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Bills vs. Cowboys, All-22 Analysis: A glimpse at Buffalo’s pass coverage vs. Dallas

What went right for the Bills on defense? Many things!

Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills had their most convincing victory of the season against the Dallas Cowboys. Not only was it a three-score margin of victory, it wasn’t even really that close with a late garbage-time touchdown for Dallas. The craziest part is that Dallas has been playing incredibly well this season and boasts the best offense in the league. I’ll admit it too, I love watching Dak Prescott play and he seems like a great guy to root for.

Prescott’s been building toward an MVP-worthy season, so how did the Bills shut him down? I don’t have time for all that, but I can offer a few glimpses into what went right.


Play 1 — Run for it

On Dallas’ first drive of the game, the Cowboys were quickly faced with a 3rd & 6. Buffalo rushed only four and mixed up some of their coverage traits, including one jam, and a healthy dose of zone coverage. Here above, Dak Prescott seemed to be looking right to left. As his eyes drifted to each option they were all in turn pretty well covered. The coverage bought enough time to allow the pass rush to collapse the pocket. Dak ran for the first in one of the most successful Cowboys plays of the day.

Play 2 — Symbiosis

Later in the drive, Dallas was faced with negative plays that led to 3rd & 14. At the roughly three-second mark in the GIF above, the coverage was excellent. Prescott needed to hold the ball — and this is what we call a “coverage sack.” This was also a four-man rush.

Play 3 — Mirror match

To start the Cowboys’ second drive, Buffalo bought an all-out blitz and Dallas responded with the right protection. This was a fantastic mirror match in play calling and pre-snap assignments. Dallas was left with options on the outside facing man coverage. Cornerback Christian Benford stepped in front of the route for a pass breakup and near interception.

Play 4 — Physicality

On this second down, a chunk gain was fine. At the pause you can see several options were available for Prescott. Just because an option is there doesn’t mean it’s a good one though. At the bottom of the screen we see a developing route with the play seemingly looking to the other side of the field to start. At the top we view an open receiver but a deceptively long distance and a defender ready for the break. For middle options, the safety valve to the running back isn’t being stuck to like glue and it’s the fastest option.

Prescott likely felt the pocket shrinking. This is often an easy chunk but a hard hit from Terrel Bernard made it an incomplete.

Play 5 — Scramble

Here’s some more symbiosis with the different levels of the defense. The coverage started off strong on this 3rd & 10 play. The four-man rush began getting pressure. I circled an open option on the first pause but it’s fool’s gold. There was a good chance a tackle’s made before the sticks. The best timing for YAC was unfortunately (for Dallas) at the same time Prescott needed to turn his body to run, preventing a throw at that moment. As the play developed to the sideline, Buffalo shadowed the potential options and made sure anyone even attempting a catch would be tackled short, or the ball possibly ending up picked off.


The Final Straw

The easiest way to summarize what went right on most plays is simply that everything went right for the Buffalo Bills. Great play calls. Controlled chaos on the scheme. Incredible execution and individual effort. Did you pick up on the fact that plays three through five were the entire Cowboys’ second-drive? That’s deliberate on my end as snap after snap was just repeatedly going the way Buffalo wanted it.