The Bills fanbase suffered a complete let down this past weekend. An offensive unit that was expected to take that “next step”, sputtered out at M&T Bank Stadium. It was a low scoring affair as Baltimore could only muster up 13 points against a much improved Bills defense. But Buffalo’s offense only got into the end zone one time and that is not enough points to win games.
Greg Roman’s offense was supposed to have mismatches all over the field, but not one of those players stood out. Tyrod Taylor only threw at Sammy 6 times, completed 4 for 43 yards. High priced tight end Charles Clay wasn’t a factor either, he only caught two passes for 40 yards and most of that came on a passing play that Taylor had to extend. None of the other wide receivers were factors. Woods was only targeted 5 times, he managed to pluck 4 out of the air for a measly 20 yards. Which begs to question, why did an offense with so many weapons struggle so badly against what appeared to be an average defense? The easy answer is that the Ravens coaches and defense had a fantastic game plan. They did some things to confuse Taylor and to stymy the Bills offensive line.
Taylor received a hefty pay raise in the last few weeks and now A LOT is expected of him. Let’s be honest, he played terribly on Sunday versus his former team. He stared down receivers, missed reads, left the pocket prematurely and just didn’t get it done. According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor led week one QBs in snap to pass attempt holding onto the ball for 3.16 seconds, Rodgers was #2 with 2.97 seconds. The quickest time was Andy Dalton with 1.95 seconds. With the pass protection issues I foresee, the typical Roman passing game will have to change or he will have to keep more players in to block. Which one do you think he will choose? Breaking News: The Bills just cut Gronk and signed Jerome Felton. Hmmm
Here is one play that Taylor missed. After the play action fake, he stares Watkins down too long. The clock in his head, which is a little faster compared to a normal pocket passer, goes off and he panics and goes right to the outlet receiver. If he had read the coverage correctly, he would have known that Robert Woods would eventually come open on the dig route.
“The game plan was to make him be a quarterback,” Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “Sometimes he got out of there, but not too many times.”
Williams’ statement is very telling and when you turn on the film, defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ gameplan jumps out at you. Specifically, on the most crucial down; 3rd down. The Bills only converted three 3rd downs. That usually doesn’t win games. Rex Ryan credited the Ravens defense and blamed the horrendous offensive output on bad protection and that is where the Bills issues were; upfront.
3rd and 6 at BAL 43
(5:35 – 1st) (Shotgun) T.Taylor pass incomplete short left to C.Clay (E.Weddle) [Z.Orr]
According to Pro Football Focus Lesean Mccoy allowed 4 QB hurries. On the second third down of the game, you will see why he and the Bills struggled in pass protection. The Ravens align a player in every gap. So Eric Wood sets the protection. On this play Wood, Richie, and Glenn slide left as Mccoy, Miller and Mills are responsible for the three defenders to the right. Shady is responsible for the A gap defender. On the snap that defender jams Miller, then attacks to the right of Taylor. Miller’s defender, who is now free, attacks the middle of the pocket. This is a 5 man rush that creates pressure, but Taylor is able to get rid of it quickly but it’s a pass short of the sticks and falls incomplete.
3rd and 6 at BUF 40
(13:42 – 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Taylor sacked at BUF 36 for -4 yards (T.Jernigan)
On the fourth 3rd down of the game, Roman has a play drawn up that could gain the first down. But that doesn’t matter because the pass protection again fails the Bills offense. On the snap, Shady does a horrible job of picking up the linebacker. That defender doesn’t take Shady head on instead he attacks to the right of Taylor. This angle by the backer forces Taylor into the pocket. At the very same time, Richie and Wood have a miscommunication and they simultaneously release defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and he brings Taylor down for the first sack of the game.
The Ravens did not make Taylor’s day easy and his response after the game was that he was “taking what the defense was giving me.” That was also fairly evident when the film was turned on. On the Bills fourth drive of the game (scoring drive), the Ravens made the Bills methodically work down the field. It’s 2nd down and 12, Taylor reads cover 2 and elects to just get it into Sammy’s hands. This was an easy decision, but it was dictated by the coverage. The defense allowed the catch and kept Sammy from getting the first down. It leads to the 5th third down of the game.
3rd and 4 at BUF 47
(8:03 – 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Taylor pass short left to R.Woods ran ob at BLT 47 for 6 yards
Here’s the fifth 3rd down of the game. Easy read for Taylor, he takes the snap stares Woods down and converts versus cover 3.
3rd and 13 at BAL 37
(5:57 – 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Taylor pass deep middle to C.Clay to BLT 4 for 33 yards (S.Wright). Taylor scrambles to elude pass rush and fires pass downfield
When your offensive unit is having trouble protecting the quarterback it is nice to have a guy who can scramble and make plays. Tyrod Taylor is one of the best in the league at doing that. On 3rd down and 13 Taylor spins out of the pocket and hits Clay for a 33 yard gain.
