The first touchdown drive for the Buffalo Bills against the Tennessee Titans came courtesy of a Reggie Gilliam screen pass. There were multiple things that went right for the offense with this great design by offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. This play had it all, from breaking tackles to fantastic blocking and athleticism.
Part 1: The play fake
The first thing to look at here is the play fake that sets up the screen pass for Reggie Gilliam. This play fake ends up drawing the eyes of several Titans defenders. What makes the play fake successful is that the Bills sell the run hard. They pull left guard Rodger Saffold to the right side. Saffold is specifically pulling into Spencer Brown’s right tackle spot as he goes out to the second level of Tennessee’s defense. Then quarterback Josh Allen turns around and does a routine play fake with running back Devin Singletary. Singletary runs behind the pulling Saffold. This hard run sell to the right forces five Titans defenders to collectively stare at the right side of the field toward Singletary. Allen then turns around and throws an easy completion to Gilliam, which starts the screen.
Part 2: OL Greg Van Roten’s double block
You love to see the big guys work! Greg Van Roten is at the center position so he’s in the middle of the offensive line. He runs all the way out to the left side of the field to block for Gilliam, who just caught the ball on the screen. Van Roten just barely gets there in time to make a tackle-saving block on Titans linebacker Zack Cunningham. The block on Cunningham was the single most important part of the play to me. Van Roten gets a tiny piece of Cunningham, which is just enough to keep Gilliam upright. If Van Roten doesn’t get just enough of Cunningham, then the LB gets to square up on Gilliam and the Titans probably get a tackle for a loss here. What’s more impressive than this screen-saving block is what Van Roten does next. He turns around, keeps his balance then blocks EDGE DeMarcus Walker. What makes this all the more impressive to me is that things are moving so fast on a football field. So, to have that level of awareness and athleticism is amazing. This is also a sign of phenomenal teaching by offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. He’s making sure his guys aren’t just content with their own assignments, but going above and beyond them.
Part 3: RT Spencer Brown’s shoulder block
Spencer Brown is the unsung hero on this play. It’s important to remember the play starts with Brown going out to the second level and Saffold replacing him on the pull to help with the play fake. Brown never blocks a single linebacker as he works his way to the left side of the field. By the time the screen is set in motion, Brown is already patiently scraping in perfect position. He then shoulder blocks linebacker David Long Jr. This block seals the touchdown run, as Long was the only defender who had any chance of making the touchdown-saving play on Gilliam.
Part 4: Reggie Gilliam running in for the score
The last part of this play is of course Gilliam himself. If I didn’t know whose jersey he had on, I would think he was Derrick Henry during this run. Gilliam breaks the tackle of Cunningham. He shows great contact balance and strength by staying upright after an attempted tackle, where the defender grabbed cloth and wrapped around him. Gilliam then has the wherewithal to gather himself and run to the endzone. He outruns the entire defense to the end zone, when he gets into his full sprint. The strength, balance, and acceleration here were all high-level running back stuff.
Reggie Gilliam’s touchdown was without a doubt an amazing play call by Ken Dorsey. The Bills sold the run hard to the right side. Then they got the screen they wanted all along. The offensive line gave outstanding blocking during the screen. Then Gilliam makes an extremely impressive run, where we see high-level balance and acceleration (something you don’t expect from a fullback). Plays like this show the Bills have the Jimmy's and Joes as well as the X’s and O’s, which is quite a dangerous combination.