Isaiah McKenzie led the Buffalo Bills in receiving yards in their 28-25, Week 12 victory over the Detroit Lions. McKenzie posted six receptions on 10 targets for 96 yards and a touchdown, and he also had two carries for seven yards.
Clearly, this is the most involved McKenzie has been in the Bills’ offense all season, and it was a welcoming sight for Bills Mafia. It’s been a weekly guessing game on who will step up to be the top threat behind Stefon Diggs in this passing offense, but this week was McKenzie’s turn. Let’s take an All-22 view into his success on Thanksgiving Day.
Crafty route running
McKenzie doesn’t end up seeing the ball thrown his way on this play, but I like how he ran this route. He times the rub route perfectly, and then sticks his foot in the ground to turn back inside on a dime. If he had been thrown the ball on this play, he had plenty of separation to make a catch.
The Bills dial up a unique play call here, and give McKenzie a chance to run the ball on a counter play. I love how the Bills drew this one up, and it was almost executed for a touchdown. If center Ryan Bates could have stuck on his block a little longer, McKenzie would likely have scored a touchdown on this play.
This a great play call by offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. He takes advantage of the defense trying to double Diggs with the safety by sending McKenzie from the other side of the field to go behind Diggs’ route, leaving him with a wide-open end zone to run into. Josh Allen does a great job of staring down Diggs’ route to keep the safety down, and then throwing over the top. McKenzie gets to showcase his speed on this play, but also makes a nice over-the-shoulder catch. Well done all around!
Calling out the blitz
McKenzie realizes the defender aligned on him is trying to blitz off the edge, so he alerts Allen. At the snap, that defender did indeed blitz off the edge, and Allen hit McKenzie quickly on the bubble route of the RPO play.
McKenzie doesn’t get the ball thrown to him on his initial route, but he does a wonderful job of working back to the quarterback as Allen buys time. Allen breaks the pocket and rolls right. McKenzie realizes this, and makes himself available by working back toward the line of scrimmage and finding an open space for Allen to throw to.
This route depends greatly on timing. If McKenzie is too quick, he will interfere with Khalil Shakir’s go-route, and if he’s too slow, he risks not having his head around before Allen throws it. McKenzie stems his route inside to make his defender shift inside with him, and as you can see, the defender anticipates that McKenzie will be running across the field. When McKenzie sees the defender shift to inside leverage, he breaks outside, leaving a giant window for Allen to throw to.
There is a little miscommunication between Allen and McKenzie here. Allen throws the wheel route thinking McKenzie will keep running, but McKenzie breaks off his route at the first-down marker. McKenzie probably stopped short because he was open for a first down, and the corner was looming within striking distance if he ran the wheel route. It’s likely if he kept running, he’d have had an opportunity to catch the ball behind the corner for a touchdown.
This play is the same route concept as the play above, but this time McKenzie runs the wheel route without stopping. He does a nice job of making sure he gets outside of the corner and away from the safety. This leaves plenty of room for Allen to throw the ball for a completion.
This play didn’t gain many yards, but is nice to see the Bills bring back some jet sweep plays with McKenzie.
“Replace the blitzer” is what receivers are taught to do when the defender lined up over them blitzes. McKenzie becomes the hot route on this play because his man blitzes; this leaves a quick pass for Allen that gains the Bills an easy four yards.
McKenzie has had an up-and-down season thus far, but he stepped up his game when his number was called. The Bills’ once-deep stable of receivers has suddenly become thin, as they only dressed four wideouts against the Lions. McKenzie’s importance to this roster has never been higher as they try to sort out their receiving corps. The Bills are desperately trying to fill their No. 2 receiving threat on this team, and on this particular day, it was McKenzie. Do you think McKenzie is capable of providing more consistency to the Bills’ offense?