The Buffalo Bills’ offense saw their fair share of pressure vs the Miami Dolphins. The Buffalo News tracked that out of quarterback Josh Allen’s 72 dropbacks there was a 29% blitz rate on pass plays. Even in the run game, the Dolphins had five or more defenders near the line of scrimmage most times during the game. Let’s take one last look at the tape to see what we can learn from Week 3.
Sometimes with the blitz, all you want to do is give the offensive line and quarterback pressure from different angles. Pre-snap the Dolphins have five rushers. They bring a safety to blitz from the left side and drop one of their EDGE rushers into coverage on the right side. At the snap, every defender goes right. Buffalo’s offensive line slides their protection left. So, left tackle (Dion Dawkins) and left guard both double, the center, right guard, and right tackle each take one man and the fullback picks up the safety. With three offensive linemen blocking man on man, they have to win their battles (which doesn’t happen). Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins beats right guard Ryan Bates for the QB pressure. This forces Allen to slide up in the pocket and make an awkward throw to running back Devin Singletary. Even when Allen’s “winning” vs the blitz, the Dolphins are still forcing him to make high-degree plays and be fairly uncomfortable while doing it. Allen just makes it work because he’s a special talent. Ideally, the Bills would rather slide the extra defender away from a Pro Bowl left tackle in Dawkins in the first place.
On this pass play, the Dolphins blitzed eight. The Bills only have seven blockers, which were five offensive linemen, one tight end, and one running back. Obviously, eight blitzers against seven blockers means Miami is winning the numbers advantage. At the snap, Dolphins safety Jevon Holland bursts off the edge on the right side and beats the tackle and Devin Singletary (who’s supposed to help pick up Holland) never really impedes him at all. Holland gets all the way to Josh Allen and forces the strip sack on this blitz.
The Dolphins have another five-man blitz here (this time with no disguise). What this does is force each offensive lineman into blocking one-on-one (which is easier said than done). Miami EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah beats Bates and hits Allen hard. Even though Allen got the ball out of his hands on this play and threw a beautiful pass to running back James Cook (who dropped the ball), this type of pressure does get into a QB’s head during a game when under constant pressure and being hit.
We have a run play here. Pre-snap the Dolphins have seven rushers and the Bills have six blockers (number advantage Dolphins). At the snap, Dawkins pulls right to replace the right tackle who blocks down. Allen fakes a throw to the right side and runs behind Dawkins. Dolphins EDGE Jaelan Phillips and Holland both come off the right side and no one blocks them as they pursue Allen. Singletary doesn’t attempt to block Phillips or Holland as they run after Allen. As Allen runs, he ends up with five defenders closing in on him for the tackle. On this play, the numbers were against the Bills and clearly, Singletary was confused about his blocking assignment.
What the Dolphins started doing as the game went on was conveying blitz but never actually blitzing to create confusion. Here Miami has six rushers showing pressure. Two EDGE rushers, two defensive tackles, and two inside linebackers showing double A-gap blitz. At the snap, the pair of linebackers drop in coverage and there are only four rushers (not a single defender gets home). Allen now has one of the cleanest pockets he’s seen all day. Allen immediately goes to his check down to Cook, though. The Dolphins made Allen get rid of the ball quickly even when he had a clean pocket simply because their coverage disguised the intent.
Allen and the Bills’ offense were successful against the Dolphins’ blitz-heavy defense. They had 497 yards of total offense. So, it would be foolish to act like they couldn’t move the ball when in fact they did so the entire game. With that being said, the blitz did do a few things. It led to a strip sack that resulted in seven points, which ends up making all the difference in a two-point game. It made Allen visibly uncomfortable, caused confusion among blockers, led to a lot of one-on-one matchups (that the Bills lost), and forced Allen to make spectacular play after spectacular play (which is hard to maintain). That 497 yards of total offense put up by the Bills was by no means an easy 497 yards.