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Buffalo Bills offensive line really struggled against Green Bay Packers

What are they doing?

Buffalo Bills v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Is anyone else curious how a line capable of putting in a reasonable overall performance against the Minnesota Vikings seemingly couldn’t rise to anywhere near the same level the next week?

Going in to review the coach’s film, the thought was the Green Bay Packers had looked at what the Buffalo Bills did in the previous week and schemed to stop it. Further, it was suspected that the Packers looked at what the Vikings had done on defense and ensured they wouldn’t do the same sorts of things—both because they didn’t work, but also because throwing new stuff at a rookie QB often yields good results for a defense.

Drive 1 (0-0)

1st and 10 (7-yard completion *swing pass* to LeSean McCoy)

Dion Dawkins and Jordan Mills each attempted cut blocks to open throwing lanes and neither man was able to put his defender on the ground. McCoy was running left and Taiwan Jones right. Josh Allen put the ball over Dawkins’s defender and McCoy was able to put the Bills ahead of the sticks for one of the few times in the game.

2nd and 3 (McCoy rush for 2 yards)

The Packers had ten guys within six yards of the line of scrimmage. The Bills had three wide receivers on the field, with Kelvin Benjamin 1-on-1 to the right. Ray-Ray McCloud III motioned across the formation and brought a defensive back with him. Benjamin set up to block and McCloud ran out to catch a quick pass. It would have been a better option than running McCoy as McCloud was matched against one free defender while McCoy had to try and navigate by two free defenders. Dawkins just kind of stood there while Charles Clay blocked a defender. Vladimir Ducasse stood his man up and Russell Bodine got some push to open a hole—which was immediately filled by one of those two free defenders. John Miller and Jordan Mills danced and gave up a little ground as though it was a pass play. The line as a whole was blocking for a pass and transitioned to blocking for a run knowing that either McCoy or McCloud would have the ball about a second after the snap. None of that explains why Dawkins never started upfield to block one of those free defenders when he saw McCoy running with the ball.

3rd and 1 (Chris Ivory rush for no gain)

It looked like Allen may have changed the play at the line or maybe he was just acting like that was the case. There were eight in the box but a safety crept up to make it nine. The Bills put Dawkins in at tight end on the right side with Conor McDermott at left tackle. McDermott and Bodine blocked to the left while Ducasse pulled right. Mills and Miller angled their blocks to seal everyone to the right. Khari Lee ignored two defenders rushing up to plug the hole and hit Bodine’s guy for some reason. Patrick DiMarco took on a linebacker to form the right side of a hole. Ducasse never got ahead of the play but what killed the drive was Ivory attempting to bull his way through a pile of 16 bodies instead of bouncing it around the right.

Drive Synopsis:

You can blame Ivory for not taking the ball outside, where he would have had to only bull his way through a defensive back, or you can blame Brian Daboll for pulling McCoy off the field. Dawkins had a play where he did nothing to help, but the line as a whole had sealed most of the defense away from the right sideline on 3rd and 1.

Drive 2 (0-0)

1st and 10 (Incomplete pass to Kelvin Benjamin)

The Packers had seven in the box and the Bills had Patrick DiMarco on the field. The line was pass blocking all the way and no one moved past the line of scrimmage. A tight end and two backs stayed in to block so only two receivers went out. Allen threw a bit high to Benjamin but it was a catchable ball. Had he made the catch, the Bills would have gained exactly four yards as three defenders were closing on Benjamin. No defender made it within three yards of Allen.

2nd and 10 (Incomplete pass to Zay Jones)

The Packers had six in the box and the Bills had four guys wide. Allen faked the hand-off, which the linebacker had a clear view of thanks to hopping to the side of Mills and starting his run at Allen. Miller was being driven backwards when his defender disengaged to chase Allen—who was running right to avoid Mills’s man. Bodine, Ducasse, and Dawkins rounded up a pair of defenders. Benjamin had begun to block as Allen threw several yards over Jones. This broken play was brought to you by Mills.

