Back in June, SB Nation asked their NFL team blogs to write on the topic of revenge. For fans of the Buffalo Bills, there are plenty of teams we’d like to see the franchise get some payback on. Luckily for us, the Bills played a long list of them this year and yours truly wrote about how the team would go on a Quantum Leap-esque revenge tour righting the wrongs of Super Bowl losses and playoff “miracles.” Now I got a little overzealous and added the Philadelphia Eagles in for good measure but, aside from that, the revenge tour went off without a hitch. And in a poetic finale, the Bills’ final stop on the tour against the Dallas Cowboys heavily featured Cole Beasley, the former Cowboy who may have had a little more stake in the victory. Let’s check in on Beasley’s day.
The Bills put a lot of faith in their line protecting Josh Allen and choose a somewhat slow developing play. To the credit of Brian Daboll, it’s well designed to get the needed yards from a receiving standpoint. The play uses the receivers on the right side of the formation to help keep the middle clean. From there they exploit Cole Beasley’s ability to change direction.
Cutting across the field past the sticks, Beasley comes open immediately. My favorite part of this play is the margin of error it creates for Allen. Beasley turns near the left hash mark and catches the ball at the “2” in “20.” There’s about 17 yards between those two landmarks and the ball can be delivered anywhere along the line. Allen is a little delayed due to a shrinking pocket, but that’s OK thanks to the play design.
I like this play because it shows off that ability to change directions. In this case it’s about 270 degrees of change. Watching his feet it’s also remarkable how there’s no need for an exaggerated step to stop and cut back. Listed at 5’8” and a bit over 170 lbs, the physics of fast cuts favor the Smurf.
Beasley can cut like that all day. And does. Moving into the zone of two different players, they both need to keep an eye on him. He makes his move between the two so both need to respond. A timing pass to Beasley is an easy pitch-and-catch on a play like this. It’s not to Beasley, though, but watch closely. Because defenders step up in case he is the target, they’re that much farther away from where the play actually went.
We could have easily done a highlight reel of his catches. With six receptions on seven targets for 110 yards and a touchdown it wouldn’t be a bad way to go either. But to truly appreciate Beasley you need to see some of the plays that won’t put any stats next to his name. Allen has some early pressure and leaves the pocket, but I’m confident most readers looking closely at the clip will find some easy plays if Allen had time to scan. Beasley is a large part of why.
Just like above, a lot of players need to keep tabs on Beasley thanks to the route taking him around a lot of real estate in the defense. In addition to direction chances, Beasley slows down, then accelerates again to get around a lot of opponents.
This is one where the GIF is pretty clear on the story. An aggressive front from Dallas allows Devin Singletary to get behind them and Cole Beasley clears what remaining help there may have been to stop Singletary from scoring.
Let’s end on a mixed note. If there’s a flaw to Beasley’s game it’s blocking. While being one of the smallest guys on the field is a benefit for running routes, it’s less so when it comes to shoving contests. Luckily, Beasley can accomplish a “block” in other ways. By forcing the man across from him to make decisions on what he might do next, Beasley can draw his assignment away from the play.
I was excited before the season to see Cole Beasley in a Buffalo Bills uniform and nothing has changed that. His shiftiness not only helps him get open, it helps his teammates get open too. None of the above is by accident either. Play designs against Dallas show they aren’t shy about creating ways for Beasley and the receivers to clear out areas for each other. It’s no surprise that a team formed on a shared culture is fundamentally designed to prop each other up on the field.