A quarter of the season is in the books and for Bills fans, being 1-3 shouldn’t be surprising. The team wasn’t expected to win many games in that first quarter, but I don’t think they believed they would lose in the manner that they did.
Rookie QB Josh Allen‘s ‘time’ came a lot sooner than many predicted and he showed how ‘green’ he was. So let’s jump in and take a look at what defensive coordinator Mike Pettine did to stymy the young rook.
The first series was a short one; Buffalo started the drive with a nice curl/wheel route combination to RB Mccoy for a 7 yard gain, followed by a two-yard inside zone run. But on third down, when the offense needed to ‘set the tone,’ they were unable to pick up a yard. Here’s what Head Coach Sean McDermott said about the following play:
That’s where it starts, goes right down through fundamentals and techniques, winning one-on-one’s, guys doing their job, establishing a line of scrimmage. We had an opportunity early in the game to establish a line of scrimmage two plays in a row. I believe it was 2nd and 3 into a 3rd down and short, and we didn’t get the job done. So we’ll just start there, and you’ve got to establish the line of scrimmage if you want to be a good offense.
The Bills sent out 21 personnel, which includes an extra offensive lineman. They shift LT Dion Dawkins over to the right and have tackle Conor McDermott set at left tackle. Allen can be seen calling out the ‘alert’ call, which means they like the defensive structure of the Packers. On the snap, they run power to the right, and DT Dean Lowry shoots the gap in between RT Jordan Mills and Dawkins. Dawkins and Mills are unable to get any push on the deuce block, and RB Chris Ivory doesn’t pick up the first down.
First play of the second series, the offense starts with the ball inside the five-yard line. This situation is often referred to as ‘backed up,’ and there are usually certain calls on a playsheet just for it. Here Daboll calls a play action pass China concept out of 21 personnel. It’s a half-field read and a quick one at that. The defense is in a single high set, and appear to be in zone because a safety is down in the box lined up over WR Zay Jones. On the snap, Allen executes the play fake, snaps his head around and gets his eyes on the safety over Jones. The safety disrupts but then drops into his area, it’s zone coverage, and Allen appears to hold it just a tad too long. This changes where the ball is going to be placed and that pause allows the corner to drive hard to that spot to break it up. Benjamin essentially loses all leverage he had on the DB coming out of the break. Allen has the arm strength to get passes to his receivers later, but sometimes that will cause passes to be in a tighter window.
3rd down and 10- Bills send out 11 personnel and align in a 3×1 set with WR Kelvin Benjamin in the slot. Typically they put him as the single side WR and run an iso route. Different alignment but similar philosophy, use his height and length to the offenses’ advantage. They run a slot fade, and once Benjamin and Allen realize they aren’t going to win deep, they both shift their mindset to a back shoulder throw. But the throw is severely overthrown.
With very little success on the first couple series, Buffalo gets back to the ground game. Running back Chris Ivory is in, and he runs right through the tackle of LB Antonio Morrison. The seven-yard run, was his longest run of the day.
After two runs from Ivory, the Bills try to move the pocket by giving Allen half field read. Benjamin runs the clearing route with Clay to the flats. Allen misses the throw to his tight end. Maybe the safety #42 affects the throw, but Allen should be able to place this out in front of Clay near the sideline.
3rd and 8-This read and throw were one of Allen’s best plays of the day. The Bills run what most call a follow concept, but in the Patriots playbook, the route by TE Clay is called a Ram route.
Typically this is a 2-3 man route concept, with a receiver running a shallow cross, a receiver running a deep route to the post or corner and then the Ram route. This combination is labeled Bullet in the Patriots playbook.
The Packers blitz their slot corner and replace hook to curl area with linebacker James Crawford, who is posing as a defensive lineman in a three-point stance. Once Allen receives the snap, he looks to find the hook to curl defender. He sees CB Jaire Alexander rushing, so he takes a quick peek at LB Crawford and notices that he is hung up on the crossing route instead of getting to his area. Clay throttles down in the open window, and Allen hits him for a first down.
The offensive line has had their share of issues this season, but I will be the first to tell you that I didn’t expect RG John Miller to be one of the worse guards in the league. This play by Miller and Allen were just awful. Let’s start with what blatantly looks like off man coverage. As the ball is snapped, the inside linebackers run a cross-dog blitz, and both are unblocked. Now watch it from the end zone angle. Allen and center Russell Bodine appear to call a full slide protection to the field. Well, Miller didn’t get the memo, he doesn’t slide, and two linebackers come screaming at Allen. Allen fails to hit his apparent hot route over the middle, launches it deep AND takes a big shot. That’s lousy field awareness by Allen and a blown pass protection by Miller. He surrendered one QB sack, two QB hits and four QB pressures this game. Will this game be the final straw for him? Will we see guard Wyatt Teller?
Third down wasn’t any better. The pressure and big hit by Morrison on the prior play left its mark. Allen believes more pressure is coming up the middle, so he bails. It’s too bad because there’s a pretty good chance the route combination would have worked.
