ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- From the moment Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott took the podium for his news conference Monday through the team's final practice Friday, his theme for the week was clear: he wanted to establish the line of scrimmage.
More than just a football cliché, there seemed to be a motive Sunday against the Tennessee Titans for McDermott to take the ball out of the hands of rookie quarterback Josh Allen and put it into those of a more proven playmaker in LeSean McCoy.
"It was big [emphasis] this week. Real big," wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin said after the game. "I felt like it's Buffalo football, so we got to control the scrimmage and get that defense going backward. Get the ball in Shady's hands. Get the ball in [backup running back Chris] Ivory's hands. Let the boys do what they do."
The Bills ran the ball 13 times in the first quarter, their most first-quarter carries since 2013, and finished the game with 43 total rushes in 13-12 victory. It was the Bills second-most of the past two seasons after rushing 51 times in an overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts in a snowstorm last December.
On the first play of the second half, the Bills turned their playbook back about 70 years and aligned their backfield in an inverted wishbone with a fullback (Patrick DiMarco) and two running backs (McCoy and Ivory). On the play, Ivory ran for two yards. Overall, the Bills gained 144 yards on 43 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry. Among the 298 games in franchise history in which the Bills have gained at least 144 yards rushing, Sunday marked their fifth-lowest average and lowest since 1995.
The Bills were persistent in running Sunday but hardly efficient -- except when it mattered most. After a field goal gave Tennessee a 12-10 lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game, Buffalo took over at its own 28-yard line and ran eight out of 10 plays before a game-winning 46-yard Stephen Hauschka field goal.
"Coach Daboll told me we were going to put it in our linemen's hands and they did a really good job," Allen said.
The game was kept out of Allen's hands. His two passes -- a short route to McCoy and a screen pass to wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud -- traveled a total of minus-3 yards in the air. Meanwhile, McCoy ran for 6 yards to start the drive before Ivory rumbled for a season-high 9 yards for a first down. He later secured Buffalo's field goal position with a 7-yard run.
Allen contributed in his own way with an impressive 14-yard first-quarter scramble for the game's only touchdown and the rookie's third rushing score of the season. Otherwise, he attempted only 19 passes, the fewest by any team this season.
For the Bills and Allen, the mission was accomplished.
"I care about letters," Allen said. "I care about Ws. I don't care how ugly the stats look. If we're out on top, that's all I care about."