It was another week and another upset victory for the Bills when they beat arguably the best team in the NFL on the road to follow up a huge victory at home against one of the league’s top defenses.
It’s safe to say that the Bills have had a pretty remarkable start to their 2017 season. They’re a team that had very modest expectations going into mini-camp and, after the Sammy Watkins trade, those expectations plummeted to an all-drought low.
Fast-forward a few months and folks in Buffalo are talking playoffs and boast one of the league’s best defenses. It’s the offense that continues to worry folks about the sustainability of their current winning formula. Thus far, the Bills are near the top of the league in turnover ratio, setting a new franchise record for consecutive quarters without a turnover.
That offense, however, has been void of any leftover success from 2015 and 2016, when they were the league’s most dynamic rushing attack. Tyrod Taylor will be without Jordan Matthews, his top wide receiver, on Sunday. Matthews will miss the next several weeks following an injury to his thumb.
I’m not sure it will bother Taylor too much, though, as most of his targets this season have gone to Charles Clay and LeSean McCoy. They’ll certainly need a better performance from rookie Zay Jones, who continues to struggle with confidence, against an under-the-radar Bengals team.
Before we even get into all that good stuff, let’s take a look back now at the great victory over the Falcons last Sunday, as well as some of the things Tyrod was able to do against the Atlanta defense.
No soup for you!
This one got away from TT, another bootleg that got WRs/TEs open. pic.twitter.com/bHQOrPctIK
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 2, 2017
It’s difficult to watch Zay Jones struggle so much in the first quarter of his rookie season. He was one of college footballs most accomplished receivers, and the Bills spent a second rounder to get him. This play, and the way he adjusted to the football in the air, reminded me a little of the last offensive play in Carolina that just slipped through his finger tips on fourth down and sealed the Bills’ only loss of the season.
I have absolutely loved Tyrod’s game outside of the pocket. Other than one or two rogue passes rolling out to his left, he’s been ultra-dynamic when he gets outside the tackle box. This play wasn’t perfect, but from a mechanics standpoint, it was great to see. Tyrod does a great job selling the play fake, then gets downhill and sets himself up to make an accurate throw downfield. Most of you would want him to hit Clay dragging across the field open, but I think by the time he got himself into a position to deliver the ball, Clay would have gotten killed by the deep safety reading the play. Zay was the right throw; he just needs to give the rookie wide out a better opportunity to catch it inbounds.
P.S. – If I were Rick Dennison, I would keep this play in the back of my mind. The roll out action left brought the eyes of the entire defense to Tyrod, leaving Shady wide open on a throw back to the right side. It’s a bit of a risky play, but one you stow away the next time you get a team that runs a cover three look against this set.
Blockers got to block
12 personnel w O'leary, Thomas, TT looks to Zay then Tolbert both defended well, Thomas sitting all alone in the middle area. pic.twitter.com/kqy2IVBQ9g
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 2, 2017
So far this season I’ve counted multiple instances in which the Bills’ offensive line simply gets torched in their pass sets. Whether it’s being overpowered in individual battles by a bull or speed rush, or if it’s miscommunicating blitz pick ups, it hasn’t been pretty at times up front. This play is a good example of how losing a few individual battles up front can turn a wide-open play into a drive-killing sack.
But I’m not going to put it all on Nick O’Leary and Richie Incognito on this play. I want Taylor’s pre-snap reads to lead him to a wide-open Logan Thomas over the middle of the field. On this play you’re getting another cover three look on a play action to the left. By the time Taylor gets to his last step, the ball really should be out. He waits a second too long, and it turns into a sack. I do think he had enough time to get rid of this ball accurately if his eyes had taken him to the middle of the field.
Traditionally speaking, you want to attack a cover three outside the numbers. However, because of this formation and the route combinations you get from Matthews and Jones on the outside, I want Taylor to recognize the hole deep in the Falcons’ coverage. On this play, because the play action was so effective in making a linebacker step up, a huge throwing lane opens up for Taylor to hit his underutilized tight end Logan Thomas. The team just needs Taylor’s processing speed to be a touch faster on this play, and I think we’re talking a big play for this Bills offense.
Prime time dimes
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 2, 2017
This is yet another example of Taylor’s ability outside the pocket. What I love is that it almost looks like a delayed throwback, similar to what I spoke about on the first play of the breakdown. Clay does a great job of washing down with the play action and sort of just gets lost in the shuffle. Taylor does a great job of buying time with his athleticism, but it’s the throw that really gets you going. On the move he’s able to drop in a 55-yard dime between the corner and safety in an extremely tight window.
I think as the season moves along, you’re going to see Rick Dennison continue taking more shots down the field. We all knew coming into the season that the one area of Taylor’s passing game that he’s shown to have had sustained success with is the deep ball. Exit Sammy Watkins and enter Charles Clay as the teams down field threat. I’ll be interested to see moving forward if Clay continues to be Taylor’s top deep threat, or if a wide receiver steps up and provides a more reliable target.
Enter Zay Jones
Great job by TT breaking contain, awareness of the LOS as he squares up for the throw. A++ pic.twitter.com/Vce0t5LMhV
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 3, 2017
Sometimes I really question what routes the receivers on this team run on film. On this play, it sort of looks like Jordan Matthews is a lead blocker and not a route runner. Either way, what I love about this play is the play action boot you see here. This was a play that saw a ton of success over the past two weeks. It’s interesting to see Taylor have so much more success rolling out to his left in weeks three and four than he did during the first two weeks.
Either way, teams are going to do their best to keep Taylor inside the tackle box to try and get him out of his comfort zone. If you remember last season, after two weeks, both Ravens and Jets defenders said after victories against the Bills that their game plan against Taylor was to make him play quarterback. Accordingly, expect teams to try and take away these play-action rollout plays in the coming weeks.
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