The week 13 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Oakland Raiders was a game of push and pull. Buffalo absolutely dominated the first quarter, completely catching the Raiders’ defense off guard by almost exclusively passing the ball. In quarter two, Oakland’s passing game woke up while Buffalo’s fizzled out. The third quarter started off with a bang for Buffalo, but then ended with a dud. The all-important fourth quarter was the deciding one. Oakland used turnovers and great field position to put two touchdowns on the board en route to a 38-24 win.
The Bills’ offense dominated the first quarter by surprisingly using their much-maligned passing game. Tyrod looked shaky to start the drive. He bypassed Sammy early in this play because it was a tight window, but he used his legs to extend the play and found Watkins along the sideline for 16 yards.
Here’s the play. Buffalo got the look they wanted, but Taylor wasn’t comfortable throwing into it.
Motion shows zone coverage. TT should hit Sammy as he hits the top of his drop. pic.twitter.com/eE6P9TKMEt
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 7, 2016
Much of the offense’s success in the first quarter was Taylor trusting his receivers. Oakland was playing very good defense and had defenders in position to make plays on the ball, but the Bills’ players came out on top. A good example is this play by Watkins.
Slot corner T.J. Carrie looks to be in great position to deflect this pass, but Hunter uses his hand-eye coordination to bring in the 22-yard pass.
But the offense had to settle for a field goal because Taylor refused to get the ball in the hands of receiver Brandon Tate. This play action, snag concept is a very good red zone concept, especially when it is drawn up the way Lynn drew it. By motioning Tate into the backfield, he was hoping to make Tate’s defender get caught in the wash as Brandon slips out of the backfield. Instead, Taylor doesn’t give his guy a shot and ends up taking the sack.
In my opinion, based on the concepts that he ran in this game, it appeared like offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn expected to see lots of zone coverage. Here is one of the instances he got zone. It’s an inside linebacker blitz, with the slot corner rolling to the deep middle zone.
It’s a typical Tampa 2 defense and as Taylor gets the snap he sees safety Reggie Nelson dropping deep. Taylor immediately knows where to go with the ball.
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Running backs LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee did some damage in the first quarter. They combined for 51 yards, including this decisive run by Mike. Left guard Richie Incognito zone blocks to his right, opening a big hole for Gillislee to scamper through.
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TD Mike finishes the drive with assists going to fullback Jerome Felton and guard Incognito. Lynn runs a short trap with Richie to kick out the force player, while Felton puts a helmet on a helmet to escort Gillislee in.
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After Gillislee’s touchdown to open the second quarter, Buffalo maintained control of the game by stopping the Raiders and their top five offensive line on third and one. Thurman put Brandon Spikes at inside linebacker and called a run blitz.
For most of the second quarter, Buffalo’s defense played coverage and often made it so obvious that it caused Derek Carr to check into runs. As the Raiders’ offensive line runs zone to Dareus’s right, he stacks, sheds and cuts Murray’s legs out from under him.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 7, 2016
Toward the end of the second quarter, Oakland began moving the ball at will, and they found themselves in a 3rd and 8 situation. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave calls a hi/lo pass concept, but David Carr just misses. That was the theme for Oakland for most of the first half. On defense, they were in position on most plays and on offense, just a second off. this caused the Raiders to have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.
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Taylor and the Bills’ offense went into halftime very happy with their output. They moved the ball on the ground, amassing 98 yards rushing, and Taylor was 9 for 13 for 110 yards through the air. They were efficient on third down, converting 50% of their opportunities.
The Raiders’ offense compiled 168 total yards in the first half and had an average drive start at the 25. Once Oakland crossed mid-field, however, the Buffalo defense continuously played coverage, which often led to Carr checking into runs. Drives stalled, and they were forced to kick field goals.
The third quarter was when the floodgates opened on both sides of the ball. Buffalo hit the Raiders with a right hook as soon as the round opened. Lynn brought out 11 personnel and ran counter trey run mixed with some ‘eye candy’.
On the first play from scrimmage, left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognito block down as center Ryan Groy and tight end Nick O’Leary lead the counter trey. Groy kicks out outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, and O’Leary picks up inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr.
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Taylor hands it off to Shady and carries out the triple option phase of the play. The orbit motion by receiver Justin Hunter holds Mack and Smith just long enough for right guard John Miller to get to the second level, springing McCoy for 54 yards.