3rd and 10 (Incomplete pass to Benjamin)

The Packers had six guys on the line and no one in the middle of the field. All six stayed at the line leaving 1-on-1 across the board. No one got within a yard of Allen before he threw several yards over Benjamin—the only guy anywhere near the sticks.

Drive Synopsis:

Allen is due a nod for at least trying to throw to the only guy who could have moved the chains, though he badly overthrew two guys. Daboll is due criticism for giving Allen just one option for success. Mills ruined the second-down play.

Drive 3 (0-6)

1st and 10 (Ivory rush for 7 yards)

For the second time in three drives, the Bills got ahead of the sticks. The Packers had nine guys within five yards of the ball. Lee couldn’t stay in front of a linebacker in the hole, while Mills held his own to let Ivory through. Miller helped Bodine with the defensive tackle and was too late to catch a linebacker chasing Ivory. Bodine, Ducasse, and Dawkins occupied a pair of defenders. Ivory shook off one tackler before being wrapped up by Lee’s guy.

2nd and 3 (Ivory rush for 4 yards)

The Packers had six in the box and McCoy ran right to catch a swing pass. The line blocked like it was a pass—something that had been repeated several times. Everyone did a reasonable job on their block and there was a big hole between Dawkins and Ducasse. Ivory ran through it and collided with two defenders just past the line to gain. Allen could have thrown to McCoy, but running it was the better call given the defensive alignment.

1st and 10 (Incomplete pass to Charles Clay)

The entire line blocked right as Allen rolled that way at the snap. Allen threw on the run even though no one was within five yards of him. He could have stopped sooner than he threw and set his feet but instead airmailed it past Clay—who would have earned five or six yards.

2nd and 10 (2-yard completion to McCoy)

The Packers had seven in the box and Allen had a half-hearted fake to McCoy in the backfield. Clay was beaten badly by a linebacker whose pressure of Allen required a quick throw. Dawkins was beaten around the edge as well but the ball was gone by then. Ducasse couldn’t stick with a defensive back who forced McCoy back inside to three other defenders. Given a beat longer to throw, Allen had Benjamin for about a six-yard gain. Clay caused the short throw and a third-and-long.

3rd and 8 (10 yard pass to Clay)

The Packers had seven guys at the line but only four rushed. Ivory picked up a defensive back and Mills did a nice job peeling off of a linebacker he was blocking with Miller to engage another rushing defensive back. Clay was wide open and had the most room to run. Allen could have tried a pass to Jones but there was a defender in front of him who would have kept him from converting. It was another good decision by Allen.

1st and 10 (Ivory rush for 5 yards)

The Packers had eight in the box but the Bills had a tight end and fullback. Dawkins’s man took himself out of the play. Ducasse helped Bodine and peeled off to hit a linebacker trying to fill the hole. He ran past a guy who was picked up by DiMarco, which suggests that was DiMarco’s assignment. Bodine stood his ground, and both Mills and Miller turned their defenders away from the play.

2nd and 5 (Incomplete pass to Taiwan Jones)

After a nice demonstration of cooperation on a run play, the line showed it still has communication issues on pass plays. Mills never blocked anyone. Miller blocked a defender, but a giant hole opened up between Bodine and him. Instead of passing his guy off to Mills and filling that hole, Mills just stood there and a linebacker ran straight at Allen—who couldn’t step into his throw to the single-covered Taiwan Jones. Jones had a step but the ball was overthrown.

3rd and 5 (Incomplete pass to McCoy)

Green Bay had seven at the line at the snap but only sent four. Allen rolled right without any reason for doing so. Clay was finally able to untangle from a linebacker and was open for the first down, but Allen instead ran all the way back to the left (chased this time by actual Packers) and tried to hit McCoy—who was near the sticks with one defender. Allen threw slightly behind McCoy who wouldn’t have gotten the first down even if had made the one-handed stab because the poor throw killed his momentum. As an aside, one wide receiver (looks to be Holmes or Foster but can’t really see the number clearly) gave up on the play when Allen reversed his field. Meanwhile, Benjamin ran to the end zone with his hand raised.

