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Analysis: Nick O’Leary’s touchdown catch and the Buffalo Bills’ favorite play action pass

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Rick Dennison has been employing this play with great success.

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison gets a lot of crap around Western NY and some of it is definitely justified, but he deserves some praise too. Who would’ve thought they would have read that as an opening sentence? One thing I want to look at today is one particular wrinkle the Bills have put into their passing game that has yielded huge results for the offense is the past couple of weeks.

Below is a video of one of the Bills favorite pass plays, the naked boot PA off of the outside zone run play. The “Denver offense” that Dennison runs is based off being able to run the outside zone run play. Then the offense builds the play action pass game off of that main run play. This is the Bills’ favorite play action pass, I am sure you will recognize it.

Notice the hard run fake to one side and then a three-level flood to the other side. Taylor mainly will hit either the over route or the flat pattern. The deep route is usually just something to “take the top off” the defense, though occasionally it does get thrown. It is a great play for Taylor because it gets him outside the pocket and it is an easy read for the QB.

However, as you all know, once you run a play a lot, teams start to gameplan against it. Which is why the Bills have developed a little wrinkle to their favorite play action pass. Take a look below. It looks just like the normal naked boot pass play the Bills run all the time. However, the deep over instead of continuing across breaks it back to the opposite corner and is wide open. The Patriots secondary is completely fooled and it is a big gain for Thompson.

Now, let’s look at a play last week vs Miami. Sure does look familiar doesn’t it? Many fans were wondering how O’Leary got so wide open for the touchdown. It was because this is basically the same play the Bills ran last week against New England. This time, however, nobody even covers the bare-handed tight end. That is two straight weeks with huge plays with this little wrinkle.

Now you might be wondering, but how will work on Sunday? To answer that I happened to take a look at a Week 16 game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Francisco 49ers. I took a look at this game for a few reasons. If you didn’t know, the 49ers coach is Kyle Shanahan who happens to run a pretty similar offense as the Bills do. (Kyle’s dad, Mike, worked on the offense with Gary Kubiak and Dennison and later his son.) Also I wanted to see how the 49ers were able to score more than 40 points against a Jags defense that is one of the best in the league. Take a look below at the videos to see what I found. (These are all these plays were from the first half.)

Looks like some deja vu to me. In fact, look at the play below to see the big play wrinkle the 49ers put in their playbook for the Jags.

I would imagine the Bills will try an attack a very aggressive Jaguars defense the same way. A way that was very successful for the 49ers only two weeks prior. The main caveat to this game plan is that in order to be effective in the play action pass game, there needs to be some threat in the run game. A healthy LeSean McCoy does that, but can a limited McCoy, Mike Tolbert, and Marcus Murphy do it?

That is a question I don’t have an answer for. But, with all that being said, I do think the Bills have a good shot in this game and I cannot wait to watch a 21st century Bills playoff game!