It likely seems like decades ago the Bills lost a heart-breaker on Monday night to the Seattle Seahawks. Well, the Bills had a bye week to heal up and refocus themselves for a stretch run that will decide whether or not they can secure one of the final two Wild Card spots up for grabs.
After going back and watching the game that Tyrod Taylor put on film two weeks ago, he’s given me renewed confidence that if he’s able to replicate the things he did well against a tough Seahawks defense, the Bills have a legitimate shot at running the table and securing the aforementioned Wild Card spots.
Let’s take a look at what led Taylor to have one of his best games as a pro.
This play is a perfect example of what I believe Anthony Lynn and this Bills offense can do to exploit overly aggressive defenses loading up to stop LeSean McCoy and the Bills running attack. They’re showing a Cover 3, one-high safety look. What Lynn does well on the play call is run a vertical route with Goodwin on the outside, essentially clearing out a nice hole in the zone deep on the sideline.
Robert Woods pushes vertical as well then breaks off into a deep out route. For Taylor on this play, the things that I see and love is his ability to climb the pocket, but also get rid of the ball on time.
All season, Taylor has had issues holding onto the ball too long, but on this play he does a nice job of getting rid of the ball right as Woods is breaking for the sideline on this route making is nearly impossible to defend for a corner who has to cover himself deep as Woods pushes vertical.
Taylor does stare down the left of the field a bit here, but the safety has almost no play on this ball because he too is preoccupied by Goodwin going vertical. In that Cover 3 look, Earl Thomas (the one-high safety) has to take Goodwin seriously because he’s the deep help. This gives that underneath out the ability to roam free.
The most impressive part of the play however is Taylor’s ball placement. This could have easily lead Woods out of bounds and it still would have been a great play. Instead, recognizing that the corner was so far off of Woods, Taylor placed the ball on his back shoulder, shifting Woods’ momentum back to the middle of the field allowing him to get some YAC (yards after catch). These are the sort of route combinations you should expect to see more as teams continue loading the box to stop the Bills run.
This play shows me improvement. All season I have been criticizing Taylor’s pocket manipulation and his ability to work and climb the pocket. On this play, obviously he gets great protection which allows him to let the vertical route come open over the middle. It’s a similar route combination that you saw on the previous play, with multiple vertical routes occupying each deep third with a deep out underneath the zone.
Taylor decides to exploit the middle of the field instead of the out on this play. Why? Because if you look closely the defense is now in a two-high safety look running what looks to be a classic “Tampa 2” coverage where your corners are jamming the outside receivers at the line of scrimmage, your two safeties are responsible for each deep half of the field with a middle linebacker dropping deep into the middle of the field. Taylor does a great job recognizing the middle linebacker breaks his deep middle responsibility to follow the deep out opening the entire middle of the field.
There are two things I love on this play from Taylor, one being that he was willing to stick in the pocket, keep his eyes down field and make a good accurate throw. I truly believe last season he takes off with this ball and scrambles. This time, he’s truly a passer and is seeing the whole field. Progress.
Taylor then delivers a ball that protects his receiver from taking a big hit from the safeties converging on Woods. Do I believe this ball could have likely been thrown sooner? Absolutely. But if he does throw the ball slightly late, like he does on this play, it has to be thrown low and away as to protect his receiver, and he did so perfectly on this play.
Let us now take a closer look at a negative play for Taylor. Although this looks to be a miscommunication between Woods and Taylor about which route is to be run here, it ultimately falls on Taylor. Though it doesn’t appear to be, this is an option route for Woods. Depending on what the defense shows, Woods is either stretching vertical or stopping at 10-yards and coming back to the quarterback. They show Cover 3, so Woods settles at 10-yards like he should have and Taylor throws it to the waiting arms of Richard Sherman.
Woods should have never been considered on the play because even though the coverage dictated that he settle down at 10-yards, they’re in a nickel look which brings that nickel corner down to the flat. Where Taylor should have looked was the deep in over the middle to Justin Hunter. This would have been a very difficult throw to make but it was the correct one.
All-in-all, it’s just terrific coverage by Seattle. What you sometimes have to realize is that the defense wins sometimes. What you’d like to see from Taylor, who uncharacteristically throws this one up for grabs, is a throw away or a scramble. There wasn’t much there and really no need to force it.
This is likely the best individual effort I’ve seen out of a quarterback not named Michael Vick. Seattle throws an exotic blitz look at the Bills without one of their best interior offensive lineman (Eric Wood) in the game with time ticking down in the fourth quarter on a third and forever play.
Before I go into the absolute dime he throws to the sideline, I have to talk about Taylor’s ability here to avoid danger. Somehow and I mean somehow, some way he’s able to avoid the sack. I’m not sure any other quarterback in the entire league is able to get out this, but Taylor maneuvers and works the pocket and pressure beautifully. He then uses his speed to break away from the pass rush that followed him when he finally broke the pocket.
I don’t know that I can emphasize it enough how impressive his allusiveness is on this play. Maybe it’s because of the athleticism he shows or maybe it’s because it was in crunch time, but I watched this play a number of times, and the more I watched it the more impressed I was.
Then comes the throw. Just wow. The arm strength and accuracy Taylor displays on this throw has to give Bills fans hope for Taylor moving forward. Watching the play live, I had to physically rewind the game on my DVR to get a better look.
It’s just the sort of play that makes Taylor such a unique talent in this league and why I walked away from this game feeling relieved that what we have seen over the past few had been more about the injuries around him rather than his lack of talent.
This performance by Taylor has got to be a blueprint for him moving forward. A performance he can look back on and emulate moving forward.
I’m not sure I see a viable scenario for the Bills to make the playoffs at this very moment. But if Taylor can play like this over the final 7 games while the rest of the team around him continues to get healthy, I think they have a chance, although a small one, to run the table.
If they can do that, I think they’ll sneak their way in to the big dance. If however, Taylor resorts back to the inconsistencies we’ve seen over the past several weeks and can’t be relied up to beat defenses loading up against the run, Bills fans can get just focus their attention on the combine and draft.
Your move, Tyrod.