Bills vs. Browns | Something to Hang Your Hat On


The Buffalo Bills’ season is nearing its end. Yes, technically they are still ‘in the hunt,’ but most fans are skeptical and have already checked out. I don’t blame them. It has been a long drought. Be that as it may, the season still has to be completed, and in the Bills’ path in week 15 were the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns are a team that is in a ‘deep rebuild,’ and that showed on the field Sunday afternoon. The Browns had no answers on either side of the ball against a Buffalo team that has struggled with consistency in all areas. This game came down to talent — the Bills have more of it, and it showed. Buffalo was crisper in their assignments, but even when there were mistakes, their talent was able to rise above the scheme and overcome them.

This recap will mainly be centered around the offense because, let’s face it, the offense pounded the Browns into submission while putting up 33 points. Don’t get me wrong, the defense held up their end by only allowing 13 points, but the defensive scheme was very simple and made a bad QB try to progress down the field. This is something that he (RG3) was not able to do consistently.

As you may know, coaches typically script the first 15-20 or so plays, usually mixing various formations and personnel groupings to get a clear picture of how the defense is going to match up.

First play of the game.

Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and his staff exploited advantageous matchups early and often.

On the Bills’ second offensive play of the game Lynn sends out 21 personnel, a grouping referred to as ‘Pro’ (2 RBs, 1 TE, 2 WRs), and runs isolation to the weak side. Lynn exploited this matchup by running out of it several times, and here’s why: When you watch the video, look who is lined up on Charles Clay. That is #21, cornerback Jamar Taylor. The Browns were so worried about Clay in the receiving game, that they wanted their nickel package in. So of course, Buffalo pounded the rock. According to Richie, this run was inside zone blocking but because the safety was down in the box they isolated the safety. Great adjustment at the line of scrimmage.


Lynn has the same personnel grouping on the very next play: This time the offense is aligned in a twins formation to the boundary. The defense matches with their base defense this time, BUT they roll their strong safety Ibraheim Campbell to the twins side, meaning Taylor is again matched up against Clay. This was not a wise move. Lynn runs right to the strength with a pin and pull run led by center Ryan Groy. Groy is responsible for the frontside linebacker, and he executes his assignment perfectly!


The drive ended with a field goal, and the defense marched back onto the field. A wrinkle I noticed on defense on Cleveland’s next drive was how the staff inserted an extra linebacker, Ramon Humber, instead of a strong safety. This role was occupied by James Ihedigbo in recent weeks. With him on IR, Rex needed a fill in to be a box player versus heavy run sets. The Browns have three tight ends and run counter trey to the field. Humber loses contain, but safety Corey Graham shows off his range to make the tackle.

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With the game tied 3-3, Buffalo starts the drive off with a power run play — this time the counter trey. Lynn sends out 21 personnel and has guard Richie Incognito and tight end Charles Clay lead the play. Right tackle Jordan Mills does a great job of widening the hole, then immediately picking up the back side linebacker. It was a great drive starter.


Tyrod Taylor had an efficient day, all around. He did a fantastic job of diagnosing coverages pre-snap to post snap. On this 3rd and 7 play the Bills align in a 3×1 formation. The defense shows an exotic look with a possible edge blitz. However, the post snap picture is different: the defense drops into cover 2 zone and Tyrod completes the 13-yard pass. The play would not have been possible without the interior linemen maintaining the depth of the pocket, allowing Tyrod to not only see over the line, but also eventually clearing a passing lane for the QB. This was a common theme and played a huge part in Taylor’s success.

A few plays later, Touchdown Mike does his thing. The Bills are in 22 personnel and run iso weak.

The hole is plugged, but Gillislee utilizes his exceptional vision to get into the end zone for his 7th touchdown on the season.

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In the second quarter, Taylor shows his command of the offense by checking to a run. It’s 3rd and 6 and the Bills are in a 3×1 formation. With only a 5 man pass protection and the defense showing the double A-gap blitz, Tyrod checks to a speed option.