Drive Synopsis:

Poor pass protection communication on second down and Allen’s happy feet on third down ended this drive.

Drive 4 (0-13)

1st and 10 (McCoy rush for 4 yards)

The Bills did better at staying ahead of the chains than seemed to be the case in the game. The Packers had six in the box, making this a good play call. Clay blocked a linebacker to the left, while Dawkins turned a defender to the right. Miller pulled to lead the play through the hole and helped Dawkins push a linebacker. Bodine, Miller, and Ducasse pinned several defenders away from the hole.

2nd and 6 (Sack)

The Packers didn’t show pressure and sent four straight ahead. Mills saw the linebacker coming, but somehow didn’t think he had to block him as he turned to help Miller (who was doing just fine). Maybe Mills thought McCoy was going to get the linebacker? Whatever the thought process, Allen had to have seen the linebacker coming and should have thrown the ball to McCoy in the right flat—just over the linebacker who was running towards Allen. Had Mills or Allen done better, Allen had Clay coming open down the seam well past the sticks.

3rd and 15 (Incomplete pass to Benjamin)

The Packers sent four with a fifth defender locking onto McCoy to keep him from getting free in the flat. Dawkins was driven back like he was on solid ice and the defender got a hand on Allen as he threw to Benjamin, nearly resulting in a pick-six. While Benjamin was covered, give Allen credit again for throwing to the sticks.

Drive Synopsis:

Mills and Dawkins each had a hand in killing this drive, though Allen didn’t do the team any favors by not reacting to the free linebacker on second down.

Drive 5 (0-13)

1st and 10 (Incomplete pass to Robert Foster)

Right after the Bills got an interception, Allen took a shot deep to Foster. The Packers rushed five and the line did well enough for Allen to follow through with his throw. It was a bad decision—the Packers had two guys deeper than Foster. Jones had no defenders between himself and Allen as he ran along the 30-yard line towards the middle of the field. The best that would happen with the throw to Foster was an incomplete pass—and happily, Allen overthrew it.

2nd and 10 (McCoy rush for 5 yards)

The Packers had eight in the box at the snap. Dawkins went to the second level and pushed back a linebacker. Ducasse and Bodine turned guys to the right to open a hole for McCoy. Mills slipped to the second level and got hold of a linebacker. Miller led McCoy through the hole and helped Dawkins push the linebacker, which sealed off another defender from the hole.

3rd and 5 (Incomplete pass to Andre Holmes)

The Packers sent six with one backing out into coverage. Miller handed a guy off to Bodine but didn’t completely disengage, which left a defender to run unblocked towards Allen. Allen got his pass off right before he was hit and it was the only place where Holmes could get it but the defensive back couldn’t. Holmes flat dropped it.

Drive Synopsis:

It’s easy to understand the “take a shot” mentality of a rookie, but the pass to Jones would have been a much higher probability and set the Bills up around the 20-yard line. That said, Holmes had a first down in his hands.

Drive 6 (0-13)

1st and 10 (Incomplete pass to Clay)

The Packers sent four and Dawkins executed a cut block! Mills missed his cut block. Again. Allen got happy feet even though no defender was within two yards of him and all were blocked. Had he turned his head left, he could have thrown a dart to Benjamin since everyone in the secondary was running to the right and Benjamin was the last man. He’d have picked up five to seven yards, maybe ten if he could have pushed through a defensive back. Instead, he threw the ball towards Clay after basically running into a defender.

2nd and 10 (Ivory rush for 2-yard loss)

Where was McCoy again? The Packers had eight guys in the box. Ivory and Clay got their feet tangled, mainly because Ducasse was wrestled backwards and into Clay’s way. Dawkins got a little push and, had Clay not been pushed into Ivory, he would have been in position to pick up the last defender in Ivory’s way. There was only one other defender on that side of the field and Benjamin was in position to block him. The run could have picked up at least ten yards and possibly quite a bit more as the safety was 20 yards downfield and over on the far hash mark. Thanks to Dawkins, it turned into a two-yard loss instead of a much-needed first down.

