After last Sunday's win against the Miami Dolphins the Buffalo Bills are 2-0. Josh Allen is getting MVP chatter. Stefon Diggs looks like the best free agent acquisition of the summer. All in all, life is good in upstate New York.
Watching the Bills beat the Dolphins, you can see why people might be excited. Buffalo looked explosive when they had the ball, rattling off big pass plays one after another. It was a vertical attack that resulted in 31 points and a division win. The guys throwing and catching it are always going to get the attention, but the Bills' offensive line was very good as well.
This is what a lot of Bills passing plays looked like: nice pockets with plenty of time where one lineman would give up some pressure very late in the play. You can win with this kind of pass protection. Here it's left guard Quinton Spain (67) who starts out good with a solid play-action set and inside hands. As the play progresses, though, he keeps widening his feet with every step he takes. Eventually his feet are about as far as they can go and he ends up tripping over the center and getting knocked on his ass. It's never good to end up on your backside, but Spain's initial set and hands were good enough to give Allen plenty of time.
I really like what Darryl Williams (75) does here at right tackle. He actually steps with his inside foot first, which is rarity for an offensive tackle on a pass set. But he sees the walked-up blitzer and knows there's a good chance that if that guy comes off the edge, the defensive end will slant inside. So he takes a set based on what's likely to happen and shuts the inside move down as a result.
The nice thing is even if Williams is wrong, with the defensive end's alignment and the fact that the tight end (Tyler Kroft, 81) is going to be running outside, there's only so wide the defender is going to be able to rush. So Williams can afford to take an inside set and still have time to correct outside if he has to. Williams probably had the worst game of any of the Bills' offensive linemen on Sunday, but he was perfectly fine and it's mainly because he knows how to play. He might get beat, but he won't beat himself. There's a lot of value in getting veteran backup linemen such as WIlliams who know how to play when you have starters go down.
Dion Dawkins (73) at left tackle also takes a really good set for a play-action pass. It's an aggressive set to sell the run, then he gets his hands into the defender and locks him out to create space for himself to react. He widens the rusher with that hard initial set, then just settles in and makes the end walk him back. He keeps a good base throughout, not too wide or too narrow. Just a great job both selling the run and handling a rusher when you know you aren't getting help from anyone.
This is the only sack Buffalo allowed and I can't imagine anyone blaming the offensive line too much. Williams' man makes the play eventually, but it's only after he stopped the initial rush, and the defensive end runs to a spot where Williams can't know that Josh Allen has moved to.
Center Michael Morse (60) is textbook here in slide protection. It starts with a good initial set that forces the defensive tackle to declare where he's going to rush. Morse is creating a little room with his feet, but giving hand-on-body presence to his guard so the defender can only rush into the guard unless he wants to get essentially double-teamed. And look at Morse's eyes, always to the side he's sliding to so he can see the 3-technique start to come inside with plenty of time to take the block over. It's simple but it's good football.
Morse is the one that gives up the very late pressure here, but his recognition of the three-man line stunt is so good that you can't downgrade him for it. The stunt is predicated on the walked-up linebacker occupying the center so the defensive tackle can split the right guard and the center and get pressure up the middle. Morse sniffs out that the linebacker isn't actually trying to rush, but just draw his attention. That's tougher than it looks. To be able to distinguish a true rusher from someone essentially pump-faking a pass rush isn't easy, but you can see how quickly Morse picks up on it. He gets his eyes to the defensive tackle before the linebacker even begins to loop outside. Unreal recognition.
Once Morse redirects to the right, that allows right guard Cody Ford (70) to redirect outside and pick up the end as Williams finally comes off on the looping linebacker (with an assist from the running back). It's really dang tough to pass off these three-man games when you aren't zone-sliding into them, and I'm glad that it paid off in a game-sealing touchdown here because that's really pretty offensive line play.
The passing game is where Buffalo made their hay on Sunday, but they did some things on the ground that I wanted to point out as well. I like both their backs, and if Josh Allen continues to throw it like he has early, the run game should open up more and more.
This is the first play of the game, and what a way to start from the right side of the line. Williams comes down and rocks the defensive end and Ford finishes and absolutely buries his guy into the ground. Their technique and footwork are great, but I don't want to ruin this by overcomplicating it. Sometimes offensive line play is just about tossing fools around, and that's what the Bills did here. They covered up the rest of the Dolphins too, and the result was an easy 14-yard gain.
That first run was as simple as it gets schematically, inside zone. This next play was a cool scheme that I'm not sure I've seen before.
This is kind of a wham concept where the tight end traps the defensive tackle (Raekwon Davis, 98), but the wham tight end is actually in a combo block with the center, who releases to the second level after blocking the 3-tech with the tight end. That is such a hard play for a 3-technique to read, because to him it looks like the guard over him is pulling and the center is blocking back on him. That's power or counter to the opposite direction 99 out of 100 times. So the defensive tackle starts fighting across the center when he gets completely blindsided by the tight end. It's no wonder he gets knocked down. That's diabolical and I love it.
This went for 6 yards and looked great, but I could see this getting blown up huge if either defensive tackle was a big penetrator. You probably can't have it in the game plan every week, but if you think the other team's defensive tackles are more block-eaters than penetrators, I could see where it could be a real nice changeup. I always love to see new run concepts, especially ones that are really tough on defensive linemen.