The Buffalo Bills started the season off with a 21-12 win over the New York Jets. If you look at the scoreboard, then you would think it was a close game, but in reality the Bills dominated the Jets.
There were a lot of really good performances on each side of the ball, but I want to start the season off by highlighting an area that has plagued the Bills over the last few years, and that is coaching adjustments. Head coach Sean McDermott brought in an experienced staff and stable schemes, but that doesn’t always equate to wins. What gets wins on Sunday is that coaching staff’s ability to adjust to the opponent and counter punch, if you will. So I went into this film study with that in mind.
Rick Dennison made it look easy. Early in the third quarter on 1st-and-10, the Bills bring out 12 personnel, and Taylor gets to the line of scrimmage and gives the ‘can, can’ call. This means that the first play called in the huddle is the play they’re going to run.
They run an outside zone run to the strength. Taylor runs that play because, due to the defense’s over front, there appears to be a huge ‘bubble’ to that side of the formation. But post-snap, the Jets’ defensive lineman Leonard Williams runs a gap exchange as soon as he reads zone blocking. Williams covers the backside A gap, with LB Demario Davis covering the front side B gap, allowing athletic LB Darron Lee to stay clean and fast flow over the top to fill any open windows working inside out. Safety Jamal Adams gets downhill and fills the C gap, but the play is made by outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins.
Jenkins sets the edge, which forces running back LeSean McCoy to bang it inside, at which point Jenkins disengages and makes the tackle. However, I want you to focus on Adams and Lee, as they fast flow downhill against this run.
Now let’s fast forward two drives later as the Bills are driving on the Jets. Taylor converted a pass to LeSean McCoy on 3rd-and-2 on the second to last play to end the third quarter.
Tyrod Taylor’s Ability to Extend Plays – https://t.co/fklDjvBR8y
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) September 13, 2017
The Bills open the fourth and get a big run by Shady, so they have the Jets on the ropes. Rick Dennison and his staff recognized the prior alignment and responsibilities of the defense when they last ran the outside zone out of 12 personnel, so he dials up the play action pass off of it.
Coaches typically categorize plays on their playcall sheet by down-and-distance. For example, 1st/2nd-and-10/long, 3rd-and-4-6 yards, 3rd-and-short. This makes it easier to navigate a smaller subset of plays the coordinator may want to utilize.
On this 2nd-and-long, the very same play call situation as the no gain run by Shady, the Bills again send out 12 personnel. Tight end Nick O’Leary aligns at the in-line TE position, and tight end Charles Clay flexed beside him. The Jets match with the very same defense. The Bills run the same action as the prior play call, and this makes it very tough on defenders.
The play looks the same, so LB Lee fast flows horizontally to fill his gap on the front side of the run. But this time Taylor keeps it and rolls left into the boundary. Wide receiver Zay Jones runs the clearing route front-side, as TEs O’Leary and Clay release. O’Leary runs the under route while Clay runs the deeper over route. Lee, who is selling out to get to his gap, loses sight of his assignment (O’Leary). Outside linebacker Josh Martin, the backside player, a player that is supposed to chase the running back down from behind on plays away from him, but also keep contain, falls asleep. That allows Taylor to get outside of the pocket, an area in which he excels. Tyrod squares his shoulders, drives downhill, and delivers an accurate pass, allowing O’Leary to gain some yards after the catch.
These kinds of plays show you how difficult it is to stop the 2017 Bills’ offense. They may only run a few run concepts, and defenses may actually stop them. But just because a defense may stop the run play, that doesn’t mean they will stop the play action pass paired with it. As you saw, the defense shut the run play down, but the Bills were able to hit big on the play action. These stretch and outside zone runs, and play action plays, force every defender to remain incredibly disciplined, with dire consequences if they fail to do so. If Lee or Adams covered the tight ends well, then what would Taylor have done? He could have kept it and gained considerable yardage because Martin lost contain. This play put major stress on three linebackers, and all three of them failed, which was Dennison’s gameplan all along. That’s why the Bills left The Cap with a W.
GIFs from the Game
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