The Buffalo Bills narrowly defeated the Miami Dolphins, 34-31, in their Super Wild Card Weekend matchup. Aside from the small matter of three turnovers by quarterback Josh Allen, Buffalo’s offense had an otherwise solid day, churning out 423 yards and four touchdowns.
A big part of that production came at the hands of wide receiver Gabe Davis, who had one of his best games of the season, posting six receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown. Let’s break down how Davis was able to activate “Playoff Gabe” and help lead the Bills to victory.
Gabe Davis finds space in zone coverage
Davis really did a fantastic job in three different aspects of this route. First, he found open space in zone coverage, and stopped his route instead of continuing to run into coverage. Second, he worked back to the football. If he chose to wait for the football to get to him, it would’ve been incomplete. Third, he made a diving catch for a first down. A well-executed route all around by Davis.
Gabe Davis’ body control
The Dolphins appeared to be in Cover 2, with aggressive coverage on the outside wide receiver for this play. In Cover 2, if the No. 2 (inside) wide receiver goes vertical, the corner needs to sink with the No. 1 (outside) wide receiver. The Bills ran two vertical routes on the top part of the play, which forced the safety to pick up the inside receiver, while the corner was responsible for the outside receiver. Knowing it was Cover 2, the Bills took advantage of the aggressive cover by the corner on the outside with Davis — who beat the jam at the line of scrimmage, and ran to the “hole” in Cover 2 (deep and outside). This forced the cornerback to play catch-up in a trailing technique. Notice how after Davis beat the corner jam by going inside, he bent his route back outside to “stack” the corner. This move got Davis away from the safety, and ensured that the corner would have to work “through” Davis to make a play on the ball. Davis showed excellent body control on this catch by adjusting to a ball that was thrown slightly behind him.
Gabe Davis’ dig route
This was a textbook “dig” route by Davis. The cornerback was playing outside leverage, and Davis used it to his advantage by going inside to create space at the beginning of his route. At the top of his route, Davis gave a small, but effective, jab to the outside that allowed him to create more separation for a first-down catch.
Gabe Davis’ hitch route
Davis sold the “go” route by accelerating in the first part of his route, which caused the defender’s hips to open up. As soon as this happened, Davis stopped his route and created five yards of separation.
Davis in sync with Josh Allen
Davis found a spot open in zone coverage and then continued to work toward Allen as the quarterback rolled out to his left. Davis ran at the perfect pace to remain open. If he ran too slow, the defender behind him could catch up; if he ran too fast, he’d have run into the coverage in front of him. Davis showed solid field awareness on this play, and made himself available for Allen for a solid gain.
Gabe Davis’ touchdown
Another route run by Davis that beat the Cover 2 zone by Miami. The Bills ran a variation of the “smash” route concept. Usually, in a smash route, the inside receiver runs a corner route and the outside receiver runs a hitch route. Buffalo ran the same concept, but they went with a “smash switch,” where the outside receiver (Davis) ran a corner route, and the inside receiver (Stefon Diggs) ran a flat route. They executed this route combination to perfection, and Davis capped it off with a pretty toe-tap catch for the game-deciding touchdown.
Gabe Davis hasn’t quite been the consistent No. 2 wide receiver threat that Bills Mafia hoped he would be this season. Still, he turned in a decent campaign — amassing 48 receptions for 836 yards and seven touchdowns. Believe it or not, Davis improved in all three of those categories compared to his 2021 season. We all know what “Playoff Gabe” accomplished last postseason, so discount him this postseason at your own peril. If teams commit extra defensive resources to stop Diggs, the Bills won’t be afraid to give Davis the rock.