Here’s the full play:
Great job of blocking to start the second half. The ‘eye candy’ turned this play from a good gain to a great gain. pic.twitter.com/fHvbMvUynF
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 6, 2016
— TheBillsWire (@TheBillsWire) December 6, 2016
Taylor finishes the drive on the very next play, completing the two play 66-yard drive. Tyrod carried the ball three times for 30 yards on the day, and this scamper grabbed the momentum and put the Bills up 17-9. This is a great play; Lynn uses a pistol twins set because he knows that the Raiders like to play ‘corners over’. This just means the corners travel with the receivers in twins sets. This puts stress on the defense because no one has run support outside of Khalil Mack.
That momentum carried onto the defensive side, as Buffalo forced a three and out. Oakland’s punter Marquette King blows his only job by booting a 28-yard punt, downing at the Buffalo 46. Taylor and the offense keep their foot on the throttle.
Taylor comes out passing and hits Goodwin on a deep comeback on first down. On the very next play they take another deep shot, but it falls incomplete. In my opinion, this play wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. Prior to the snap, the Raiders are moving their safeties around to confuse Taylor. They drop into cover 2 and the Bills run a three-man, all verticals concept off of play action. Not a bad play call vs. a Tampa 2 look because there are some really good soft spots in this coverage — specifically, between the corners and safeties, as well as right down the middle of the field. Coming into the game, Oakland surrendered 11.3 yards per play when teams executed play action.
Taylor is in the Pistol formation, and once he takes the snap he executes a poor play action fake to Shady. This is the kind of stuff that Quarterbacks coach David Lee should be drilling every day. The poor play action fake doesn’t fool the deep middle linebacker Riley Jr., so it allows him to drop to the deep middle and take away O’Leary’s route. If the play fake is executed to look more like a true handoff, then Riley Jr. could quite possibly take false steps downhill, making O’Leary’s route more of a threat.
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Who knows, a better-executed fake could’ve even pulled one of the split safeties over to O’Leary, which would have left Watkins or Goodwin open. Instead, Taylor launches the ball out of bounds.
Lynn hasn’t used much play action this season. This game included, Taylor has only used play action on 18.7% of his snaps, which is down from 23.8% through 13 weeks of last season.
Here’s the full play:
But Lynn gets back to his bread and butter, the counter trey. Groy and Felton again lead this run, and Felton absolutely blows up the inside linebacker. Felton has really bounced back since being brought back on board, and this may have been his best game as a Buffalo Bill.
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On third and one, the Bills finish off the drive by pounding the rock right down the throat of Oakland. Buffalo comes out in 21 personnel and runs an isolation play. Felton again leads and TD Mike does what he does best…
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The score put the Bills up 24-9, but the team did not have any momentum for the rest of the game. On Oakland’s next drive, their offense began to hum. Carr and the Raiders’ offense began attacking the middle of the field at will. According to Pro Football Focus, Carr was 14 of 19 for 190 yards and 1 touchdown down the middle of the field. That is an astounding statistic, considering Carr finished 19 of 35 for 260 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Thurman was playing cover 2 versus 2×2 wide receiver sets, so Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave called some very nice hi/lo concepts, which attack the second level defenders.
On this play Buffalo is in a two-safety shell, but it appears that Gilmore is pattern matching and Seymour, at the bottom of the screen, looks to be in man coverage with help over the top. So the coverage is mixed, but either way the offense attacks Preston Brown. Brown crashes on the crossing route by Walford. Walford caught a crossing pattern in the middle of the field on the prior play. Carr slides and hits Roberts for a gain of 14 yards.
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The drive ends with Crabtree beating rookie Kevon Seymour in the back of the end zone. It was a similar play to end the first half to Crabtree that fell incomplete. The drive and score came relatively easily: nine plays 75 yards in under 4 minutes.
Buffalo’s offense didn’t give an iota of help to their defense. This 3rd and 4 incompletion was the start of a streak of three straight three and out drives by the Bills’ offense. On this play, Lynn runs play action in an attempt to get the ball to Watkins running an ‘under route’. But contain player Irvin stays home, and his pressure and wingspan cause Taylor to be inaccurate.
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The punt by Colton Schmidt after the incompletion was poor, and it gave the Raiders the ball at their 46-yard line. Oakland moves into the red zone after a 21 yard run by Jalen Richard. Richard was a very good complement to starter Latavius Murray, finishing with nine carries for 53 yards, and causing the Bills’ tired defense to miss three tackles. But it was Murray that finished this drive with a one-yard plunge into the end zone, getting the Raiders back in the game but still down 24-23.
