The new offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, 33-year old Nathaniel Hackett, has certainly had some growing pains this season. After all it is quite the shift going from calling plays in the Big East to calling plays in the AFC East. Still, Hackett was trusted by his coach Doug Marrone and was given the keys to the car from Week 1.
He’s taken his lumps and has certainly been outmatched by opposing coaches at times. Rex Ryan in particular seemed to have his number with his cloak and dagger defense. Hackett could not find a game plan to counter Ryan’s exotic looks and left E.J. Manuel on the run all game long. A game plan with quick passes and screens was in order, but Hackett didn’t seem to stray from what he wanted to do going in and it cost the Bills in a close seven-point game.
This week Hackett seemed to have gotten the message. He implemented a plan that didn’t just play to the Bills’ strengths on offense but also attacked the weak spots of the Baltimore Ravens‘ defense. The Bills ran the ball 55 times, the most rushing attempts that they’ve had in a game since 1996, and chipped away at where they thought the defense of the Ravens was most vulnerable – right up the middle.
Hackett’s sequence in the second quarter in particular was a thing of beauty. The Bills called a run on eight straight offensive plays including two runs of six and eight yards each on the previous four plays. Then they hit Baltimore with a play-action pass executed to perfection for a 42-yard TD from Manuel to Robert Woods.
Hackett has a long way to go before he can consider himself an elite NFL play-caller, but I think you can see some early progress from him. There will be more tests for Hackett along the way, but in his first big one, facing the defending champs with your back against the wall, he passed with flying colors.