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

Word of Muth: Protecting Josh Allen

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

The Buffalo Bills held on to beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday. It got dicey when Jon Feliciano gave up a sack late in the fourth quarter, leading to a Josh Allen fumble, but Buffalo recovered, punted the ball away, and got one final stop to seal the win.

I wanted to lead off the column with a hearty pat on the back to last week's piece. Typically this space is much more about looking back than looking forward (it's much easier to seem smart doing that), but I did say that I thought Buffalo would try to run Allen more in the postseason than they had in the regular season. Sure enough he led the team in attempts with 11 and yards at 54.

The Bills ran this QB draw concept out of empty a few times on Saturday. From a blocking standpoint, it doesn't get much more straightforward than this. The offensive line is responsible for the four down linemen and the Mike linebacker, and everyone just blocks the person in front of them. The guy that makes the play go is Mitch Morse (60) at center. Look at the placement of his right hand. He gets it in the armpit of the defensive tackle and uses it to shot-put him out of the hole, which leads to a 16-yard gain for Allen.

And the Bills followed that up with zone read the next play for a touchdown just before the half. Again, this isn't some groundbreaking scheme -- it's inside zone with the option for the quarterback to keep it. Every college team has had this in the playbook for two decades. That being said, this play works even though Buffalo doesn't block it particularly well.

The defensive end takes himself out of the play by biting on the running back action too much. The back-side combo block between right guard Jon Feliciano (76) and right tackle Daryl Williams (75) gets good movement on the defensive tackle, but they don't do a good job of climbing to the linebacker, and he has a chance to make the play. Still, Allen is a good enough runner to make it right and pick up the 5 yards for the touchdown.

Even with Allen more involved, the Bills running game wasn't great. The quarterback was the leading rusher, but their two running backs couldn't combine to break the 50-yard mark. The pass protection was once again very good, however.

Running a scat protection from your own end zone is a big vote of confidence in your offensive line. Scat protection means you are free-releasing the back without any blocking responsibility, so it's a five-man blocking scheme. The Bills handle this pressure great. They're responsible for the four down linemen and the Mike here; when Allen sees the Will linebacker (Darius Leonard, 53) coming, he knows they don't have a blocker assigned to him and starts to take off. But right tackle Daryl Williams (75) does a great job of seeing his man drop and getting inside to bump the guard off onto the Will. Now, if Allen doesn't roll out of the pocket, I'm not sure if Williams and Feliciano do get this picked up. But the quarterback does roll out, which makes the offensive line's job easier here and leads to a big play down the field. This is good football.

This is some more beautiful pass pro. The guy I'm most impressed with is actually running back Devin Singletary. Look at him track that linebacker (Leonard again, 53) across the formation and meet him in the hole. He may have only had 21 yards rushing, but plays like this show how Singletary still contributed big-time to the win. And it isn't just the back blocking, everyone up front for Buffalo is great here.

Williams' pass set is so good he stops the blitzing nickelback (Kenny Moore, 23) before he even touches him. Feliciano changes direction and sits down on the inside move from the defensive end (Denico Autry, 96). Notice the arch in the back as the defender tries to bull-rush him -- he's not leaning forward, he's sitting back like he's in the squat rack because that's where your power actually is. Mitch Morse in the middle takes the nose (Grover Stewart, 90) where he wants to go. If your defender wants to loop outside, block him outside. And finally, on the left end Dion Dawkins and Ike Boettger double-teamed the other end (DeForest Buckner, 99) for as long as they wanted. Allen could've held this ball forever if he had needed to.

This is more great blitz pickup from Singletary (26) at running back. He finds the safety blitzing from depth and picks him up on the middle blitz, which is always trickier than it looks. You have to cross across your guys without getting tangled in their feet and still be in a good enough position yourself to actually block someone.

The Colts are only bringing five but this is still a fairly exotic pressure that Buffalo handles with ease. That allows the Bills to burn them over the top. It's protection like this that has allowed Allen to thrive all season, and it's a huge reason why he has progressed so much as a player, in my opinion. If Buffalo can continue pass-blocking like they have, they'll have a great opportunity to make a deep playoff run.

Comments

4 comments, Last at 14 Jan 2021, 9:59pm

1 I was hoping to see a…

I was hoping to see a breakdown of the shot-put TD to Knox - selling the run to that extent without getting caught down field on the pass seems like quite the trick for the OL to pull off.

2 Last TD pass

Also, I know it’s not related to the OL, but Allen knows he has Diggs in man coverage to the right in a favorable matchup with a single high safety, so he just looks left to freeze the safety, puts in a shoulder shimmy for good measure, and then flicks it to the right, where he knew he was going the whole time. 

4 That second play seems more…

That second play seems more of a defensive fail than an offensive success. Either Leonard (53) or Autry (96) totally blew their assignment there. I'm guessing it's Autry based on how they've generally been defending this type of play this year. The tackles both occupied their double team so this play really shouldn't have been a success.