Anatomy of a Play: Bills QB Draw in High Redzone

The Buffalo Bills scraped by in the Wildcard round against their division rivals in the Miami Dolphins. Miami, who runs a good amount of man coverage, got beat a couple times by Josh Allen’s legs.

The Situation

3rd and 9 from the Dolphins’ 19.

The Defense

Miami runs a lot of man coverage. That doesn’t change when they’re in the redzone. The Dolphins have five defenders walked up at the line of scrimmage and two deep safeties. That is telling Allen and the Bills that Miami is running Cover 2 Man. The linebacker aligned over Buffalo’s right guard is in man coverage on the running back. On the motion, he vacates to cover the potential quick pass outside. The safety to the field creeps down as he sees that motion. He is preparing to trigger in case it’s a flare screen to the back right off the snap. It’s not much movement, but it’s enough to get him slightly out of position.

Based on the down and distance, Miami is giving an overloaded front to the field, which guarentees one-on-ones to that side of the line. They have a 0-technique, a 3-technique, and a five-technique. With the linebacker walked up over the right guard, Miami can be pretty confident that Buffalo is going to run a fan protection and not slide to the strength of the front. However, with the linebacker attached in man coverage on the running back, that leaves the boundary-side B-gap unprotected one the back motions. Miami is banking on the fact that it’s 3rd and 9 and a run to exploit the exposed gap is unlikely.

Additionally, Miami is using their boundary-side safety to help double wide receiver Stefon Diggs inside-out, so his eyes aren’t on Josh Allen. This leaves no linebackers in the box and no B-gap defender for the Dolphins. Instead, Miami prioritized a pressure front and the ability to double Buffalo’s number one receiver.

Cover 2
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Cover 2

The Play

Buffalo is running an RPO with Josh Allen running a draw as the run option. The read for Allen is simple. If the defense chases with the motion, he keeps the ball and Buffalo has a number advantage in the box. If the defender stays, he throws the quick screen outside to his running back. This is one of Buffalo’s favorite plays in the high redzone when they know they’re going to see more man coverage.

Based on Miami’s front, the Bills have the B-gap wide open with a COG (center over guard) call to the run-side of the play. That means the guard is pinning down on the nose tackle while the center wraps around and climbs to the second level. However, since the play is an RPO, that center can’t immediately pull and get downfield. To entice the defensive line upfield and prevent an illegal man downfield call, the center first pass sets while the guard blocks down. After a beat, he slides around the guard’s block and works downfield looking inside to pick up any flow to the quarterback run. The only player with eyes in the backfield is the field-side safety, which gives Allen numbers downfield and an easy pickup for the first down.