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Finding a Formula for Stealing a Philly Cheesesteak

On Sunday night, as all of Western New York breathed a collective sigh of relief, The Buffalo Bills walked out of a packed Highmark Stadium with a new edge, and growing hopes for a playoff return. We all know that we absolutely had to take a “W” out of Orchard Park last week, and although the Jets’ offense has been a tire fire, they stand alone as the one team that has done what the Bills hope to do this evening: Defeat the Philadelphia Eagles.


And while the Jets are clearly a flawed team–not throwing shade, here; Buffalo’s offense has been flawed up until last week–there must be something we can glean from their 20-14, mid-October tarnishing of the Iggles’ otherwise flawless campaign. 

Although Bruce Nolan has preached the gospel of “Wins are Not a Quarterback Stat,” ad-nauseam–and I wholeheartedly buy into his philosophy–I feel as though looking at the numbers can uncover some insights.

Here’s Jalen Hurts’ line, from the Iggles’ 10/15/23 loss to The New Jersey Jets:





























Hurts In Their 9 Wins: Hurts v.s. The Jets: 10/15/23:


Comp: 21.7777           Carries: 10.2222           Comp: 28           Carries: 8 

Att: 31.33333 Yds: 33.1111 Att: 45 Yds: 47

Yds: 246.3333 Avg: 3.0888 Yds: 280           Avg: 5.9

Comp %: 69.8444           TD: 1           Comp %: 62.2 TD: 1

Avg: 7.8777           Avg: 6.2

TD: 1.5555                     TD: 1

INT: 0.6667                     INT: 3

Sack: 2.7778           Sack: 2

Crunching the numbers, there are a few notable differences in the Iggles’ loss to New Jersey. I’ve listed some highlights, below:

-There was a 28.5718% increase in completions.

-There was a 43.6171% increase in attempts.

-Hurts threw for 13.6672% MORE yards against the Jets (in a loss) than his 9-win average.

-Hurts’ average distance per pass play was 21.2968% LOWER in his loss to the Jets.

-Hurts slung a shade over 0.5 fewer passing touchdowns than his average.

-In their loss to the Jets, Hurts threw OVER 3x as many interceptions as he usually does.

-There was ¾ of a sack more in their loss to New Jersey, than Hurts’ average.

I’ve bolded the most telling statistical anomalies, above.

So, if we want to force Hurts to do what the numbers in his only loss this season show he doesn’t do best, we have got to focus on accomplishing the following:

  1. Force Hurts to pass… A LOT…

  2. Keep the “cap” on the “D”. This is probably going to make many of you sick, but Leslie Frazier’s “bend-don’t-break” philosophy appears–at least statistically–to be the best formula for controlling Hurts. Force him to dink-and-dunk his way down the field.

  3. Force turnovers. 

With these three points in mind, and given that Taron Johnson has cleared concussion protocol, I do really like our makeup in the defensive backfield. Rasul Douglas plays zone with a press-man mentality, and his long, 6’2” frame allows him to clog passing lanes. I hope he’s matched up against A.J. Brown, as I feel like he has the build, length, and zone awareness to be our best option for attempting to contain Brown.

That leaves Benford and Taron Johnson, along with some cycling of Poyer, Hyde, and possibly Cam Lewis to deal with the rest of the Eagles offensive weapons. You have to believe that Johnson, Poyer, and Lewis will have their hands full with Deondre Swift, out of the backfield, while Benford and the safeties will need to focus on keeping Adams within the “shell”. 

If we are able to force Hurts into passing more than his seasonal average, while preventing splash plays, I feel like Douglas, Johnson, and Benford can clog the shorter passing lanes, while Poyer, Hyde, and possibly Hamlin keep everything in front of us. That’s a recipe for stealing a cheesesteak and a “W” from our trip to Philly.

Go Bills!

-Tim Avery, 11/26/2023

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