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Bills on film: Lots to like in Miami

The Bills Report
stefon diggs

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) congratulates wide receiver Gabriel Davis (13) after Davis scored a touchdown, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Bills defeated the Dolphins 31-28. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

I expected to be disappointed re-watching Josh Allen this week.

I figured there was no way second viewing of Allen’s game in Miami from the All-22 coaches angle could live up to the hype of seeing 417 yards, four touchdowns and a dramatic comeback win the first time.

In some ways, that was true. In others, his game was more impressive.

We’ll get to that in a moment, but first…

What Seemed To Go Right

Stefon Diggs earns plenty of love for his ability to gain separation. In this game, I liked his ability to make plays at the catch point. The second quarter throw when he skied over two defenders for an incredible catch was a good example. It wasn’t a well thrown Allen ball. Diggs was running to the sideline and needed a touch throw over his head. Instead, Allen lasered it a bit. Diggs was able to stop, turn around and get up to pick the ball over two other sets of hands. The better play was the 21 yarder near the sideline in the fourth quarter after the Bills had taken the lead. Noah Igbinoghene is in decent position underneath Diggs. You wonder if Allen should even be trying this pass, considering the situation. The throw was phenomenal, but Diggs made it complete by just slightly working back to the ball to get his body in front of Igbinoghene. That’s how you get to be a number one receiver in the NFL.

Diggs is open (upper right), but a gutsy pass to try on the run, protecting a late lead.

Brian Daboll was ready for a ton of man to man. The incessant use of crossing patterns worked well with fast receivers who could just run away from man coverage. The Dolphins corners tended to shade outside, so the Bills spent the day just running away from them inside and across the formation. There were also plenty of “pick” plays with Diggs or Cole Beasley running quick outs behind other receivers. Almost every big throw was against some sort of man coverage.

I thought Zack Moss and, moreso, Devin Singletary did a nice job of creating yards on their own at the end of runs. There were very few cleanly blocked running plays and the Bills two young backs still made them work. Rarely, did they go down at first contact.

Tyrel Dodson was pretty disruptive in his first NFL start for Tremaine Edmunds. He singlehandedly got the Dolphins off the field in the second quarter by stopping two screens and batting away a Ryan Fitzpatrick third down pass. He got worked by Fitzy a few times and was far too easily sucked up on play action fakes, but this was a darn good performance, all things considered.

Ed Oliver was sneaky good. The first stop on the big goal line stand in the third quarter was Oliver grabbing first round pick Austin Jackson and tossing him aside like a rag doll before making the tackle. Just one of many plus plays against the run. His motor is also underrated. Oliver earned a first quarter sack after going to the ground initially. He did not give up on the play and prevented Fitzpatrick from a sure first down scramble.

Ed Oliver discards Austin Jackson before stuffing Jordan Howard on first and goal

This was Jackson’s second career start. He went against 10-year vets in Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison pass protecting most of the day. It went how you’d expect.

What Seemed To Go Wrong

I’ll start with Levi Wallace because he got most of the angst from Bills fans after the game, but he wasn’t all that bad. Fitzpatrick certainly looked Wallace’s way most often and his coverage was up and down at best, but there were good moments. The 4th quarter sack by Jordan Poyer after the Bills went up 24-20 was due in part to excellent coverage from Tre White, Taron Johnson and Wallace. I think Wallace is an average corner and that’s how he looked Sunday, but not much worse.

As mentioned above, Fitzpatrick had a field day in play action. Some of that seemed to be because the Bills were blitzing just about all game long. When Myles Gaskin is the other team’s top running back, you’d think protecting the pass would be more a priority. (I do kinda like Gaskin, though) It’s very possible Sean McDermott felt pressing the issue with Fitzpatrick was better than sitting back with two backup linebackers. I would agree.

Dean Marlowe looked bad on the play that set up the end of the first half Miami field goal. He was in a zone watching the QB, which is usually fine. However, Marlowe followed Fitzpatrick’s eyes to the middle of the field, seemed to drift out of his zone and Mike Gesicki ran right behind him for a 27 yard gain. He and Siran Neal were on the field for 22 snaps combined and were, otherwise, unnoticed. Safety would the next position after linebacker where the Bills can least afford injuries.

The Josh Report

Allen dropped back about 40 times on Sunday. For any quarterback, there are going to be a few you can criticize. We all saw him nearly throw Kyle Van Noy an easy pick six. There were a handful of balls thrown at the feet of his receivers, probably two or three too many.

The thing that stood out to me was how many good balls Allen threw that weren’t among the four of five huge plays everyone will remember. He stuck a pretty great ball on the goal line to Beasley right before the first touchdown. He also hit Beasley on a leak out play to beat a blitz. It was a throw that needed to come early and it did.

My favorite Allen play from this game was the 2nd and 24 pass to Beasley. The Dolphins played man to man much of the first half and got destroyed in it. They switched to more zone late in the second quarter and the second half with some success. The 2nd and 24 is created by a play where Allen had Gabriel Davis wide open and would not pull the trigger. He holds for four seconds and takes a sack. Really inexcusable.

The very next snap is another zone coverage by Miami. This time, Allen quickly IDs the coverage based on where the defensive backs are on the left sideline and turns back to the middle to find Beasley. There’s no hesitation. Allen even releases the ball a bit before Beasley gets into his break. It’s almost like Daboll between plays screamed in Allen’s headset “Trust it!”. Whatever happened, Allen learned fast.

He can get away with missing a few more than other QBs if he’s making the great plays a few more times than other QBs like he did in Miami.

Odds and Ends

  • Fitzpatrick was fantastic. Based on the pressure he faced, the windows he hit and his supporting cast, you could argue he played a better game than Allen. There were the usual couple of facepalm level throws, but he completed a handful of passes to receivers who had White or Wallace attached to them like a backpack. It helps that Gesicki is one of the league’s best hands-catchers, but Fitz had all the Magic working. He was throwing across his body, off his back foot and on the run with surgical precision. If Cam Newton vs. Russell Wilson was the great QB battle of the weekend, this game was the incredibly underrated undercard.
  • I thought Daryl Williams was really good last week and Cody Ford was really not. Both guys seemed to suck back to the mean a bit this week, without getting all that close to crossing. There’s a reason Ford was on the bench for 18 plays and it was Brian Winters on the field for critical go-ahead drive in the 4th quarter.
  • A.J. Epenesa got his first 17 snaps. The only notable moment was late in the 4th quarter when Jackson cut Epenesa pretty cleanly pass blocking on the garbage time drive. The two fought all day as college players in the Holiday Bowl last December. Epenesa had 2.5 sacks and very much got the better of Jackson that day. Jackson’s big block on Epenesa Sunday had to feel like a bit of sweet revenge, especially after getting run ragged by Addison and Hughes most of the day.
  • Harrison Phillips got 20 snaps in the opener. He upped that number to 37 against the Dolphins and included a couple of ok pressures. It’s a long road back from an ACL tear, but the steps forward are there.
  • Other guys I thought had an up day: Trent Murphy, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde (the coverage switch on the Gesicki fade during the goal line stand should be on whatever the football version is of the Tom Emanski educational video), Dion Dawkins and Vernon Butler.
  • Other guys I thought had a down day: Tyler Kroft (just not the blocker Knox is), Tyler Matakevich (albeit in very limited snaps at LB) and Quinton Jefferson.

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