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All-22 Analysis: Buffalo Bills first-half offensive woes vs. Dolphins

What was their deal?

Before you go after me in the comments for nitpicking a double-digit win, let me first ask you to ponder this: How AWESOME is it that the Buffalo Bills beat the Miami Dolphins by 15 points and a legitimate article topic is essentially, “Weeeeeellllllll...they really shoulda kicked their *** a lot harder though.” In the interest of self scouting, here’s my take on what went wrong in the first half.


First Drive

The Bills are 3rd & 5, which is certainly manageable, meaning that it’s really this play only that sunk the drive. That’s all it takes sometimes. An early free rusher has Josh Allen scrambling ahead of schedule but there’s good news. Allen is scrambling to his right, which is his preferred side. Stefon Diggs shadows his QB to that side. One could argue Allen should have just ran for the first down. To be fair, he likely has it. To be more fair, this is a rare miscue from Allen who is genuinely remarkable throwing on the run like this.

It’d be nice to have more time in the pocket, so the early blocking issues are worthy of critique. In the end, this is a drive that usually continues for Buffalo.

Second Drive

Thanks to a missed Miami field goal, Buffalo had good field position and started making it even better field position. A long throw to Emmanuel Sanders on first down fell harmlessly to the turf. On second-and-long the Bills turn to their bread and butter run game to bail them out. Wait, what’s that? The Bills are more of a passing team? Crap.

I don’t mind the occasional changeup so fine, it’s a run play on second down. I am a little more critical of the play design though as they’re doing the thing I hate by compressing the formation, making this a team vs. team shoving match. I don’t think this usually favors the Bills and here that’s 100 percent the case.

Zack Moss picked up a whole one yard on this play. On 3rd & 9, the Bills had Josh Allen run into pretty much this same wall for even less yardage than Moss gained.

Third Drive

On drive three, the Bills gained eight yards on first down, setting them up beautifully for this play.

Watching this live I felt Cole Beasley cut the wrong direction by turning outside. On further review I don’t think he really had much time to choose his direction. I’ll chalk this up more to the block. A little more force on the jam probably frees Beasley up. If the defender bit the other direction Beasley runs clear. It’s OK though, because this gained a yard, setting up a 3rd & 1...

Hey it’s that thing I don’t like again where they all bunch up. Except even worse this time! I will say the Bills’ run game has been improved this season, but this is still not my favorite. I will add at this point that Buffalo had elected to take the Spencer Brown injury as an opportunity to shuffle 60 percent of their offensive line. Keep that in mind for, well... most of these examples.

Fourth Drive

Buffalo started this drive with a three-yard pass to Diggs. This was followed by an incomplete deep shot to Sanders, which frankly was just a great play by the defender to break it up. Credit where it’s due and all that.

There are all sorts of blocking issues on this play and Josh Allen runs right into a faster-than-normal tackling dummy wearing a Tommy Sweeney jersey. Despite all that, Allen is still pretty close to the mark while throwing from what I’ll call a “not textbook” platform.

Fifth Drive

Buffalo was driving in their final full possession of the half, making it to midfield. Josh Allen attempted a shot to Sweeney, as seen here.

Another free rusher hurries the throw and the timing with Sweeney suffers as a result. No dig at either Allen or Sweeney though. This looks like pretty much what you’d expect to see here and there with a depth player filling in for an injured starter.

In what might be considered a pattern, there’s a leak in the blocking leading to a quick throw. In this case, I’m not sure if Allen is attempting to make a completion or do a glorified spike to end the play. Regardless, it’s a dangerous throw helped along by bad circumstances.

This didn’t kill the drive obviously as it was 3rd & 10 after the two incomplete passes. On third down, the Bills dialed up a safe throw to Sweeney. It was complete, but gained only six yards. Buffalo elected to go for it, and this was the controversial intentional grounding play that maaaaaaybe could have been called for defensive offside and a free play.


Summary

I don’t like to discount professionals, and I’d like to start off with the fact that Miami gave the Bills their best shot. Quite often they did some things to like too, mixing up the pass rush and finding success with one-on-ones. That said, there was a lot of self-inflicted wounds on the part of Buffalo.

Shuffling most of the offensive line on a whim and having a starting skill player sidelined is kind of a big deal and it showed. Buffalo simply looked out of sorts on a lot of plays. Add in some miscues and, yes, a smattering of excellent defense from Miami, and it led to a very slow start for the Bills.