Bills vs. Seahawks Recap

Buffalo’s week-nine matchup against Seattle was one that left most fans irate, and rightfully so. There were just so many things to be angry about. Of course, the referees are on top of that list. The crew that oversaw that game screwed the pooch in many ways. I can’t take any more of the analysis in regards to the referees.

News dropped today that referee Walt Anderson and his crew will not work a game in week 10, but according to Ed Werder, that decision was predetermined prior to the season. I find that hard to believe, but nonetheless, you don’t come here to listen to my opinion on referees or general commentary. You can get that from other sites. I want to focus on what happened on the field.

When you look at the score and see that Seattle put up 31 points, you think to yourself, “Wow, the defense struggled, especially considering how the Hawks are ranked 23rd overall and 14th in passing.” To be honest, the Bills’ defense did not play as poorly as most fans are making it seem. They only surrendered 278 total yards, but the Hawks got into the end zone on 4-4 red zone trips.

The Seattle run game was literally nonexistent. They attempted 12 runs for 33 yards, and that includes a long run of 13 yards by wide receiver Tyler Lockett on a jet sweep and an eight-yard yard scramble by Russell Wilson. The Bills’ rush defense has been leaky at times this season, but they eliminated any threat of a ground game by Seattle by attacking the running back. The Bills’ defenders did not let RBs Christine Michael or CJ Prosise stay on their normal zone run tracks at all on Sunday.

The bulk of the Bills’ troubles came defending the pass. Russell Wilson finished the game 20/26 for 282 yards and two TDs. Most of that production occurred in the first half, in which Wilson was able to torch the Bills secondary almost at will and averaged 8.2 yards per pass.

Seattle’s star quarterback was his typical self on the big stage. He came into the game as the second most accurate passer in the NFL, behind Drew Brees, and the fourth most accurate deep passer. Wilson targeted corner Ronald Darby deep on their second drive of the game. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin toasted Darby for 50 yards. This play put the Hawks at the Bills’ three-yard line.

Russell Wilson used his legs to score soon after. Hughes blows his bootleg, counter and reverses responsibilities (B.C.R), and Wilson walks in.

 

Darby finished the game allowing 2 receptions for 62 yards and appeared to be benched by Rex Ryan after he was once again beaten by Baldwin. On that play, Darby committed pass interference to save a possible touchdown, but it again put the Seattle offense at the three-yard line, from which RB Christine Michael darted into the end zone for Seattle’s second rushing touchdown of the day.

Russell Wilson just made the big plays when he got favorable matchups, like this touchdown to Jimmy Graham. Not having a physical safety like Aaron Williams to match up against Graham really hurt the Bills defense.

 

The story of the day was the play of the Bills’ offense. Tyrod Taylor led an offensive unit that racked up 425 total yards against a stout Seattle defense. The special abilities that only Taylor possesses were on full display in this game, and especially on this play.

Taylor scans left-to-right, but immediately has pressure in his face. His quick twitch abilities allow him to escape the pocket and deliver a nice pass to Goodwin.

Taylor finished as the most accurate passer in week nine with an 87.9 accuracy percentage. I think it is safe to say that he had the best game of his short career. I wasn’t surprised at how well he played against Seattle’s scheme, seeing as most teams defended the Bills similarly with single high safety looks in 2015. However, he still had to execute versus one of the best defenses in the league. He certainly had help from a perfect game plan by offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.

Seattle is typically a cover 3 defense, but they utilize a lot of pattern matching. Simply put, the secondary matches the route of the wide receivers. The coverage could start off as zone but turn to man based on the routes. So Anthony Lynn schemed several ways to beat this defense.

The main concept this week is called a ‘switch concept’ and it was used on several occasions.

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The switch concept is rooted in the old ‘run and shoot’ offense. Many coaches, including June Jones and Kevin Gilbride, also perfected their own versions of the concept.  Most fans will remember Gilbride utilizing the run and shoot offense in late 80’s and early 90’s with the Houston Oilers and Warren Moon.

