The Buffalo Bills dominated the Las Vegas Raiders in the home opener at Highmark Stadium, much to the delight of fans. One key aspect that stood out to many was the futility of the Raiders’ run game. After giving up big plays on the ground to the New York Jets in Week 1, the Bills clamped down. Now all plays count, but the last drive for the Raiders saw quite a few Buffalo starters watching from the sideline. Against the starting defense of the Bills, the Raiders carried the ball 12 times for 33 net yards for a ludicrously low 2.75 yards per carry. Let’s look at nearly all of those runs to see where the magic came from.
Play 1 — Ed ****ing Oliver
I’m sure you all remember this one but here it is from the sideline angle. Ed Oliver walked his man back with such force that it knocked over running back Josh Jacobs before he could even choose a lane or make a cut. If Oliver wasn’t there, there’s a chance Jacobs scooted to the outside and made something of this one. Individual effort from Oliver made this a loss of four.
Play 2 — Ah, crap
The Bills tried to end this play aggressively and the Raiders have a near-perfect play drawn up for it. There was an attempt at a cut block on A.J. Epenesa (top of the line) but he made his man miss and nearly blew up the play. Fun fact, this play was 34 yards. Up top I mentioned that the Raiders had a net of 33, meaning that the other 11 runs totaled -1 yards.
Play 3 — Early win and filled gaps
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones got an early win with a huge push. He effectively sealed off any possibility of this run flowing right (our left) and forced a sharp cut left. The Raiders had a lead blocker hitting safety Jordan Poyer, but even then Buffalo had every lane/gap shut down. The Bills swarmed to the ball.
Play 4 — The Wall
Buffalo established the line and no one looked like they’re budging. There was one lane left open but linebacker Matt Milano was ready to pounce, which of course he did. Notably, despite Matt Milano being clean and ready to crash, Ed Oliver kicked sideways into the gap to make the hit as well. With the end zone angle it could look like there was a path to the edge, but as noted in the final pause cornerback Christian Benford was waiting in the wings.
Play 5 — Groot Pursuit
Even with a chip block to help the cause, the Raiders couldn’t prevent DaQuan Jones from jumping into the backfield and forcing the ball carrier to move sideways. Defensive end Greg Rousseau was right there waiting. Groot showed off excellent patience and pursuit to make an open-field tackle.
Play 6 — Jumbo Raiders
The Raiders went obvious with the run and tried to win with force. A sixth lineman and a fullback were added to stack the odds at the line in their favor. The Bills attacked with a stacked box. Once again the Raiders hit a wall. Jordan Poyer was so fast off the snap that the intended chip block didn’t even come close to him and he was able to run the play down.
Play 7 — DaQuan Jones comes up big (again)
As a team, the Bills played well here — but Jones just dominated. The clip tells the story very well.
Play 8 — Ed Oliver blows up the line (again)
Ed Oliver almost made a Raider tackle his own dude for a second time. He was so disruptive it altered the path the runner needed to take. Oliver then shed and fell toward the ball to help with the tackle. Everyone else in blue was getting a good push and/or filling gaps as well. A total team victory and an exceptional rep from Oliver.
Play 9 — Gravity is the Raiders’ best bet
This is similar to Play 6 in that Las Vegas has added a sixth lineman and a fullback to help power through the line. This time they split a couple receivers out wide to ensure Buffalo couldn’t stack the box quite so thoroughly. It kind of paid off. There was still a wall at the line of scrimmage, but Jacobs was able to fall forward and gain three yards.
Play 10 — Trickery
There’s not much need to summarize here, so let this last clip serve as analysis/recap a bit. This play stands out because the Raiders were pretty straightforward with their running attempts. This attempt at a draw play was about as tricky as they got, and this came when the game was already in hand for Buffalo. Linebacker Terrel Bernard was tasked with sitting back and watching things develop. He wasn’t fooled and reacted immediately to the handoff. This play gained one yard and even that one came tough.
The Buffalo Bills knew and anticipated almost every single rushing attempt perfectly. They were physical with the Las Vegas Raiders, and several players had incredible games with highlight-reel plays.