Reactions after watching the All-22 angle from the Bills first playoff game…
What Seemed To Go Right
Matt Milano was amazing. Ah. Maze. Ing. Whether it be against the run or against the pass, he was making plays. He didn’t blitz much, but even made good getting a pass knock down on one of those. Milano made the first two plays that led to the 4th and goal stop. He had near perfect coverage on big 6-7 Mo-Allie Cox on the final drive. Philip Rivers still squeezed a pass in (Rivers did a lot of that), but Milano’s tackle forced Indy into a 4th and 1 run to keep their drive alive and likely burned a ton of precious seconds. When Milano is negotiating his new contract, this game is the first tape his agent should be showing off.
I think Micah Hyde might have played his best game of the year. He knocked away two deep balls on third down in the first quarter that kept the Colts out of scoring range. Both plays required every ounce of effort from Hyde. On the first, he was faked a blitz, did a 180 and wheeled back to bother T.Y. Hilton into a drop. Hyde might have saved the win on the final drive. More on that below.
Jordan Poyer was really good, as usual. Waiting for Zach Pascal to get up so Poyer could force a fumble is elite situational brain work. (It was probably a fumble, but I get the no overturn call. It didn’t matter, so we can move on) He was very good in run D and made a tackle in the third quarter that might have saved a TD before the Colts field goal try that missed.
I can’t emphasize enough how big the above three players were for the Bills against Indy. They were the Bills’ three best players and I don’t think Buffalo wins without all three playing at this level.
Vernon Butler was really active. He had a team high three QB pressures and was the main reason Buffalo stuffed the Jacoby Brissett QB sneak try.
Devin Singletary only got six touches, but he averaged over seven yards a play on them. He was also very good in blitz pick-up, as he’s been all season.
Stefon Diggs remains good at football. The contested catch he made over the middle in the first quarter was amazing toughness. Then, the long TD was pretty darn good speed. There was one uncharacteristic drop where I thought he might have heard footsteps over the middle, but it was otherwise another WR1 day.
What Seemed To Go Wrong
Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams had their worst combo performance of the year. Dawkins uncharacteristically struggled in run blocking, but you know what? Justin Houston causes lots of offensive tackles problems. The only hill Dawkins has left to climb is consistency against high level defensive ends. Williams gave up a couple pressures, but did save his game, of course, with the monster fourth quarter fumble recovery.
Really, the entire offensive line had a rough day. Indy begged Buffalo to run the ball throughout the game with less defenders in the box, and the Bills still weren’t all that effective. Mitch Morse and Ike Boettger, in particular, made a higher than usual number of negative plays. The pass blocking, as a whole, was the normal solidly above average stuff, but Indy only rushed four most of the game. DeForest Buckner (2 tackles, 1 QB hit) did not wreck the game, so that was good.
Tremaine Edmunds continues to be average at best. If the play is out there on a platter for him, he makes it. However, he misses too many tackles and is too inconsistent in coverage to be considered much of an asset to this defense, at least physically. As the QB on that side of the ball, Edmunds should get some credit for this team being in a good position most of the time.
Tre’Davious White was not a very good tackler in this game.
The Josh Allen Report
This was much as everyone saw on Saturday: A QB dropping jaws, ripping gaps and at the top of his game.
He had a pair of plays where he clearly pump faked to move a defensive back around in the zone defense and open up a throwing lane. The first was the long, tough catch Diggs made in the first quarter. The final drive of the game might have featured peak Allen: pump fake on a blitzer to avoid him, roll left and fire a laserbeam into Diggs on the sideline.
It wasn’t perfect. Allen was a little jumpier in the pocket than he’s been most of this season. It was especially noticeable because the Colts blitzed rarely, but Allen got dancing a couple times well before he needed to against a four-man rush. Indy also seemed to rattle Allen a bit near the end of the first half with their only all-out blitz of the game. This was the play that nearly became a Colts interception. It was Allen’s only poor throw/poor decision play of the game.
To illustrate where Allen is as a QB right now… On that final drive of the first half, Allen had a play where he dropped back against a four man rush and had Diggs crossing for what would have easily been a 10-15 yard gain. Allen starts to scramble for no reason and never even seems to notice Diggs. This was the play that ended with Allen scrambling left and dotting the “I” to Gabriel Davis for the second time on the sideline. It was a 19 yard play.
Even when Allen does the wrong thing, he’s got the skills and the tools to make a play that’s even better.
Odds and Ends
The Colts are incredibly well coached. I’ve been watching defenses blitz and sink in coverage against the Bills offense a lot late in the season. Buffalo eats those for lunch. The receivers are plenty smart enough to cut their routes off and Allen is on the same page, ready to throw quickly. Indy was much more aggressive, moving their short zones within five yards of the line on many occasions and forcing Allen to try intermediate passes between levels of the zone. There was not much success. On offense, the Colts did a nice job of flooding one half of the field with receivers and troubling the Bills zone defense. It’s not a novel concept, but one Indy executed effectively. Sure, Frank Reich made a couple of critically questionable choices. However, this was an impressive play to play performance.
In a close game like this, there’s always an under the radar play where you watch it and think, “Wow, this was a few inches from flipping the game.” For this game, it was the first play after the non-fumble on the Colts final drive. The Bills sent an all-out seven man blitz. Indy had a wide receiver screen called. All things being equal, that’s a combo that gets a defense burned for a chunk play. Hyde was the one that stopped Pittman from getting any kind of gain, but the Colts had two linemen headed out to block for Pittman. The first is likely supposed to take slot corner Taron Johnson, but Johnson is blitzing. If he’s aware (and it’s asking a lot) that first lineman could have let Johnson go and maybe got to Hyde to open a big gap. In addition, Zach Pascal is the receiver on the outside, blocking Levi Wallace. The play is likely drawn up to have Pittman run back to the inside, so Pascal blocks Wallace outside. In this spot (no timeouts, under 30 seconds), Pittman is likely thinking he has to get to the sideline and that’s what he does. If Pascal blocks Wallace inside instead, it probably clears the corner for Pittman. Either way, a hit on this play for the Colts gets them easily into field goal range. At least. You can tell the danger on the play is high because once Poyer recognizes what’s happening on the other side of the field, he doesn’t run to the receiver. He starts making a beeline for the far goal line, knowing he might have to make a touchdown saving tackle.