Whether it was a bizarre play call on fourth down, being outscored 23-6 in the second half, or Stefon Diggs’ flip of the switch in his emotions, there were lots of surprises that came from the Buffalo Bills 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season-opener.
What may have been the most shocking development from Sunday though came before the game even started, when it was announced that second-year running back Zack Moss was a healthy scratch. Last season, Moss’ 8.6 rushing attempts per game were just a shade under third-year back Devin Singletary’s 9.8 in 2020.
While Singletary dominated backfield duties on Sunday with 11 carries – though quarterback Josh Allen tallied nine rushing attempts as well – it was newcomer Matt Breida backing up Singletary against Pittsburgh instead of Moss. Postgame, Bills head coach Sean McDermott said the reason for holding Moss out of the contest “was just numbers”.
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On Monday morning, the 23-year-old out of the University of Utah took to Twitter with a response to the surprise decision.
“‘Control your controllables’ Something I live by,” Moss tweeted.
Should It Have Been Moss Over Breida?
In Moss’ place as Singletary’s second in command, Breida did little with the opportunity, producing four rushing yards on four carries. He was only on the field for 10 offensive snaps and nine on special teams, whereas Singletary was on the field for 64 snaps.
In March 2021, the Bills signed Breida to a one-year, $1.06 million deal, so it wouldn’t appear that his involvement over Moss had anything to do with a big investment they put into the 26-year-old. Additionally, though Moss had been dealing with a hamstring injury earlier in the offseason, his status Sunday as a healthy scratch shows that it had nothing to do with the injury.
If the Bills are looking to go with two active backs each game and sport some versatility, it may make more sense to go with Moss as the second option, rather than Breida. Of the three backs, Singletary and Breida are typically the quicker, shiftier runners, while Moss provides more of a “bruiser back” look with his 223-pound frame.
“But with Breida mirroring a similar running style to the quick Singletary, it might not be long until Moss gets another chance to prove himself with his ground-and-pound style,” BillsWire writer Nick Wojton said.
Is Singletary a Workhorse Back?
Although Breida did see the field for those 10 offensive snaps, it looked like McDermott was using Singletary as the feature back. True, the Bills are likely to continue the trend of being a pass-first offense – Allen fired off a career-high 51 pass attempts against the Steelers – but one would think that if Singletary is the only running back getting significant carries, he’ll be more in the 15 to 20 carries range.
Singletary’s 11 rushing attempts, by the way, equaled Ezekiel Elliott’s shocking total from Thursday night’s Dallas Cowboys loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Zeke went for a putrid 33 yards on the ground and caught just two of two targets for six yards though, while Singletary racked up a solid 72 yards on the ground – and three receptions for eight yards.
Through his first two seasons, Singletary hasn’t yet been treated like a workhorse back, as he averaged 12.6 carries per contest in his rookie 2019 campaign and just 9.8 attempts per game last year. In 2019, Singletary ceded 10.4 carries per game to Frank Gore, while Moss took away 8.6 attempts last season.
The Bills will travel to face the Miami Dolphins in Week Two for a 1 p.m. ET showdown on Sunday, September 19.