Monday Morning Breakdown

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Eric Wood | How new wrinkles on offense and an aggressive defensive game plan led to a Bills victory

Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Corey Liuget (94) delivers one of Buffalo's seven sacks on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium on November 17, 2019. Photo by Craig Melvin
Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Corey Liuget (94) delivers one of Buffalo's seven sacks on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium on November 17, 2019. Photo by Craig Melvin

1. New wrinkles from OC Brian Daboll payoff for offense

We saw offensive coordinator Brian Daboll call the offense from the booth for the first time this season yesterday. From a player’s perspective it doesn’t matter if the coordinator is on the sideline or in the booth, the only thing that matters is a good line of communication between the two. From Daboll’s perspective, he could have had a better vantage point being up in the booth. Daboll can be in the quarterback’s ear up until the 20-second mark on the play clock. If the defense is lined up in time, Daboll can help Josh Allen with the initial check at the line of scrimmage. That’s valuable. From his bird’s eye view in the booth he can probably see the all-22 view better than when he’s on the field.

The Bills started the game in hurry-up offense, so far this season, some of the most effective drives on offense have been when the team is in the fourth quarter. Buffalo runs that hurry-up offense on a lot of those fourth quarter drives. It was very effective for the Bills yesterday and we could see more of an up tempo offense going forward.

We saw some new wrinkles out of the offense as well, a reverse pass that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, a great cover 2 shot to John Brown down the sideline. Brown talked about it after the game and said Allen had alerted him that if they got that coverage again, he was going to try to hit the hole. Before the ball was snapped, it looked like Allen checked to that. That’s a great job by the quarterback and blazer of a throw.

Center Mitch Morse pulled on a run-pass option, which is such a tough look for a linebacker. The Dolphins were in zone defense and I’m not sure how if you’re a linebacker and see the center pull, how you don’t come downhill and attack that. If you don’t and the Bills run the ball, it’s going to be out the gate. Buffalo has been successful on those runs when the Bills have pulled Morse this year. Allen pulls the ball and hits Cole Beasley on that play in a wide open zone.

Overall the offense had a very productive day, they put up 37 points which is a season-high. We also saw a lot of 11 personnel sets on the field against Miami. Instead of loading up the box like the week before seeing a lot of 12 and 22 personnel, Buffalo ran the ball successfully in 11. The running backs got a ton more carries this week than last and I think in the NFL now it’s a lot easier to run the ball in 11 personnel. When you have Isaiah McKenzie on the field in 11 personnel, you still have the threat of him coming as a jet sweep guy at all times. The offense clicked and moved the ball down the field being almost exclusively in that personnel yesterday.

2. Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott call their most aggressive game yet

This was the most aggressive game plan all year from Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano set career-highs for the amount of times they rushed the passer against the Dolphins. You usually don’t see two players accomplish that in the same game, it’s a pretty unique stat.

We heard all week about the challenge to play fearless and everyone assumed that was mainly towards the offense because the defense has been top three since Week 5, but the defense hadn’t forced a turnover in three weeks and they were ranked 18th in sacks coming into the game. They blitzed a ton more on Sunday and we saw it pay off with seven sacks, a season-high. The defense created a turnover, you can say Allen Hurns dropped the ball but they were swarming to the ball. That shows great hustle and intensity. If you take away the kick return touchdown, the defense really only gave up 14 points. A very productive day for them.

3. Josh Allen’s growth in recognizing defenses

In recent weeks we have seen the offense struggle on third and shorts or fourth and shorts. Today they had a number of 3rd and ones, Allen picked up a couple on quarterback sneaks. The one where Allen was covered, Miami was in bear defense, they ran an off tackle run to Frank Gore. That’s a great check if it truly was a check at the line because Miami also blitzed both A-gaps as well. By running off the tackle they were able to get outside of the defense and get the first down.

I thought Allen had an incredible day. He made a great read on the read-option play and picked up 36 yards on the ground. Another successful play running the ball eight yards into the end zone with great ball security. Allen reached for the pylon and showed unbelievable grip strength, one-handed going to the ground and coming back up with the football in hand. Reaching the ball out like that, you can run the risk of the fumble touchback rule. He showed improvement with ball security in this game. 

In the passing game, Allen attacked his matchups throughout the day. One example was that Brown catch versus cover-2, another is hitting Dawson Knox in the red zone for a touchdown. Allen had a very productive day—a 117.7 passer rating, no sacks on the day, no turnovers, responsible for four touchdowns. I think it may be his best game as a Buffalo Bill so far.

4. Looking ahead: Buffalo Bills vs. Denver Broncos in Week 12

The Broncos lost in the fourth quarter yesterday to the Vikings with a final score of 27-23 after leading 20-0 heading into the half. This is another opportunity at home against a 3-7 team who is 1-4 on the road, Buffalo will likely be favored in this one. Denver started off the season with four straight losses and went 3-3 in their next six games. They have been playing great football as of late, jumping on Minnesota who is a talented team. It shows the potential the Broncos have even though they ended up losing yesterday.

One matchup that could come into play is if Ty Nsekhe can’t play on Sunday, now we are not sure of the status of his injury yet. He is probably the better pass protector at this point in the season. It will be interesting to see how the Broncos decide to attack the edges as they have the fourth-best defense in the league right now.

5. Observations from around the NFL: Wild Card race

It’s funny that the Bills do not own the tie-breaker over Cleveland, but their playoff chances actually went up with the Browns win over the Steelers. Cincinnati lost to Oakland 17-10, but the Bengals gave them a good game. Oakland and Cleveland both have fairly easy remaining schedules, but the Browns now have two big losses on defense with Myles Garrett suspended and safety Morgan Burnett tore his achilles in the last game.

What a matchup between the Texans and the Ravens, two talented quarterbacks on those teams. It was Lamar Jackson who shined over Deshaun Watson in this one, beating Houston 41-7. Jackson threw for four touchdowns and the defense held the Texans to seven points. There’s a lot of tape now to back up the arguments that the Ravens are the best team in the AFC even with New England having only one loss.

With six games to go, there’s still a lot of movement that can happen in the AFC playoff picture. This is cliché to say, but you can’t look too far ahead. In 2017 when we broke the playoff drought, at one point we had a 15% chance to make it to the postseason. All we were worried about was finishing the season strong, we did that, rallying for a couple wins at the end of the year and making it into the playoffs. The Bills need to focus on their next matchup and that’s taking care of business against a 3-7 Denver team.

Bills fans traveled near and far to support the team during their Week 11 game against the Dolphins. Scroll through to see photos of Bills fans cheering the team on during a 37 - 20 victory!

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