Sun. Dec 6th, 2020

Word of Muth: Mistakes Were Made

5 min read
Word of Muth: Mistakes Were Made

There isn’t a lot to say about how Buffalo ended up losing to the Cardinals last Sunday. It’s one of those things that happens and you just have to do your best as a coach, a player, or a fan to move on. You learn much more from what happened the previous 125 plays than you do from what happened on the last play anyways, so let’s not dwell on the Hail Mary that everyone is talking about.

What I learned rewatching the game is that the Bills’ offensive line injury issues are continuing to take a toll on the offense. Buffalo has dealt with multiple injuries up front this year that have required a constant shuffling of personnel and positions along the line. The result is that the running game looked a little rough against Arizona.

Jon Feliciano (76) at center was one of two guys who played on Sunday that was supposed to be in the lineup before the season, but he was slotted in at guard before the injury to Mitch Morse bumped him inside. Feliciano struggles here because the defender gets right into his chest. Feliciano is playing too high and exposing his breastplate; that allows the defensive tackle to stab him and keep the center from ever really engaging the block. He never gets closer than that arm’s distance. Brian Winters (66) at right guard could’ve helped out more by getting at least his inside hand involved with the defensive tackle, but the defender is clearly playing the inside gap here and Feliciano needs to be able to make this block by himself.

Left guard Ike Boettger (65) really isn’t any better. He doesn’t gain any ground with his first step and his aiming point is bad. There’s no reason he can’t be flatter here. With the first step and angle of departure he has no real chance to block that linebacker.

Boettger is once again an issue here. He allows defensive tackle (and Stanford alum) Josh Mauro (69) to penetrate too much, which forces the running back to stop his feet in order to cut back. The left guard starts with his inside foot on the 35-yard line; by the time the back cuts upfield the defender’s feet are on the 33. Play-side interior pressure just kills outside zone.

And once again, the back side of the play isn’t any better. Right tackle Daryl Williams (75) misses a cut block that effectively kills any chance this play might have had. Williams’ issue is that he tries to cut on his first step essentially. He takes that first step to open his hips, then lunges for the defender. Typically you want to throw no sooner than your third step and sometimes even later than that. Regardless of when you throw, the key is to continue to run your feet through the cut block. You never want to lunge and hope the guy simply trips over you. That’s called a coffee table cut because you’re just hoping the guy hits you with his shins and falls over like you’re a coffee table in the middle of the night.

The look the Cardinals are running is actually a great one to run outside zone into. If Boettger can just stalemate the defensive tackle and Williams can slow down his man, with the linebackers bailing at the snap, the Bills should be able to gash them right in either A-gap. It didn’t happen here, but you could tell Buffalo liked this play against this front for Arizona, they just never hit it like they wanted. The Cardinals ran this double A-gap front a lot throughout the game as well, so it would’ve been nice if Buffalo could’ve run it against this look a bit to make them pay for it.

The defensive personnel has changed, but Arizona is still going with the double A-gap amoeba look (“amoeba” meaning everyone standing up walking around at the line of scrimmage). You can see Buffalo talking about how they want to handle it, but it seems like there were some wires still crossed at the snap. Feliciano and Boettger seem to be doing one thing, while left tackle Dion Dawkins (73) and the running back are doing something else completely. What they’re doing doesn’t make any sense, and without knowing what was called at the line it’s impossible to tell who’s wrong. I’m guessing someone missed the check at the line and the result is an unblocked rusher.

Plays like this are why you need to be able to run against some of these exotic fronts. They’re a pain in the butt to get sorted out in protections, especially with the running back involved, because you never know who a back will consider a down guy vs. a linebacker.

This time the Bills are all on the same page and just full-sliding the protection. Of course, if you guess wrong (or if the defense is reading the slide), you end up with an unblocked defender. That’s what happens here, but Dawkins makes a really nice effort to take a clean hit off Josh Allen. Great awareness and a big play in the game. This was a huge third-and-5 on the Bills’ final drive of the game. There ended up being a much bigger play for Arizona to end the game, but at the time, this was huge.

Dawkins probably played the worst game I’ve seen from him this year though. He got himself into bad body position multiple times in pass protection where he was bent way over and playing with poor balance. He didn’t give up any sacks, but he gave up more pressure than I’ve seen in previous games. Still, plays like the one above and what he did on the first touchdown were highlights.

Get two big fella! He helps chop down the down guy, then springs up and gets just enough of the safety to spring Allen for an easy touchdown. A lot of athleticism and effort on display here for a 325-pound man, and it’s a good way to wrap up the week.

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