ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — As the Buffalo Bills put the finishing touches on the game plan in the final 24 hours leading up to Saturday’s Wild Card match up against the Indianapolis Colts, there’s no doubt the Bills defense will be putting a lot of focus on the Colts run game.
That means stopping rookie running back Jonathan Taylor.
The two-time Doak Walker Award winning rookie out of Wisconsin exploded in the second half of the season, rushing for 741 yards in the final six regular season games, boosting himself to become the third leading rusher in the NFL this season with 1,169 yards.
Taylor’s freshman season in the league landed him behind only Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook for rushing yards in the regular season.
In Week 17 alone, Taylor rushed for 253 yards and two touchdowns, tying Demarco Murray (253 yards rushing on October 23, 2011) for the second-most rushing yards by a rookie in a single game in NFL history.
The Colts are 11th in the league for rushing yards this season, with 1,996 yards coming on 459 attempts.
Even though the Bills rank 17th in the league for rushing defense, four teams that the Bills played finished ahead of the Colts in rushing yards this season: the Tennessee Titans, the New England Patriots, the Arizona Cardinals, and the Los Angeles Rams.
The Tennessee Titans are second in the league in rushing yards, led by the dominant back Henry. In the Bills Week 5 game in Nashville, Buffalo held Henry to just 57 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Though they lost that game, the Bills allowed the Titans just 139 yards on the ground.
The New England Patriots are fourth in the league. In the Bills two matchups against New England this season, Buffalo gave up 333 total rushing yards, 188 yards in Week 8, and 145 in Week 16.
Against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3, the Bills allowed 167 yards to the 10th ranked rushing team in the NFL.
Of those four top-10 ranked teams, the one that gave the Bills the hardest time on the ground was the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10, who rank seventh in the league for rushing yards. Led by Kenyan Drake and Kyler Murray, the Cardinals rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. Only the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6 gained more yardage against the Bills this season with 245 yards.
If they want to win the first playoff game since 1995, the Bills defense needs to be able to stop Taylor and the run from the get-go. For a running back who is making veteran moves and has figured out how to make guys miss in his first season in the league, tackling well is going to be a must for Buffalo.