Right before the snap the defense checks out of the blitz, but the audible worked, and the Bills extend their drive.

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Buffalo’s number one rushing attack was firing on all cylinders. They finished the day with 280 yards rushing on 40 carries. Most of that yardage was off tackle and end to the right side. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bills rushed for 129 yds off right tackle or wider. That usually meant Richie was pulling from his left guard position, like on this play.

It was right around the 5-minute mark of the second quarter that Lynn began to utilize next personnel grouping to exploit the Browns for the rest of the game. Buffalo used their 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs) or according to Richie their ‘Tiger’ personnel grouping. So on the sidelines, you will hear coaches scream ‘tiger, tiger’ when they want that specific group on the field.

On this play, the defense drops into cover 2 zone with Collins and Johnson possibly pattern matching the tight ends.

Taylor recognizes this and throws the ball accurately and on time to Charles Clay. Clay was targeted seven times, catching all seven for 72 yards and 1 TD.

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After Charles Clay hauled in the pass from Tyrod to go up 17-3, the half soon came to an end. At this point, Kyle Williams was just heating up. Kyle finished with 1.5 sacks, 1 QB hurry, 2 tackles and 3 stops. He was his usual disruptive self, and the commitment by Buffalo to shut down the run was evident. Again, the Bills have several linebackers in the game to stop the run.

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But the Browns and RG3 got into the end zone. It was quite clear that Cleveland shifted their attack by utilizing his legs in the run game and pass game.

For the past two seasons I have been saying that the Bills do not utilize enough screen passes. It doesn’t make much sense, considering the quarterback’s current limitations and the type of weapons Buffalo possesses. Charles Clay has been underutilized, there is no doubt about that, but even more so on plays where he can show off his yards after the catch abilities. Having played in the backfield before converting to tight end, Clay does have some wiggle with the ball in is hand. Check out this beautifully designed screen. Lynn brings in his ‘Tiger’ personnel and gets the ball to Clay.

In the first half, the Browns put their nickel corner on Clay to stop him from beating them down the field. To combat this, the Bills ran the ball. In the second half, when in 21 personnel, Cleveland put SS Ibraheim Campbell on Clay.


That is the mismatch the Bills wanted to expose through the air, and Lynn did just that.

The offensive line flat out took it to the Browns. They played with attitude and punished the Browns’ most athletic defender, Jamie Collins.

You can tell the Browns had zero answers for Buffalo’s ‘Tiger’ personnel grouping. The Bills use that grouping again, but use the play-action game to get wide receiver Justin Hunter open.

Anthony Lynn’s offense wears the Browns’ defense down and gets into the end zone utilizing 22 personnel. The touchdown by Shady set a franchise record with 27 rushing touchdowns in one season.

This season has been marred by inconsistency across all units. No one knows if the staff will be relieved of their duties once the season completes, but one thing that we all can agree on is that offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and this staff have done one hell of a job. He has had to deal with several key injuries, including LT Cordy Glenn, C Eric Wood, and WRs Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.

Ryan Groy can’t stay engaged with Shelton early in the play, but he stays in it and that helps Shady find a crease.

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He has dealt with a quarterback who is limited as a passer, but has found ways to incorporate what he does well into a scheme that is not even his. But when you pop on the film, you see the core of Lynn’s philosophy, even through the lens of Greg Roman’s scheme.  That core can be summed up in two words: match ups. He continuously finds personnel groupings in his favor and exploits them often. In this game, Lynn pounded the rock with his ‘Pro” or 21 personnel. Then, in the second half, he pounded the defense into submission on the ground and through the air with his ‘Tiger’ or 12 personnel. His offensive unit currently is 9th in scoring, putting up 25.9 points per game, and they have done that primarily on the ground. Say what you want about Tyrod and his passing limitations, but you can’t deny that scoring that many points a game, primarily with their run game, is something that Anthony Lynn and this team should hang their hat on.