Bills vs. Jaguars | Lynn Dictating With Personnel


Week 12 was another roller coaster game for the Buffalo Bills. They were favored by as many as eight points at home versus the Jacksonville Jaguars and most fans thought the game was a lock. But Rex Ryan stated during the week that the Jaguars are the “best two-win team [he has] ever seen.”

The Jaguars hadn’t scored a point on their first drive all season, but they were able to move the ball easily on their first possession against Buffalo’s defense. The Jags’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett came into the game with a plan to pound the rock.

On their very first drive, Jacksonville drove the ball down the Bills throats with their run game. In fact, they rushed it on nine out of their eleven plays. Their personnel of choice was 12 personnel. The Bills decided to match up with their 4-3 under defense, but with the SAM LB off the ball.


When you flash back to week seven’s game against the Dolphins, you can see why Jacksonville took this approach. The Bills were manhandled when the Dolphins ran from this set.


The Bills eventually adjusted to this set by going to the 4-6 defense and eventually slowed RB Jay Ajayi down.

But rather than run to the strength, Hackett attacked with zone runs to the weak side.

That is, until they were inside the five-yard line. Then Ivory ran outside zone to the strength and was able to break the contain of safety James Ihedigbo.

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The first quarter was not kind to the Buffalo offense. The Bills had two possessions, both of which were frustrating three-and-outs. The Jaguars were stout defending the run on early downs and used their fast front four to create two sacks in the first stanza alone.

Anthony Lynn calls a follow-pivot route run by wide receiver Walter Powell, but the Jags secondary are pattern matching, and they pick up the switch releases really well.


Buffalo typically starts games off fast. According to Pro Football Outsiders, the Bills’ offense has been the fourth most effective offense in first halves of games this season. But Jacksonville’s penetrating front seven made it very difficult to run the ball, leaving Buffalo in a 3rd and 7 situation on their second drive.

Cordy Glenn didn’t have a chance on this pass rush by Rookie Yannick Ngakoue. Yannick explodes off the line, and as he hits his third step he takes a giant stride to blow by Glenn for the sack.


The Jaguars’ defense wasn’t the only unit getting to the quarterback. Marcell Dareus was able to swallow Blake Bortles to end the first quarter.

Kyle Williams shucks the left guard, causing Bortles to move in the pocket. This allows Dareus to pick up the sack. Dareus put a monster game together, finishing with two sacks, four tackles, three assists and six stops, and was the highest-graded Bills defensive player.

The second quarter was a little kinder to Buffalo.  After only possessing the ball for 3:09 in the first quarter, Buffalo controlled the second quarter by possessing the ball for 9:53 seconds. Anthony Lynn appeared to be still operating from his game script. After only gaining a yard on a first down run, Lynn gives Taylor a concept that he has mastered, called the ‘Spot concept’.

Taylor has run this play every week and has mastered it. Tate isn’t open in the hook to curl zone and neither is Powell in the flat, so he finds Shady for the check down. Very quick and decisive read by Taylor.

The offensive line gave up five sacks on the day, most of which were in this half. A few of those sacks were the fault of Taylor, but on this 2nd and 12 play Miller loses his battle with Jackson.

The Bills dial up a ‘drive concept’ versus the Jaguars cover 1 call. This is a high/low concept that attacks second level defenders. This play works best against zone coverage, and I think Lynn expected to see a lot more cover 3 from Gus Bradley’s Seattle-like scheme. If this were cover 3, then the linebackers should jump the crossing route run by Tate, opening up Clay behind them. But they play what appears to be cover 1.


The slot receiver Tate is running a shallow crossing route, and if the linebackers expand horizontally, then Tate has the option to ‘hook’ the route up. That’s just what he does.


Unfortunately for Buffalo, #50 Smith is in great position, which means Taylor can’t hit Clay like he wants to. You can tell Taylor wants to hold onto the ball just a little bit longer to let Clay clear Smith, but the protection breaks down.

Here’s the full play:

Wide receiver Allen Robinson was unable to get his second foot down on 3rd and 5, so the Bills get the ball back with 7:30 seconds on the clock.

Jacksonville was consistently showing Taylor single high looks with lots of man or pattern matching coverage. This meant that the box was loaded against the run, and they did a great job of shutting McCoy down. With very little success on his first down run calls, Lynn changed it up. He had Taylor throw on two consecutive first downs.

If the Jaguars wanted to play man coverage, Taylor had to find his biggest mismatch and that is Sammy Watkins. Watkins finished the game with three catches for 80 yards, but what was even more impressive was that he did it matched up against a VERY GOOD cover corner in Jalen Ramsey (read his breakdown here).

On first and ten from the Bills’ 20 yard line, Lynn sends in 12 personnel and aligns them in a 3×1 formation. The defense appears to be in a single high safety look, but they are pattern matching to the top. The #2 WR Clay runs a deep crossing route so Ramsey knows he has Watkins one on one with some possible help underneath.


The slot corner passes Clay off and now must get to the flats as fast as possible. This kind of coverage protects defenses against the seam routes, which are susceptible to normal cover 3.


Taylor hits the top of his drop and looks to his left. As Goodwin runs the post, he moves to his #2 target, Clay. Taylor recognizes that Smith has his hips open to Clay, which eliminates him as a target.


Finally, Taylor looks to Watkins. Ramsey must stay over the top of Watkins as to not let him get deep. He knows that he may have a defender playing the flats, so any short passes should be covered. Sammy presses the route upfield, then slightly bends the stem of the route outside to make it appear like he wants to get deep behind Ramsey. Ramsey is in a bail technique, so as Watkins gets out of the peripheral of the defender, he plants and comes back to the ball.