3rd and 1 at BAL 37
(11:36 – 3rd) (Shotgun) L.McCoy right tackle to BLT 37 for no gain (Z.Orr)
Of the Bills thirteen 3rd downs, three of them were runs. The Bills try running Shady inside but the Ravens have a run blitz called. The inside linebacker CJ Mosley times the snap perfectly and disrupts the play. Mccoy makes the most out of it but Baltimore forces fourth down. The Bills do get help on fourth down as corner Jimmy Smith gets called for holding Sammy Watkins.
3rd and 16 at BAL 32
(9:26 – 3rd) (Shotgun) T.Taylor pass short left to R.Woods to BLT 31 for 1 yard (T.Young)
On that very same drive, Buffalo faces a 3rd and 16 situation. The Ravens play coverage this time. The Ravens play zone coverage and rush only three defenders. The coverage is rolled to Sammy’s side taking him completely out as an option. It appears as if Jimmy Smith was trying to bait Taylor into throwing it to Sammy. Tyrod decides to dump it to Woods but the throw is inaccurate. The inaccurate pass was crucial because it forced Carpenter to attempt a longer field goal. Carpenter went on to miss the 49-yard field goal. Another example of the Ravens making Tyrod be a quarterback and him failing, and this time it may have cost them points.
3rd and 2 at BUF 47
(4:53 – 3rd) (Shotgun) T.Taylor left end to BUF 45 for -2 yards (S.Wright)
On the very next drive, the Bills offense puts together a five play drive but it stalled because cornerback Shareece Wright blew up the QB sweep. It’s a good down block by Greg Salas which allows Cyrus to pull. Kouandijo and Shady lead the play but Mccoy fails to cut Wright down.
3rd and 8 at BUF 44
(15:00 – 4th) (Shotgun) T.Taylor pass short left to C.Clay to BLT 49 for 7 yards (S.Wright)
The Ravens tricked Taylor a few times in the game and this is one of them. Roman sends out a 3×1 wide receiver formation, with the three-man surface to the field. The single receiver is Charles Clay, and Roman tries isolating him versus Shareece Wright. Eric Weddle drops deep late as the safeties rotate (trap coverage?) and it confuses Taylor. Taylor thought for sure that Weddle was the flats defender. Instead, Albert McClellan drops to the flats and Wright jumps the route by Clay and almost picks it off. Clay does a great job of hauling it in, but the play is short of the sticks and the Ravens again force a punt.
3rd and 7 at BUF 38
(12:06 – 4th) (Shotgun) T.Taylor scrambles right end ran ob at BUF 41 for 3 yards (Z.Orr). Penalty on BUF, Illegal Formation, declined
On the second to last drive of the fourth quarter, the Bills bring out 11 personnel with a trips formation to the field. They run a flood route but Taylor is unable to go through his progressions because of the bad pass protection. The Bills are flagged for an illegal formation because Clay wasn’t on the line of scrimmage. The penalty was declined.
3rd and 6 at BUF 26
(4:53 – 4th) (Shotgun) T.Taylor sacked at BUF 14 for -12 yards (T.Suggs). Penalty on BUF-J.Miller, Offensive Holding, declined
The second sack by the Ravens on the Bills last possession was executed with the same pass rush technique up the middle. The inside linebacker Orr jams Wood and it causes the holding penalty. Both players end up pressuring Taylor and Suggs the rush contain player eventually gets the sack. The penalty was declined and the Bills didn’t see the ball again.
So who is to blame for the offense’s struggles? It was fairly evident that for most of the first half Taylor struggled. He was trigger shy, had some late throws, missed reads and showed some sloppy technique which led to some inaccurate throws. If he wants to be paid past this season he will have to be able to make reads and throws. But when it came to the money down, third down in this game, the coaches are to blame.
The Ravens had a game plan to keep Taylor in the pocket by rushing his dominant side (right) and forcing him into the pocket. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees then schemed a way to get an interior lineman free to be right in Taylor’s face. Often forcing him right into pressure. The fact that Offensive Line Coach Aaron Kromer and Greg Roman didn’t make an adjustment caused this team and Taylor to struggle. They didn’t have an answer for the twists/stunts run between the Ravens interior defensive lineman and linebackers. The linebackers were able to “jam” the Bills lineman often freeing both defenders up. Tyrod Taylor didn’t stand a chance, especially on the deeper pass routes. Which is why he only attempted two passes over 20 yards (PFF).
The Bills staff and players better tighten up their pass protection, because the Ravens don’t have the talent of other teams on the schedule. They were able to pressure Taylor using schemes and techniques. If the staff doesn’t devise a way to protect Taylor, there is no way this team will even come close to matching last year’s offensive production, let alone take that “next step.”