The Bills go three and out for the second straight series, and Oakland’s offense is now doing whatever it wants versus Buffalo. To start off the fourth quarter, Musgrave continues to utilize 2×2 formations and attack down the middle. Still scared of getting beat deep, the Bills stay in a cover 2 shell, but play straight man coverage. Carr proceeds to find a mismatch down the seam — his tight end Mychal Rivera vs. cornerback Corey White. Carr shows off his elite talent by throwing it to Rivera’s back shoulder, an impressive throw.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 7, 2016
Two plays later on 2nd and 10, a down and distance where Oakland has thrived all season, the Bills made a major mistake. The Raiders have faced 63, 2nd and 10 situations this season. They’ve thrown it 40 times at an average 9.45 yards per completion when they choose to pass, which is the third highest in the NFL. All game the defense barely blitzed Carr. Of his 35 drop backs, he was only blitzed eight times. In fact, Carr was only under pressure a total of eight plays, and it was no coincidence that on those pressure plays he only had one completion for nine yards. On this play, from a typical ‘shot’ area just inside the forty yard line, the Bills decide to blitz both safeties. Amari Cooper toasts Kevon Seymour on a double move en route to the end zone.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 7, 2016
The score put Oakland completely in the driver’s seat, and Buffalo fans could just sense that the game was over.
Like most of the second half, Lynn struggled to find the right personnel and play calls to attack Oakland’s shaky secondary. The concepts that he ran for most of the game were mainly zone beater routes, which were easily matched by the Raiders’ pattern matching game and straight man-to-man defense. The bad game plan was not the only reason the passing game couldn’t do much late in the third and into the fourth, though. Taylor continued to struggle.
With the Bills now down 30-24 at the 13:38 mark of the final quarter, Taylor continued to be gun shy. Lynn aligns the offense in a trips bunch set with Goodwin the solo wide receiver to the boundary. O’Leary and receiver Dez Lewis run a double ins concept with Goodwin running a deep post. The defense plays quarters coverage.
On the snap, Taylor executes the worst play action fake of the day, then finds the safeties. His eyes are in the direction of O’Leary, and it catches the attention of both deep safeties.
Goodwin runs a great route on this play. He releases inside, gets vertical, then attacks the corner as if he is going to run an out-breaking route. But he doesn’t; instead, he heads to the post right behind the safety. Unfortunately, Taylor doesn’t pull the trigger.
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Although that drive ended in another punt, Buffalo’s defense proceeded to a stop for once. On the Bills’ offense’s next play from scrimmage, it appears the Taylor again misses a receiver.
O’Leary runs a stick route, a timing route that Taylor hit in back to back games. Taylor doesn’t take it for some reason, and it leads to Khalil Mack causing the turnover.
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It didn’t end there. Late in the fourth and with Buffalo now trailing 38-24, Sammy beats his defender with a double move, but Taylor flat out overthrows him.
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As you can see, Taylor had a forgettable game. After starting a red hot 9 for 13 for 11o yards in the first half, he finished 9 for 22 for 80 yards in the second half, with a big fat goose egg in the touchdowns thrown column. He left several throws on the field and was inaccurate on many others. Taylor finished week 13 as 20th most accurate passer, with an accuracy percentage of 59.4%. Remember, that number doesn’t penalize a QB for drops, throwaways or spikes.
He held onto the ball from snap to attempt for an average of 3.13 seconds, which was the second most for the week. This also led to him being under pressure quite a bit. He was under pressure 43.9% of his dropbacks, which was the fourth-highest for the week.
But for as bad as Taylor was, some of that blame has to go to offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. Lynn has done a good job of putting together a package of concepts each week that has been effective versus opponents’ schemes. His game plan this week was not effective. Even when Buffalo was passing well early in the game, the coverage was still really good, but the Bills just made a play or two.
In this game, Buffalo had to rely on its receivers to be the difference makers, to make the plays, to get open. As we can see, this is something that many of them are not very good at.
On defense, the game plan was pretty good: Help the corners over the top, play coverage. But once Oakland adjusted and began attacking the middle of the field, Thurman had no answers. He continued to rush three and four, even though those rushers were not making a difference. The staff, in my opinion, didn’t bring enough pressure. Sure, Oakland had surrendered the fewest sacks coming into this game, and the Bills have generated pressure without blitzing a lot this season, BUT the Raiders’ offensive line is very good. The staff shouldn’t have expected guys like Kyle and Alexander, at their age, to beat a very talented offensive line.
Carr was under pressure 22.9% of the time in this game, which was the lowest for week 13. That is why he carved the Bills’ defense up in the second half. When the Bills did decide to bring pressure, it was at the wrong time, and Carr made them pay for it.
In the end, the Bills are 6-6, and that can be attributed to inconsistency. For three-quarters of this game, the offense and defense were holding up their ends. That all changed towards the end of the third quarter, when the Raiders made changes and the Bills’ staff really had no answers. The Raiders’ staff and players really showed why they are now 10-2 and the cream of the crop.