News just broke that Rex Ryan is no longer the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. With how the season has unfolded, I am not surprised. What was more surprising to Bills fans, and what ultimately caused Rex to lose his job, is the failure of his defense to stop opposing offenses. The Buffalo defense couldn’t slow down opponents’ passing offenses, including one led by Matt Moore, a journeyman backup for the Miami Dolphins. Rex’s defense also got ran over, AGAIN, by running back Jay Ajayi. Not all of the blame is on him, though. The defensive players did not live up to their abilities or contracts on or off the field. But when it is all said and done, accountability does fall on Rex. Thus, so did the axe.
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But when one door closes, another opens. Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn has had a meteoric rise to his current position as interim head coach. But when you turn on the film from the Dolphins game, you can see why he has been mentioned as a candidate for several head coaching gigs. Over the last couple weeks, it is my opinion that more and more of Lynn’s actual play book and offensive philosophy have been incorporated into game plans, with more success than failure.
Anthony Lynn has shown an amazing ability to get the most out of his personnel, and he has done it with Greg Roman’s play book. Lynn makes you defend every player on the field, and yes, that includes fullback Jerome Felton.
Under Greg Roman last season, Felton played 26.5% of the offensive snaps, where he carried the ball one time for 2 yards and caught only one pass for 12 yards. This season, primarily under Lynn, Felton has carried the ball seven times for 13 yards including several conversions for first downs, and has caught the ball six times for 57 yards and this 3rd down conversion.
Buffalo has been criticized for not using Charles Clay enough during the season — and there is truth to that — but a lot of that has to do with defensive schemes. I also think that over the last few games, games where Clay’s targets and statistics have dramatically increased, are specifically due to Lynn utilizing more of “his plays”. Versus the Fins, Lynn was able to recognize how Miami was playing to defend his offensive passing game, so he and Taylor picked them apart for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Lynn noticed that Miami was utilizing a lot of pattern matching cover 3 defensive looks. This is a coverage that the Bills see a lot of. The single high look puts an extra player near the line of scrimmage to defend the run, but defends the seams against vertical routes, which is a weakness of the traditional coverage. Lynn incorporates motion to help Taylor ID the coverage, something he did on 22 out of 45 plays that Taylor dropped back to pass.
The effectiveness of Lynn’s run game helped him get several players wide open during the Miami game. On this play, the Bills fake a speed option and have Taylor roll to his right. Taylor glances to the deep corner route, but O’Leary is covered. He hits Watkins, who is running the over route. Check out how Lynn set this play up perfectly for Taylor.
Although Anthony Lynn’s run game is part of Greg Roman’s system, it has the flair of the now interim head coach. Lynn has his roots in zone run schemes, so he calls an inside zone run. But according to Richie Incognito, the play has a designed cut back built in. Lynn’s twist on the play is the orbit motion by Sammy Watkins. Look at what it does for Shady McCoy.
Lynn has done some really nice things on offense, including averaging 25.9 points per game, which is 7th best in the NFL. Considering how they have not had their most talented receiver for most of the season, that is an incredible feat. As Lynn has opened the play book recently, his QB and explosive WR have gone off! Watkins hauled in 7 receptions for 154 yards and one TD.
This play would have been a lot easier if the offensive line picked up the blitz properly, but Taylor’s ability to break contain helps him salvage the play.
Lynn has always been a personnel guy. He uses a wide variety of personnel groupings, formations and alignments to get the ball to his play makers. On this play, he aligns Clay solo in a 3×1 wide receiver set. The defense is always cognizant of where Watkins is, so on this play, Lynn has him in the slot. The formation and play fake move the second level defenders just enough to fit the ball in there. Clay beats the corner to the inside, and he bulls his way into the red zone for the touchdown.
Having a quarterback with Taylor’s abilities does open the play book. I am sure that’s something that Lynn loves. He is another threat, play, and player that the defense has to defend. But what shows his offensive acumen is how he uses the motion to help the play succeed. Lynn motions Sammy and the defense plays zone, which means that the corner who didn’t go with Watkins must help in run support. He fails to do that very well.
Keeper by TT pic.twitter.com/F5SimAZc1J
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 27, 2016
The first year coordinator has been trained really well. He knows how to not only attack defensive schemes, but also individual players on those defenses. Defensive end Andre Branch is an aggressive, up the field rusher, and Lynn used that aggressiveness against him all day. He did this not just by calling designed QB runs at him, but on play action passes, too.
On 1st and 10, Lynn utilizes play action but the success of the play lies in the details.
He fakes the dive to Shady, but notice the direction Taylor is facing. The fact that he fakes to his left not only forces Branch to crash on Shady, but it also keeps Taylor’s body in a position to roll to the left, never turning his back to the defense.
Loved this play by TT pic.twitter.com/dqnmsIc9cD
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 27, 2016
Give Taylor some credit. He knows that Goodwin is going to be open, so he stops rolling left, sets his feet, and delivers it to Goodwin for a 35 yard gain. This was one of many plays that screamed “Anthony Lynn.”
Here is another one, a staple from one of his mentors, Mike Shanahan. The pitchout on 3rd and 1 is a play that Shanahan and his proteges use just about every week.
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Lynn’s aggressive game plan was in stark contrast to Rex’s frustratingly conservative approach. When you compare him to Rex, Lynn left it all out on the field. Not saying Rex and his defensive staff didn’t, but in today’s game the aggressive offensive approach wins more than it loses.
Lynn pulled out all of the stops, and it worked more times than not. The offense was able to put up 31 points in a losing effort. This big play helped them take the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Although Anthony Lynn is Buffalo’s interim head coach, I would not be surprised to see him get the gig permanently. If not in Buffalo, it’ll only be a matter of time. He had success using Roman’s system without Sammy Watkins, Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood, Robert Woods and many others for stretches of the season.
“Lynn knows the players, the players know and like and respect him. He already has a good idea of what works and what doesn’t with the current roster, and what changes he wants to see going forward. He is offensive-minded, which would be the logical type of replacement for the defensive-oriented Ryan. Lynn also is known for being strict and demanding with players, and detail-oriented, which is the exact opposite of Ryan’s approach.” Vic Carucci
The Bills’ 17th straight season of not making the playoffs is not due to Lynn’s side of the ball. That blame falls squarely on Rex Ryan. What Lynn has shown is that when the opportunity arises, he is able to adapt and overcome. Will Buffalo give him a chance to take the reins next season and beyond?
Speaking of opportunities:
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