Rookie Myles Jack never dropped to the flats, so Ramsey has no help underneath and Watkins brings in the 12-yard catch.

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Here’s the full play:

The offensive drive started off well with these passes, but went south quickly as Buffalo got called for a holding call. To boot, on the very next play Taylor got sacked again. Of the four first-half sacks by Jacksonville, I would put least two on Taylor. There weren’t receivers open on a couple of those plays, but he still had opportunities to get rid of the ball instead of losing yardage. The bad decision on this play killed any chances of keeping the drive going.

Buffalo punts and Jacksonville starts the drive from their 22-yard line with 3:13 left in the half. This is the point where the defensive run game adjustments start paying off.

Jacksonville employs a 12 personnel, double tight formation with the strength to the field. The Bills align differently. Instead of being in a 4-3 under with the SAM LB (Alexander) off the line of scrimmage, they swap him out for Hughes and align Jerry on the line of scrimmage. This puts Alexander in a two point stance to the weak side to combat the weak side runs the Jags had in the first quarter.


Well, it worked. On the snap, Kyle Williams executes the gap exchange because he reads the lineman’s zone run steps. By shooting the inside gap, he immediately disrupts the play.

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Alexander has the edge set so the back has to cut it back, but Zach Brown is able to run Yeldon down. This was a very good adjustment by the defensive staff.

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On the very next play Mr. Big Stuff gets another sack.

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The sack forces third and long, which Jacksonville was unable to convert. They punt and Tate’s sneaky 43-yard return sets the Bills up with a chance to go two-for-one before halftime from the Jags 22 yard line.

After converting on 4th and 1, Buffalo runs the very same play that they scored a TD on against the Rams.


The Bills go into halftime down 7-6, feeling much better because of the success they had on both sides of the ball to end the half. Jacksonville amassed 120 yards (Final total 301 yds) to Buffalo’s 63 (304), and most of the yardage by the Jags occurred on the ground. In fact, they nearly broke 100 yards (98) on the ground in the first half. Sixty-four of those rushing yards were gained on the first drive of the game, so the adjustments by the Bills’ defensive staff, along with the injury to Ivory, helped Buffalo stop the run game.

To start the second half, Buffalo got sparks from their playmakers McCoy and Watkins. On the very first play of the second half, the Bills’ most feared player, Shady McCoy, took what Richie Incognito termed a “4 yards and a cloud of dust play” and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown.

For a detailed breakdown, click here.

The Bills did not stay up on the scoreboard for long. Jacksonville put a 65-yard touchdown drive together to retake the lead. Receiver Marquise Lee catches this pass for a touchdown.

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Two drives later, Taylor does some of his best quarterbacking so far in his career.

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Taylor makes the Jags pay two plays later. They choose to play the same cover 2 zone defense that Seattle did on the last play of that week nine matchup. This time, Taylor is able to escape the pocket for the score.

On Jacksonville’s next drive, Hackett shifted his run personnel grouping from 12 personnel to 11 personnel due to the type of running back Denard Robinson is. Marcell Dareus had something to say about that.

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The 11 personnel shotgun set allowed Hackett to incorporate the zone read, and the Jags had success with it.

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The legs of Bortles helped the offense get into position to score on a wide receiver screen to Allen Hurns. The drive put the Jags up 21-20 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The answer by Jacksonville had fans worried. Could the Bills win if the game turned into a shootout? McCoy, Watkins, and Taylor made plays when the offense needed them to. This time, the big play was made by Justin Hunter.

On 2nd and 11 from the Jaguars’ 16 yard line, the Bills bring out 12 personnel and align in a 5 wide set. The personnel is important because with two tight ends in, Jacksonville stays in their base defense. Buffalo runs mirror smash concepts with Watkins and Hunter running the corner routes. The Bills have the advantageous matchup of Hunter vs. safety Cyprien because the Jags are pattern matching to the boundary.2016-11-30_17-57-36

Once the ball is snapped, boundary corner Ramsey is reading the #2 receiver. Hunter runs vertical and McCoy runs a short route, so Ramsey must stay with Mccoy. As Hunter gets vertical, Ramsey slowly bails deeper and deeper.



Taylor commits to the throw, so Ramsey drives towards the receiver. However, the pass is high and hot, and only Hunter had a shot at hauling it in.


Here’s the full play:


Smelling victory, the Bills’ defense forced a three-and-out and a 4th down stop on Jacksonville’s next two possessions.

4th down play


Shady puts the game away on third down of Buffalo’s next possession with a 9-yard run to give the Bills their 6th win. The win keeps them in the playoff hunt.

The game was not a pretty one, but when the Bills’ offense needed a play they got one from their stars. The red zone effectiveness continued at the end of the first half, as Lynn called the load option to get the Bills on the scoreboard. Then, to open the 2nd half, Shady did Ramsey and Gipson dirty en route to a 75-yard touchdown.

The Bills adjusted defensively to stop the Jaguars’ ground game. Unfortunately, Jacksonville adjusted by going to more zone reads, and scrambles by Bortles put their offense in position to score via the air twice.

Buffalo then got Watkins going. The 62-yard bomb put Taylor in a position to get into the end zone with his legs. In the fourth quarter, the defense stood up and got just enough stops.

The game-winning touchdown by Justin Hunter was not only a spectacular catch, but it was also one that was only available because offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn dictated the matchup with his personnel. Taylor and Hunter executed it perfectly.

It was a huge win, but the team will have to be even better in week 13 when they travel to Oakland to take on the 9-2 Raiders.