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Bills vs. Dolphins analysis: The art of the play-action pass

The Bills’ play action reeled in the Dolphins

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills squished the Miami Dolphins in grand fashion by a score of 48-20. The story leading up to the Week 4 game was “how will Buffalo stop Miami’s offense?” — but the real story of the game was “Miami couldn’t stop Buffalo’s offense.” Quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense had a stellar day in part because of their success using the play-action pass. How successful you may ask? Well, let’s break it down.


By my count, the Bills ran play action passes 10 times versus the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. In these 10 passes, Josh Allen was 9-of-10 for 221 yards and three touchdowns.

Let’s dissect some of these plays to see how effective the play-action pass was for Buffalo.

32-yard pass to Diggs

Running back James Cook did a phenomenal job after his play fake to disrupt the incoming blitzer and give Allen time to throw this ball. Allen and Diggs looked perfectly in sync on this play — the ball was in the air as soon as Diggs turned his head.

18-yard TD pass to Davis

I love this play. The initial run fake slowed the pass rush. Allen’s pump fake to the swing route made Davis’ defender bite. The post route by the outside receiver took the cornerback and the safety out of the play. The result was a wide-open Gabe Davis for a TD.

16-yard pass to Diggs

This play action drew three underneath defenders from Miami toward the line of scrimmage. From there Diggs just ran a simple slant route to the gaping hole in the middle of the field.

55-yard TD pass to Diggs

Truth be told, this play was mainly just a superhero effort by Stefon Diggs. Technically it was a play-action pass, which does figure into the equation, but Diggs made this play into a 55-yard TD. The Bills motioned Diggs across the formation, which allowed him to be matched up against Miami’s backup CB. This also allowed Diggs a free release (no jam) off of the line of scrimmage. Just another example of the Bills designing plays to get the mismatches they want.

13-yard TD pass to Diggs

A filthy route here by Diggs, the CB had no chance. Allen really sold the run fake, which made four Dolphins defenders take a step toward the line of scrimmage.

34-yard pass to Davis

The play action combined with this “levels” route concept really put the Dolphins’ secondary in a bind. Notice the Dolphins' defensive back I highlighted freezing for a moment because he was unsure how the routes would play out.

In summary

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and the offensive players put on a clinic against the Dolphins in Week 4, and their execution on play-action passes were a big reason for their success. The offense will look to stay hot in Week 5 as they travel across the pond for a matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.