Word of Muth
Dive into the details of offensive line play with a former all-PAC-10 left tackle

Word of Muth: Bye Bye, Bills

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

It was a good run for the Buffalo Bills, but their Super Bowl dreams came crashing to a halt against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. People questioned some field goals Buffalo settled for throughout the game, but really it looked like they were just outgunned. I've watched a lot of Bills football this year and I have to say that Sunday was not their best effort, at least on the offensive line.

The Bills pass protection wasn't a major issue, but it wasn't as good as it has been for most of the year. The run-blocking, unfortunately, was about what it has been all year.

This is the first play of the night, and the running game never really got any better from here. The play call is good and there is an opportunity there, but center Mitch Morse and left guard Ike Boettger just don't make their blocks.

I have no idea what happens to Boettger here, but man is that ugly. He's almost shuffling rather than stepping, which isn't how you back-side cutoff a shaded nose (Derrick Nnadi, 91). He never gets his head across at any point in the block. And it almost looks like he gets tased at some point with how he twitches and flops at the end. Morse doesn't make his block either, but I at least recognize what he's trying to do -- he just chases the front-side 3-technique (Chris Jones, 95) too long before turning back for the back-side linebacker (Anthony Hitchens, 53).

I understood what Morse was doing the first play, but I don't get what he's doing here. He has help from Boettger, but he takes the entire block and doesn't give the guard any surface area to strike. He turns a combo block into an iso block and gets beat because of it. I realize the nose (Nnadi, 91) is rocking back a little, but Morse's footwork seems way too aggressive towards the front side to allow any strike zone for Boettger. The tight end gets whipped enough (by Alex Okafor, 57) that it may not have mattered what Morse did here, but it's still not very good.

It's a shame, because the back-side combo from right tackle Daryl Williams and right guard Jon Feliciano is really good. They are moving that defensive tackle (Tershawn Wharton, 98) off the ball and knocking him right into the linebacker's (Hitchens, 53) lap. That's textbook stuff.

The Bills run game has struggled all year, so it wasn't a shock to see those struggles continue. But the pass protection has been very good for at least the second part of the season. I think their ability to protect Josh Allen is as responsible as anything else for the quarterback's breakout season. But this past Sunday they made some mistakes that weren't typical of how they've played throughout the year.

Daryl Williams has to be one of the really great free-agent signings in the NFL this past offseason. He gave the Bills steady play at right tackle all year. That being said, this might be a really bad play by the veteran. I say "might" because it only looks like the Bills are half-sliding his way based on what the center is doing. If it's man protection, it's a tough blitz that Buffalo can't quite pick up, but it would be understandable. If it is half-slide protection, I have no idea why Williams follows that defensive end (Okafor, 57) inside as much as he does and it's an inexcusable mental error. He has help inside, so he has to keep kicking for the widest rusher (L'Jarius Sneed, 38). Again, I can't guarantee this was a zone protection, but I think it was, and these are the kind of mistakes Buffalo just hasn't made in blitz pickup this season.

This time I know the Bills are in half-slide protection and I know that left guard Ike Boettger (65) is wrong here. There is no reason for him to lock on to the first linebacker (Ben Niemann, 56) here and completely miss the outside linebacker (Okafor, 57). The Chiefs were always going to have a free rusher here (Buffalo doesn't have enough guys to block Tyrann Mathieu on the right side), but with a guy as big and mobile as Allen there's a big difference between one and two free rushers. Because Boettger doesn't slide past the Mike -- who Morse is sitting right there waiting for -- the Chiefs get a second free rusher and Allen is dead in the water. The quarterback gets called for intentional grounding.

It wasn't the best performance of the season for Buffalo, but it wasn't awful either. It's not like the offensive line is the reason the Bills lost, and they did pass-block better than a lot of NFL lines do on their better days, they just didn't protect to their lofty standards. Still, there were some highlights.

That's simply blocking them forever. There isn't much to say or critique, just five guys getting it done. This is what Buffalo's offensive line did to teams a bunch this season.

Again, considering the Chiefs are bringing seven, this is blocking them forever. Eventually Kansas City has to hold in the secondary because they can't cover with just four guys back there all night. This is the Buffalo offensive line I'll remember from this season: picking up a heavy blitz and giving Allen plenty of time. They weren't the best offensive line I watched this year, but they were great against pressure and pass blocked very well.

That does it for this week. Next week we'll take a look at one thing from each Super Bowl team's offensive line that I'll be keeping an eye on. I know I'm looking forward to it.

Comments

6 comments, Last at 30 Jan 2021, 5:25pm

1 Blocking

Disclaimer: didn't watch the whole game, didn't watch plays for details like Ben.

It seemed to me that when the O-line made an error, several players messed up (like the first play here--two mistakes, plus the LT doesn't block anybody). In other words, when they messed up, it was really bad, and the outcome of the play really hurt the team. Anybody else get that impression?

2 effect and cause??

Ben, do you believe the infrequency of Buffalo running had a negative effect on how the O-line did at it? That is, because they did it so little they were less sharp at it when they were called to do it?

3 Well done

Thanks for the analysis.  Excellent video examples.  I agree with almost everything that you said here, especially the bit about the Bills 5 being able to frequently hold the rush for an unusually long time (this season) and that being a contributing factor to the massive improvement by JA and the Bills offense.   JA's recognition when the O-Line was in control and willingness to be patient while receivers worked themselves open went hand-in-hand with that.

Someone commented on the Conference Champion column that it was amazing how well (and long) the Chiefs DBs were able to stick with the Bills WRs.  During the season, the OL buying a bunch of time for Allen usually meant an open receiver and a solid gain ... notsomuch against KC.  Maybe the fact that all of them were hobbled in some way or another contributed to this?  

 

5 The Bills had Beasley and…

In reply to by Clock_Football

The Bills had Beasley and Davis hobbled and Brown was still not right after his long absences, but it's not really an excuse. Buffalo had McKenzie on the sideline and signed Kenny Stills specifically in case one of their top guys couldn't go, and didn't use either.

I will say that I did not realize how badly Knox was blocking, which would explain why we saw so much Lee Smith.

4 Well done

Thanks for the analysis.  Excellent video examples.  I agree with almost everything that you said here, especially the bit about the Bills 5 being able to frequently hold the rush for an unusually long time (this season) and that being a contributing factor to the massive improvement by JA and the Bills offense.   JA's recognition when the O-Line was in control and willingness to be patient while receivers worked themselves open went hand-in-hand with that.

Someone commented on the Conference Champion column that it was amazing how well (and long) the Chiefs DBs were able to stick with the Bills WRs.  During the season, the OL buying a bunch of time for Allen usually meant an open receiver and a solid gain ... notsomuch against KC.  Maybe the fact that all of them were hobbled in some way or another contributed to this?  

 

6 I noticed in the first pass…

I noticed in the first pass-blocking clip, when Sneed and Sorenson blitz, Nnadi (NT) drops into coverage.  Interesting.

Also, in both run-blocking clips, the Chiefs were in nickel (and the 2nd one, it's a safety, Sorenson, lined up as an LB, so really a dime package w/a nickel look).  The Bills needed to be able to run successfully in those situations.  If they could have forced KC out of dime packages with a successful running game, it might have helped the passing game.