After a four-yard run by RB Mccoy on first down, Daboll tries to sneak McCoy down the seam on an all verticals concept. This all verts concept involving the RB, was one of the trendiest plays last season. As the ball is snapped LB Clay Matthews peels wide with Shady, but as McCoy cuts back inside, Matthews converts to a rusher. Mills saw Matthews leave, so he goes to help Miller and Matthews has a free rush. The Packers defender denies McCoy entry into the seam and Allen has nowhere to go. So now the Bills are forced into a 3rd and 15.
Bills open this series with a play action pass, but Allen doesn’t read the safety correctly. It’s a single high set, so the post to WR Robert Foster isn’t the throw to make. If he is going to throw, the dig is his best option.
3rd and 5-Allen gets the 1-on-1 coverage outside, but he doesn’t throw on schedule. You see him hitch and have to reset before firing a rocket to WR Andre Holmes. Luckily he has the arm strength to make up for the late throw. He places it very well, but the pass is dropped.
Frest set of downs after the Packers are hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Daboll dials up a deep comeback throw to WR Foster. It’s man coverage, and the CB has no help to the flats. Unfortunately, RG Miller is bullied into Allen, and he isn’t able to step into the throw. WR Zay Jones looked very good this game, check out his route over the middle vs. CB Alexander.
3rd and 10-Allen does a tremendous job of remaining calm in the pocket while reading the defense. The Packers drop safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix into a robber role and tasked with reading Allen’s eyes and breaking on the ball. Allen doesn’t like what he sees so he smoothly scans to his left where he catches WR Benjamin wide open as the DB dropped the coverage.
3rd and 5-The biggest mistake that Allen has made this season. He takes points off the board by throwing an interception. This was another protection breakdown up front. Bodine, Ducasse, Dawkins and McCoy slide left and pick up the four rushers. Miller, Mills, and Allen have to account for the other three rushers to the right. This would put Miller and Mills on dual reads. If that inside linebacker comes, which he does, Miller has to pick him up, with Mills sliding left to now pick up the tackle. Allen would be responsible for the edge defender. On the snap, Miller and Mills both take the defensive tackle and that leaves two free rushers at Allen. It’s too bad because Clay runs a nasty route over the middle and is wide open.
On the Bills first drive of the second half, Daboll gets Shady going by running an Iso run. The jab footwork by McCoy and flow across the formation by FB Patrick Dimarco get middle linebacker Morrison moving and Miller torques DT Mike Daniels by to open a large hole.
Next is quite possibly Allen’s most complete play of the game. The Bills run a Chip Kelly Mesh concept, something the Eagles run this 2-3 times a game. Also, a play that Bills assistant Shea Tierney probably learned from Pat Shurmur and Kelly when he was with the Eagles. Allen looks to McCoy, but the wheel route is covered, so he works through the progressions while staying in the pocket. He eventually hits TE Clay as the Mesh concept does its job.
But then a few plays later follows it up with this hospital ball. Clinton-Dix doesn’t bite on the bender route by WR Jones because he has help over the deep middle. Benjamin runs a double move and gets lit up while the pass from Allen gets intercepted. Props to Allen for taking full responsibility for this play after the game.
3rd and 4-A manageable 3rd down, but Daboll calls a play that attacks the defense deep. The Packers send a zone blitz, with the defensive back rushing from depth. But Ivory picks it up. Unfortunately, Allen has nowhere to go with the ball. This sack is due to the play design/play call.
After a sack on 1st down, Allen and the offense surrender another one. The rookie is trying to work a sail concept into the boundary and does an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield. But neither Jones or McCoy are open, and by the time the third option TE Lee comes open and into view, Allen is brought down.
I would consider this garbage time, but this is a sharp comeback route by WR Jones.
Jones shows off his stride manipulation on this stop route.
Allen and Jones got into a rhythm. Here Allen hits Jones on a seven-step post route.
The final two plays of this breakdown really show how much work Allen still needs. On 2nd and 5, Allen should notice one of the safeties stacked over the slot corner. The slot corner appears to have his eyes on Allen, playing with inside leverage. Most of the defenders are in man posture. On the snap, the Packers send the corner on a blitz and play man behind it. Allen misses the possible easy throw to McCloud over the middle.
On the very next play, the Packers dial up a similar pressure, but Allen recognizes it pre-snap. Ivory is there to pick it up, but the pressure and the allure of no contain to Allen’s right, causes the Wyoming product to leave the pocket prematurely.
This was a rough game for Allen. There were only a few positive plays in my opinion. Should we be worried? I think it is ok to feel a little uneasy after this one. In this game it wasn’t so much about the inaccuracies, it was shoddy field vision, missing blitzers from depth, and dropping his eyes where apparent pressure was incoming. Now it will be up to the staff and Allen to adjust to how coordinators are going to come after Allen because as we all know this is a copycat league, and they will not show Allen any mercy.