of the game), the Bills turned the ball over within three plays or went three and out six different times.
“Obviously you have to get that fixed. We can’t leave our defense out there,” running back Fred Jackson said. “We can’t go three and out, put them back out there, leave them, make them have a long day. It’s something that will be addressed. Something that as an offense we’re focused on doing. We’ve got to get that taken care of.”
Third-down conversions doomed the Bills’ up-tempo game plan. The Bills went 4 of 13 on third downs, which had an average of 6.6 yards to go. They needed to gain only 1 or 2 yards on five of those third downs, and did so only twice.
One particularly damaging third down came late in the third quarter. Needing only 1 yard to convert, the Bills gained 15 on a flare pass from EJ Manuel to Fred Jackson, reaching the New England 43-yard line. Right guard Kraig Urbik, however, was flagged for illegal use of hands, wiping out the play and forcing the Bills into a third-and-11 situation they were unable to convert.
“That was a great opportunity for us to go and score and really add to the lead,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “That’s where we have to do a better job when those situations come up like that.”
Third downs, of course, are a two-way street, and the Bills’ defense did not fare much better. New England was able to convert 11 of 20 third downs, a conversion rate of 55 percent. Only two teams — Chicago at 63.6 percent and Oakland at 60 percent - allowed their opponents to convert a better percentage of third-down plays in Week One.
Not being able to stay on the field on offense or get off it on defense meant time of possession was heavily in favor of New England. The Bills’ offense had the ball for 22:17 on Sunday. Only the Green Bay Packers, at 21:25, held the ball for less time.
“When it comes down to third down and you put yourself in tough situations and you’re not able to convert, any team — no matter what style of offense they have — is going to lose the time of possession,” Marrone said.
“We’ve just got to make more plays to stay on the field and I think that’ll solve that,” Wood said. “I don’t think we’re going to win a lot of time possession battles this year and we’re fine with that. We just need to run more plays.”
The Bills were flagged for five offensive penalties, four of which were accepted. Three of the accepted penalties — the call against Urbik, an illegal use of hands call against left tackle Cordy Glenn and an illegal block in the back against tight end Scott Chandler — erased plays on which the Bills gained first downs with gains of 15, 19 and 8 yards, respectively.
“We have to clean stuff up, and me personally, I have to play a little smarter. I had two penalties myself,” Chandler said. “In the first half, especially, we were really shooting ourselves in the foot and putting ourselves in tough situations. If we play smarter as a group we’ll be all right. We left a lot of plays out there. We had the ability to sustain some drives and we didn’t follow through.”
The Bills’ offensive players were universal in their belief they let the team’s defense down. New England’s two touchdown drives started deep in Buffalo territory after turnovers, and one of the Patriots’ field-goal drives started at the 50 after a penalty.
“They were putting us in good positions all day. We didn’t help them out offensively. We’ve got to help them out because they played really, really well,” Chandler said. “We’ve got a long ways to go offensively, and we can help them out by putting them in better field-position situations, getting some drives and flipping the field and then sustaining some drives and keeping them fresh on the sidelines.”
The Bills added cornerback Johnny Adams to their 53-man roster Tuesday, promoting him from the practice squad.
Adams, 24, is a 5-foot-11, 177-pound rookie out of Michigan State. He originally signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent following this year’s draft, and also spent time with the Indianapolis Colts before signing with the Bills’ practice squad earlier this month.
Adams started 39 games and played in 54 for the Spartans, making 157 tackles, 35 passes defended and 11 interceptions. He becomes the fifth healthy cornerback on the Bills’ roster, behind Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Nickell Robey and Brandon Burton. The Bills also have the injured Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and Ron Brooks (foot) on the roster.
To make room for Adams, the Bills released defensive tackle Jay Ross. Ross, 25, was a healthy inactive Sunday.
To take Adams’ place on the practice squad, the team signed defensive back Brandon Smith.
Smith, 26, was released by Green Bay on Sept. 1. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Arizona State product came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Carolina in 2011.
He played in 25 career games with the Sun Devils in college, making four starts at cornerback.