Despite Rex Ryan’s propensity for brash and bold talk, the Buffalo Bills coach has no problem with boring.
“Boring is good,” he said on Monday. “Maybe that’s the old-school in me.”
The usually colorful Ryan is referring to the relatively simple blueprint the Bills have used in overcoming an 0-2 start by reeling off the franchise’s first four-game winning streak in eight years.
As the Bills once again proved in a 45-16 win over San Francisco on Sunday, their approach consists of handing the ball to LeSean McCoy and Ryan leaning on his opportunistic defense to stop the run, apply pressure and force turnovers.
McCoy scored three times and led a ground attack that totaled 312 yards rushing, fifth most in Bills history.
The eighth-year running back has been on a tear in combining for 470 yards and six touchdowns (including one receiving) over the past four games for a team that led the NFL in yards rushing last season. The surge coincides with Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.
The re-emphasis on running the ball has taken the burden off quarterback Tyrod Taylor having to force the passing game.
“We don’t have to throw it 50 times a game,” Ryan said. “And quite honestly, if we throw it 50 times a game, we’re getting beat and getting beaten badly.”
The numbers bear him out.
Since taking over the starting job to open last season, Taylor is 1-6 in games he attempts 30 or more passes, and 11-2 with 29 or fewer.
The quarterback has also been efficient with eight touchdowns passing versus just two interceptions and a lost fumble this season.
Ryan’s prized defense has also played a key role in Buffalo’s turnaround, which began after a 37-31 loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 15.
Since being burned for 493 yards and four touchdowns by New York, the Bills are allowing an average 317 yards and have given up just four touchdowns over the past four games.
Buffalo already has 20 sacks this season — one fewer than it totaled last year — and forced 12 takeaways (six fumbles, six interceptions), three of which have been returned for touchdowns.
The Bills held the 49ers in check by forcing a fumble on special teams, getting three sacks and stopping San Francisco twice on fourth down.
The turning point came with Buffalo leading 17-13 late in the third quarter, when linebackers Preston Brown and Lerentee McCray teamed to stop Mike Davis for no gain on fouth-and-1 at Buffalo’s 40.
The Bills then broke the game open by scoring three touchdowns in a span of 7:02.
Next up for Buffalo is Sunday’s game at AFC East rival Miami (2-4). The Bills haven’t won five straight since a six-game streak in 2004.
They also have a winning record through six games for just the third time since 2000, when Buffalo began a 16-season playoff drought — the NFL’s longest active streak. Buffalo was 4-2 in 2011 before finishing 6-10, and got off to a 5-1 start in 2008 before losing eight of its final 10 games.
Ryan is careful to note he’s a long way off from mentioning playoffs.
“A long, long, way,” he said. “There’s no sense even thinking about that. We’re not even close to that.”
NOTES: Ryan confirmed the Bills intend to activate first-round draft pick LB Shaq Lawson off the physically unable to perform list. Lawson has been sidelined since May, when he had surgery to repair a shoulder injury that nagged him at Clemson. … Players got the day off and don’t return for practice until Wednesday. … Buffalo’s 16 first downs rushing against the 49ers were the most since the Bills had a team-record 21 in a 38-13 win against Washington on Nov. 3, 1996.