The Buffalo Bills won a defensive struggle against the Baltimore Ravens this past weekend to advance to the AFC Championship Game. Josh Allen and company only scored one touchdown on the offensive side of the ball, but that was enough to get the win. As far as Buffalo's offensive line goes, I thought it was one of the weaker games I have seen them play. They weren't bad in pass protection, but they had a few more slip-ups than usual. I was a little surprised because the very first play of the game looked like the Bills line I have been watching for the past few months.
It looked like the Ravens' game plan was to rush four and play coverage behind it. They had a lot of success with that strategy, but not because they generated consistent pressure from the pass rush. As I mentioned, this was the first play of the game, and when Baltimore tried to rush straight up, this is about how it looked most of the game.
Notice what Daryl Williams does at right tackle here once he feels the bull rush of Matthew Judon (99). You often hear analysts talk about anchoring, but it isn't always illustrated clearly. This is a good example of the technique you need to play with solid anchor. Watch how Williams hops both feet back in the middle of rush and tries to get each individual spike of his cleats into the ground; his goal is to get flat-footed and drop his hips. To do that effectively you have to hop both feet back at the same time (former Cowboys center Mark Stepnoski was awesome at this). You can see Williams' feet actually slide on the turf a bit (turf field in cold weather will do that), but he regains his balance and sits down on the rush. That's what anchoring looks like.
But really, everyone across the board here is really good. Allen has all day and an immaculate pocket to work from. I highlighted Williams, but right guard Jon Feliciano (blocking Calais Campbell, 93) and left tackle Dion Dawkins (blocking Yannick Ngakoue, 91) are just as good.
Again, the Ravens rush four straight ahead, and again Buffalo's offensive line dominates them. Williams showed how to anchor on a bull rush on the first GIF, and center Mitch Morse shows another technique here. Morse feels the bull rush and chops the defender's (Brandon Williams, 98) hands down and backs up to simply let the nose tackle fall flat on his face. When you feel a defender is rushing out of balance and you're the only thing holding him up, it's a deadly counter move. The only issue is if the defender can bend without falling over -- then you have just given up an extra yard or more of space between you and the quarterback. Morse used it perfectly here however.
Dawkins on the left side tries something similar late. He's using more of a snatching motion than a chopping motion since he's already engaged. Speaking of Dawkins, I love the aggressive set here. Look at him take the action to the rusher (Jihad Ward, 53). He gets out on the defender before the rusher is ready to make a move. Dawkins is moving quickly outside but his feet are in perfect step and balance with each other. Beautiful footwork.
The Bills tackles both use wide, aggressive sets frequently, and they have both played well as a result. One drawback to setting like that, though, is that it can give you issues trying to pass off games. When Baltimore did get pressure, it came from those types of stunts.
The issue is on the right side. Williams takes a wide aggressive set like we saw from Dawkins the GIF before. But here, the Ravens are running a tackle-end twist. With Williams setting that wide, it's very difficult for Feliciano to widen the defensive tackle (Campbell, 93) enough for Williams to take that defender over. When Williams finally feels the twist and tries to push Feliciano inside, it's too late and the Ravens get a free rusher (Judon, 99).
This isn't all the result of the wide set, Feliciano has some issues on his end. He opens his hips too soon once he feels the wide rusher. That makes it difficult for him to change direction back inside once he sees the end looping there. Feliciano has to set with his shoulders squarer to the line of scrimmage for longer to protect against this type of thing.
The Ravens didn't blitz Allen much. That's probably because Allen and his protection have generally been great at handling additional rushers in the games I have watched. Still, Baltimore did have some success in the rare cases they did come after Buffalo's offense.
This isn't great protection by any means, but Buffalo does get a hat on a hat at least. Still, Devin Singletary (26) -- who I highlighted last week for his tremendous pass-blocking -- gets beat here and allows the sack-fumble. He picks up the right guy, but he's lunging at him with a shoulder rather than trying to take him down the middle.
With Singletary getting beat in the middle, Allen has to drift back into the pocket right where Dawkins (73) is trying to run his man past. Allen is about 10 yards deep in the pocket here when he gets hit, and it's very difficult for offensive tackles to block for quarterbacks that have that much depth. Really, the whole play is a mess from an execution standpoint. Poor Mitch Morse (60) at center gets absolutely crushed by the slanting end because left guard Ike Boettger (65) doesn't slow or flatten the rusher down at all. A rare breakdown in pass pro from what has been a very consistent offensive line.
That will wrap up this week. If you noticed that I completely ignored the running game, it's because the Bills completely ignored it too. They opened up with 19 consecutive pass plays. They tried to run it a little bit with a lead in the second half but didn't gain too much traction. It will be interesting to see if they give it a look next week against the Chiefs.