The Buffalo Bills will take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a greatly anticipated Week 6 showdown. This offseason the Bills overhauled their defensive line in an effort to bolster their pass rush. General manager Brandon Beane probably had one main person in mind when making these moves: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Let's take an in-depth look at how Buffalo’s new pass rush stacks up against Kansas City’s pass protection.
Bills Pass Rush
The Bills rank second in the NFL in sacks through five weeks with 16 total sacks. Leading the way with four sacks each are newly added superstar edge rusher Von Miller, and 2021 first-round draft pick, defensive end Greg Rousseau. According to ESPN analytics, Buffalo ranks eighth in the NFL in team pass rush win rate. Miller is a big reason why, as he ranks second among edge rushers in the NFL in pass rush win rate with 32%. A surprising name popped in these statistics from ESPN: Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones ranks fourth among DT’s in pass rush win rate with 18%.
In an effort to harass Mahomes, the Bills will rotate their deep stable of defensive linemen to keep fresh players in the game. They’ve been getting consistent pressure with only four pass rushers this season, but in recent games they’ve dialed up some successful blitzes. However, in past matchups against Kansas CIty, Buffalo has traditionally avoided blitzing Mahomes. As such, most of the videos below are a look at strategies the Bills might use to get pressure with just four pass rushers.
Buffalo shows an all-out blitz here but backs off at the snap. They run a twist stunt on the left side, which works great for Rousseau to get pressure—but Jones ends up losing contain and lets the QB out of the pocket. We all know Mahomes is dangerous once he gets out of the pocket. The Bills need to make sure they have contain if they stunt like this against the Chiefs.
In this play, the Bills bring a blitz with linebacker Tyrel Dodson that eventually ends up giving Buffalo one-on-one matchups for every pass rusher. The Pittsburgh Steelers do use the TE and RB to chip the defensive ends but as you can see Von Miller gets skinny, avoids the chip block, and quickly gets the sack.
This play is from Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. You can see here the defensive line overloads Von Miller’s side. Instead of having a DT on each side of the center, they move both of them to the right side. This allows Miller to have a one-on-one matchup. The downside to this is the QB has an open lane up the middle to step into if the pressure doesn't get there fast enough, which is exactly what happens here.
The Bills overload the line again on this play, but this time to Rousseau’s side. They also adjust the play call by running a stunt. They have the two outside defensive linemen crash inside to take away the step-up lane, and defensive end Ed Oliver loops around the outside. The defense forced a quick throw by Stafford.
The Bills run a slow-developing inside stunt on this play, but it ends up taking the attention away from Miller, which is always a good thing. Watch Miller as he stays patient and “stutter steps” before making his move, which keeps the offensive tackle guessing. Once the OT reaches out to make contact, Miller does a quick punch that gets the OT off balance. Form there, it’s game over.
It’s amazing watching a man of Jordan Phillips’ stature be so nimble, just like he is during this play. Buffalo shows two wide DTs here, which gives the big men a lot of room to work inside. Phillips executes a spin move to perfection and gives Stafford very little time to make a throw.
Chiefs Pass Protection
Kansas City has poured a lot of resources into their offensive line in recent years. In the 2021 offseason, they selected center Creed Humphrey no. 63 overall in the NFL draft, signed guard Joe Thuney to a big contract, and traded a haul of draft picks that included a first-rounder for left tackle Orlando Brown.
They possess the talent to protect Mahomes and their big investments have been paying off so far this season—the unit has only given up eight sacks through five weeks. ESPN Analytics ranks the Chiefs 12th in the NFL in pass block win rate at 62%. Propping up their pass protection are Joe Thuney who ranks third in pass block win rate (98%) among guards, and Creed Humphrey who ranks ninth in pass block win rate (96%) among centers.
After watching film on KC, it appears their interior offensive line is sturdy in handling the pass rush but their offensive tackles fail to meet the same standard. There are no absolutes here, but I’ve noticed that Brown is more susceptible to speed rushers and right tackle Andrew Wylie is vulnerable to the bull rush. It’s also important to note that the Chiefs were without starting right guard Trey Smith last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, but he will be back this week to face the Bills.
That's enough writing on Kansas City’s offensive line—time for some film review!
First off, defensive end Maxx Crosby (98) is a beast... But the most important part of this play is that the defensive tackle engages with the offensive guard so he couldn’t help on Crosby. This allows Crosby to spin away from the chip block and ultimately into the lap of Mahomes.
As mentioned above, Brown seems to struggle with speed rushers, and this is a prime example of that struggle. Defensive end Chandler Jones (55) uses a simple Chop & Rip move to speed by Brown and causes Mahomes to throw an errant pass. If Miller can produce similar speed rushes on Sunday, watch out!
The Raiders bring a blitz here, which is an unusual play call against Mahomes. The Chiefs actually pick this blitz up pretty flawlessly, but the most important part about this play for Las Vegas is that they didn’t give Mahomes any room to escape outside the pocket. I don’t expect the Bills to blitz much versus Mahomes, but if they do, they have to get there quickly and make sure they keep him in the pocket.
There are no two ways about it, Wylie just gets overpowered by Crosby on this play. I have visions of Rousseau doing the same thing for the Bills this Sunday...
When Mahomes has a perfect pocket like this, you can expect a lot of completions. Great set by the Chiefs’ offensive line. They certainly have the capability to protect like this more often than not.
Here’s another example of great pass protection by Kansas City. They get a good chip block on the outside and an outstanding block from their RB stepping up to take on the blitz. Mahomes almost looks too comfortable here.
The Indianapolis Colts run a double twist with a QB spy on this play and, as a result, get pressure up the middle. Even though the pressure doesn’t get Mahomes on the ground, the Colts still do a great job of making sure he doesn’t break contain. When Mahomes is off-script and out of the pocket it’s essential to make sure he doesn’t have a free look down the field. Great job containing him by Indy on this play.
A game of this magnitude often comes down to a few plays, and the Bills invested heavily in their defensive line to make a difference during those plays. Buffalo is averaging 1.5 sacks on Mahomes over their last four matchups. So, are you taking the over or the under on 1.5 sacks for the Bills this Sunday?
How many sacks will the Bills have agianst the Chiefs in Week 6?
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