The switch concept is effective because of the adaptability of the receivers’ routes to the coverage of the secondary. I love this because what does Seattle do with their secondary? Pattern match. So Lynn decided to fight fire with fire. Here’s what the slot WR is looking for:

Inside Receiver: The inside receiver will come under the outside guy on his route and wheel up the sideline. All he is looking for is whether there is someone deeper than him in the deep one-third of the field. Or, if the guy on him is playing him in man, he just asks: “He’s even? I’m leaving! (running deep) He goin? I’m stayin.” It’s as simple as deciding whether you could get open deep or not. If the defender stays deep, the receiver will stop at 10-12 yards and settle and curl back to the Quarterback.  -Chris Brown, Smart Football

I don’t think that Buffalo gave its wide receivers as much coverage reading responsibilities as Haywood Jeffries had in the high-powered Oilers offense of the early 90s. In my opinion, Lynn simplified it. But nonetheless, the roots are in the switch concept. The Bills’ version in week nine was effective because it allowed the slot WR to have the upper hand regardless of whether the defense was playing cover 3 pattern matching or just playing cover 3 zone.

The switch concept and release phase of the concept is not just effective against pattern matching defenses, but it is also a good technique to use against man schemes. The release phase of the receivers’ routes during a switch concept can often cause a natural rub and allow a receiver to get open. But on this play the alignment of Jeremy Lane over the slot WR prevents any type of rub to be executed. As you can see, the play was still effective.

The concept is great to run against teams like Seattle because it can combat the matching of coverage (that is, if the quarterback and wide receiver see the same coverage). On the following play, pre-snap Seattle makes the coverage look like man.

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Even post-snap they make it seem like man coverage. The slot corner to the top followed Robert Woods on the switch. But then he peels off and covers the flat, meaning the defense is in cover 3. Tyrod sees cover 1 man, Woods sees cover 3 so he hooks up the route and Sherman picks the pass off.

 

But the adjustment by the Hawks defense didn’t stop Lynn from calling it again. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Buffalo was down two possessions and they were at the Seattle 14-yard line. Lynn calls the switch concept to Robert Woods.

 

Not only was this game a coming out party for Tyrod Taylor, but I also really think wide receiver Robert Woods had his best day as a Bill. He finished with 10 receptions for 162 yards. He didn’t get into the end zone, but he was targeted a total of 13 times. Woods and Taylor showed off some chemistry that Bills fans have been waiting for.

On the final drive before halftime, Taylor scans the field and has nothing, so he finds Woods in the middle of the field. The throw is perfectly placed inside, allowing Woods to catch it and avoid any big hits. The play put Buffalo in position for their first attempt at the field goal.

When I look at the film and analytics, the biggest thing that I notice is where he was lined up. EVERYONE knows that Woods is effective in the slot. Due to injuries, he has been utilized all over the field. Not that it’s wrong, but I would rather see Woods line up in the slot, regardless of who is on the outside. In this game, Woods was in the slot 71.4% of his snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Compared to his percentages this season, though, it was a tremendous uptick in percentage. On the season, Woods has been used in the slot only 46.9% of the time, and in 2015 it was 31.7% of the time.

I don’t think there was any doubt that Woods had his best game against the Seahawks because he mainly operated out of the slot and was given the ability to run option-like routes (like the ones seen in the switch concept). From the slot position, Woods ran 30 routes (4th most in week nine from the slot), was targeted 11 times (#1), hauled in eight receptions (#1), and had 131 yards (#1). He had the second-most yards per route run in the NFL for week nine, and he was just an absolute nightmare for the Seattle defense.

Slot corner Jeremy Lane was a victim on this play due to a beautiful route run by the fourth year pro.

 

As is often the case, Woods isn’t just an integral part of the passing game week in and week out. He may be even more important in the run game. He is a fearless blocker, whether it is cracking back on a pursuing linebacker….

 

Or blocking on screen passes. On this run-pass option concept, Woods blocks the 3rd-most efficient tackler from the cornerback position, Deshawn Shead, to spring Bush for 14 yards.

 

To learn more about this play, check out this piece I wrote for The Bills Wire:

 

The guy has that Hines Ward, do the dirty work kind of attitude, and he has fun doing it. That is a blue collar attitude through and through, so you can see why Bills fans love this guy. He is making a case to be re-signed this offseason.

Buffalo lost a heartbreaker and a centerpiece on the offensive line, but there were some encouraging signs. Tyrod Taylor looked like a quarterback that the organization can build around. He showed poise, accuracy, and playmaking ability, all things that this offense needs right now. He and Woods showed tremendous rapport, which is something that fans have been waiting to see.

Lynn threw an array of formations, personnel groupings, and several new wrinkles at a talented Seattle defense and coaching staff. The offensive game plan was nothing short of impressive. The offense may have to carry this team if they want to string together some wins. It’ll  be interesting to see what other wrinkles Anthony Lynn installs during the bye week.

 

 

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