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Bills vs. Cowboys, All-22 analysis: How Buffalo neutralized Micah Parsons

A look back at a surprisingly overmatched and often ignored Micah Parsons’ quiet night

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Buffalo Bills Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills routed the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15 by a score of 31-10 — which doesn’t fully explain just how dominant a performance it was by Buffalo. The Bills’ offense had the tough task of squaring off against one of the NFL’s most dynamic athletes and pass rushers, Micah Parsons. On the day, Parsons had a total of two tackle assists and one QB pressure.

Let’s take a look at how Buffalo was so effective at neutralizing Micah Parsons.


Play 1

The Bills ran this play over and over again throughout the game, and the Cowboys couldn’t stop it. Here, Buffalo moved the running back to the opposite side of the QB so they could attack the weakside linebacker — who happens to be a converted safety and undersized. They left Parsons unblocked to put him in a predicament on whether or not to crash down on the running back or stay wide and play the QB keep. This allowed the Bills to devote other blockers play side and take Parson out of the play without even blocking him.

Play 2

During the play before this GIF, the Bills showed this same run and bootleg action with Allen. But for that prior play, Allen pulled the ball and tried to throw on a play-action bootleg pass. Micah Parsons sniffed it out quickly and Allen had to throw it away. The Bills used this to their advantage and had Parsons’ upfield aggression work against him.

Here, they distracted him with two blockers that essentially let him go and he attacked up the field to follow the bootleg as the run ends up winding back underneath him.

This is a prime example of interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady not only having a solid game plan but also calling a game that used wrinkles off of previous plays to gain an advantage over the defense.

Play 3

The Bills simply played the leverage game on this toss play. They used the tight end, who’s lined up outside of Parsons, to pin him inside and get around the edge on the outside.

Play 4

Tight end Dawson Knox did a fantastic job during this rep of attacking the outside shoulder of Parsons and forcing him back inside to the waiting arms of right tackle Spencer Brown. This did two things: it didn’t allow Parsons to rush on the outside, and it broke up his pass rush. Parsons never really even got going before Allen threw the football.

Play 5

This play is an identical play to the first GIF of this article. Parsons was left unblocked and this time you can actually see he paused to check if Allen had the football. This split-second pause gave running back James Cook just enough time to get down the field.

Play 6

Left tackle Dion Dawkins and left guard Connor McGovern executed a textbook double team on Parsons during this play. Dawkins kept his outside leverage and forced Parsons inside to where his help was. The pair helped create a perfect pocket for Allen to throw in.

Play 7

During this play, Parsons was lined up inside at a defensive tackle position. The Bills ran a tackle trap play and Spencer Brown took Parsons for a ride. They left Parsons unblocked and he penetrated the backfield, just as they had hoped. At that point, Brown took Parsons out and Cook cut underneath.


In summary

Joe Brady and the Buffalo Bills’ offense put together and executed a fantastic game plan to beat the Cowboys' defense — and one that kept Micah Parsons in check. Credit to Brady for sticking with what was working and the players for imposing their will in commanding fashion.

The Bills have another test this week against a talented Los Angeles Chargers defense, where they’ll face elite pass rusher Kahlil Mack. Buffalo’s offense is in a groove and it will be fun to see what they come up with this week to put up points on the road against the Chargers.