The battle in the trenches will be key in the Buffalo Bills’ Thanksgiving showdown with the Detroit Lions. The offensive line is Detroit’s best position group on the team. They run and pass block at a high level, and I believe are a top-two unit in the NFL. Buffalo’s defensive front will have their hands full.
Combating the twist
One of the most important things for an offensive line is protection on 3rd & Long. Here we have the Lions in a 3rd & 9. At the snap, the Chicago Bears twist both their defensive tackles with their edge rushers (the defensive tackles go outside and the edge rushers go inside). The offensive line does a great job of staying disciplined. Both offensive tackles pick up the defensive tackles, and the interior line picks up the edge rushers. This results in a clean pocket from where quarterback Jared Goff can make an easy throw.
Lions versus five-man front
The Lions run the ball here against a five-man front by the New York Giants, which is extremely hard to do. The play starts with left guard Jonah Jackson pulling right and blocking the edger rusher. The right tackle and guard block down and double-team the defensive tackle out of the play. The left side of the line walls off the rest of the defense to avoid any penetration. This allows for running back Jamaal Williams to run through a wide-open hole created on the right side of the line.
Lions blocking at the second level
We see fantastic run blocking by the offensive line here against the Dallas Cowboys. The center and right guard double-team the defensive tackle, then the guard goes up to the second level to block the linebacker. The left guard climbs up to the second level to block the other linebacker, thus stopping the defender from flowing to the play. This creates a hole for the running back to run through.
Detroit’s offensive line adeptly handles the blitz
This play starts with linebacker Micah Parsons blitzing inside the defensive tackle and edge rusher. It results in a five-on-five blocking situation, so a defender needs to win man-on-man to create pressure. Every pass rusher is blocked one-on-one by the offensive line on this play. The pocket is clean for Goff to throw in without pressure. The offensive line blocked so well on the play that the running back doesn’t even need to help chip.
Lions against a four-man rush
This is a situation we will see a lot of when the Bills play the Lions. It’s third down, and the Minnesota Vikings attempt to pressure Goff with only four rushers. At the snap, the left tackle, guard, and center all block defenders one-on-one, with the left guard absorbing the spin move from the defensive tackle. Right tackle Penei Sewell absorbs the initial bull rush of edge rusher Za’darius Smith. Then, right guard Evan Brown slides over to help Sewell. This results in yet another clean pocket for Goff.
Buffalo’s defense excelled in their last matchup against a top-tier offensive line in bottling up the Cleveland Browns’ rushing attack, and limiting running back Nick Chubb to 1.4 yards per carry. The Bills will need that effort, and more, to get the better of the Lions’ excellent offensive line. The Lions excel in winning one-on-one matchups in the pass and run game. The most interesting thing I’m looking forward to is the Bills rushing four, which they typically do, and seeing how much pressure they get on Goff.
Sound of in the comments — what do you guys expect from this matchup?