3rd and 12 (Allen scramble for 8 yards + penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct)

Communication was a real problem. Clay handed off a guy to Mills (good) but then let another guy have a free run at Allen after just giving him a mild shove (bad). Allen saw the guy coming, which should have told him Jason Croom was open but he didn’t throw the ball—possibly because Croom was well-behind the line to gain. Bodine was out-leveraged and left on the ground. Allen took off but could have still thrown a dart down the middle to Jones at the sticks.

1st and 10 (Incomplete pass to Foster)

Allen couldn’t step into his throw because Miller was walked back to Allen. Mills was beaten around the edge, though Allen was already throwing the ball by then. The ball one-hopped to Foster.

2nd and 10 (Incomplete pass to Benjamin)

The line did the job, giving Allen a clean pocket. Ducasse had no one to block so he looked around and pitched into Dawkins’s guy. This wasn’t a good decision by Allen. The defensive back was there and breaking on the ball. Another half-second and he would have been able to hit Jones breaking over the middle—who would have gotten a first down.

3rd and 10 (34-yard completion to Benjamin)

Ducasse had another nice adjustment. He had been helping Bodine but saw Dawkins losing his man to the inside. He left Bodine and crashed into Dawkins’s defender, which kept Allen clean. Foster waiting at the line of scrimmage kept a defensive back waiting with him, and Benjamin ran right past him. The defensive back running with Benjamin just stopped for no discernible reason. Allen, with a clean pocket, under-threw Benjamin by a good 15 yards. Benjamin had to wait for a ball at the 30 when a well-placed ball would have been a touchdown.

1st and 10 (Incomplete pass to McCoy)

Allen bailed out of a perfectly comfy pocket. Had he stayed there, he could have had his feet under him and hit McCoy for at least a five-yard gain and perhaps a lot more if he was able to get past one defender. By running to his right, Allen ran into Mills’s guy. Right as Allen started to move, Clay got behind the linebacker with a fairly easy throw to the ten-yard line, giving the Bills first-and-goal. Instead, Allen’s mechanics issues on the move led to an incompletion.

2nd and 10 (5-yard completion to Holmes)

Dawkins almost pulled off a second cut block and got enough of the defender to give Allen a clear throwing lane. His pass was on target and it was the right read as Holmes had no defender within seven yards of him.

3rd and 10 (Interception)

The Packers sent seven rushers so this probably wasn’t going to end well. Mills ensured it wouldn’t by simply ignoring a linebacker, and instead helping out Miller who really didn’t need assistance. It’s like Mills never even looked at the guy he let chase Allen. McCoy didn’t see that another defender had a free run up the middle and instead blocked a guy coming off the left edge. Even if Mills and McCoy had done what they should have done, the defensive back that McCoy did block still would have had a free run at Allen. Allen has to recognize that and react better than he did. Instead of throwing a dart to Benjamin to the left—who had a seven-yard gap between himself and the defensive back—Allen immediately started to run right with two defenders in pursuit. At that point Allen just needed to throw the ball five yards toward the sideline and let Stephen Hauschka close the gap to 10. Instead he went all rookie on us and heaved the ball into the end zone, just hoping for the best.

Drive Synopsis:

That drive is all on Allen. He missed some reads, under-threw a wide-open Benjamin who could have had a touchdown, and threw a horrendous interception.


The offensive line continues to have communication issues on pass plays. We’re seeing glimmers of hope, though, as there were several pass plays where linemen maintained situational awareness and picked up defenders who would have had a free run at Allen—or helped out other linemen who were losing their battles. We are also seeing a continuation of poor on-field communication with some linemen allowing guys to run free to Allen. The line isn’t the sole reason for the poor play and it can be argued that Allen was the bigger reason. He got happy feet numerous times when there was no cause. He demonstrated poor accuracy when on the run and at times when in a clean pocket—such as the under-thrown ball to Benjamin that would have been a touchdown with a properly placed ball. Quite simply: Allen isn’t consistently making the right read. As with the line, there are signs that Allen is learning from his mistakes. We can hope that the line and Allen will both improve with more experience.