Three Plays To Beat The Bills’ Defense

Eric Ebron

Splash plays.  Every team wants them but how do they happen? This article is going to look at the defense of the upcoming opponent focusing on the three big plays they allowed the previous or recent weeks. It’ll take a look at the whole play including details such as personnel, formations, blocking schemes and route combinations. As a follow up to each play, there will be the Steelers Scenario identifying the player or players who could benefit by running similar plays.

Week 1 Opponent – Buffalo Bills

Game reviewed vs Indianapolis Colts

Play One

Q1 8:15 – 1st and 10 from the BUF 37

Indianapolis – 12 personnel

Buffalo – Cover 1 Man

The Colts are in 12 personnel with a tight end on each wing and wide receiver to each side in the tight slot. The quarterback is under center with the running back lined up seven yards behind him.  Buffalo is in their nickel defense with just one defender, a safety, more than 5 yards off the ball.

Wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) is lined up to the left with tight end Mo Alie-Cox (81) on the left wing. Tight end Jack Doyle (84) is on the right wing with Michael Pittman (11) lined up outside of him. With quarterback Philip Rivers (17) under center Doyle motions to the left inside of Alie-Cox and safety Jordan Poyer (21) goes with him signaling Man coverage. With the motion the defensive line shifts to the strong side of the formation.

At the snap, he offensive line all moves to their left and Rivers will fake a hand off to running back Jonathan Taylor (28) making it look like a run to the left.  This gets the linebackers, Poyer and Nickelback Taron Johnson (24) to bite up.

Pascal will run a Go route and Alie-Cox will run a Post to take their defenders deep. Pittman will run a Drive route across the field over the linebackers and under the two deep routes and he is one on one versus Tre’Davious White (27) and Rivers hit him for a 22 yard gain. Nice gain but look at Alie-Cox on the Post.  Johnson had him in coverage and when he bit up on the play action Alie-Cox was five yards ahead of him. That’s the route to hit here.

Steelers Scenario – This would be a nice play to introduce Pat Freiermuth to the NFL. Have Chase Claypool run the go route to make sure he takes the safety to his side. Run JuJu Smith-Schuster on the Drive route. Using the big wide receivers in this play will give it more of a run look and have Freiermuth run the Post pattern.


Play Two

Q4 7:03– 1st and 10 on the IND 40

Indianapolis – 11 personnel

Buffalo – Nickel, Over Front

Indianapolis has a wide receiver lined up wide and in the slot to the left with a wide receiver wide and a tight end in the slot to the left. The quarterback is in shotgun with the running back flanking him to the right. Buffalo is in their nickel defense and will drop into a Cover 3 look.

To the left they have Pascal in the slot and T.Y. Hilton split out wide. To the right is tight end Trey Burton (80) in the slot with Pittman out wide. This looks like an RPO, run/pass option, with the receiver to the right running slants with the receivers to the left looking to block.

It looks like Rivers has his mind made up already but he does glance late to his left before handing it off to Nyheim Hines (21). The left tackle Jared Veldheer (65) will mirror Mario Addison (97) on the edge. The left guard Quenton Nelson (56) will block down and push the defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (99) to the inside allowing the center to Ryan Kelly (78) to fold around him to lead block.

The Bills are sending linebacker Matt Milano (58) on a blitz so this shifts linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) to his left to cover the space left by Milano. This gives Kelly a good angle to get between Edmunds and the runner and Hines makes a nice cut and uses his speed to gain 30 yards.

Steelers Scenario – This play can be run by Najee Harris or Anthony McFarland with Green having plenty of athleticism to pull out in front to lead the way.


Play Three

Q4 6:20– 1st and 10 at the BUF 27

Indianapolis -11 personnel

Buffalo – Nickel, Quarters

The Colts will start with two receivers and a tight end bunched close to the line on the left with a receiver split wide right. A running back flanks the quarterback to the left.  Buffalo is in their nickel defense and look to be dropping into a quarters coverage.

Hilton is split wide to the right and to the left they have Doyle tight to the line of scrimmage but off the line, Pittman outside of him on the line of scrimmage and Pascal outside of him off the line of scrimmage. Pascal will go in motion to the right and Johnson goes with him making it look like Man coverage.

At the snap, Hilton will run a Dig route, Pittman will run a Post pattern and Doyle will run an Out and Up cutting underneath Pittman’s route before moving up the sideline. Pascal and Hines chip at the line of scrimmage before running flat routes.

Judging by the drops by the safeties and Levi Wallace (39) who is lined up to Hilton’s side it looks like it is quarters coverage where the four deep defenders have one quarter of the field but it looks like the move inside by Pittman made White panic a bit and he chased him instead of dropping to his zone. Unless Milano was supposed to stay on Doyle but either way this leaves Doyle to the outside wide open for the 27 yard touchdown.

Steelers Scenario – In 11 personnel the tight end will likely be Eric Ebron so for the bunch on this play I think Smith-Schuster in the role of Pascal, Claypool running the Post route and Ebron on the out and up. Claypool is the best deep threat and will draw the attention and hopefully open up the space for Ebron.


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