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The Offense Must Capitalize on Turnovers this Season

The Buffalo Bills’ offense has had its ups and downs this season. They have failed to get the run game going, an area in which they’ve dominated teams the prior two seasons. Even with limited quarterback play and defenses knowing that the Bills were going to be a ‘ground and pound’ unit, they were still able to run the ball.

But the switch to Rick Dennison’s scheme has led the Bills’ rush offense to drop to 21st overall in rushing, all but eliminating their effectiveness as a whole on offense and putting QB Tyrod Taylor in far too many third-and-long scenarios.

Luckily, the Bills’ defense has been playing lights out. They are currently ranked 1st in points allowed (14.8) and 12th overall. Besides the drastic change in defensive play across the board, the defensive unit has given Taylor and the offense extra drives courtesy of being +8 in turnover differential. That is exactly what happened in the Bengals game.

Wide Receiver AJ Green dropped the pass from QB Andy Dalton, and the opportunistic safety Micah Hyde reeled in his fourth interception of the season. He returned it 13 yards to the Bengals’ 23 yard line, giving his offense a prime opportunity with the team down 10-3.

With 4:44 left in the half, the offense spread the Bengals out and ran a lot of five wide sets.

This allowed Taylor to maximize his dual threat ability.

But after a couple incompletions, the offense was faced with a 3rd-and-10 from the 12 yard line.

As bad as the Bills’ offense has been the last couple of years, one area that they have been effective is in the red zone. This season is no different. According to Football Outsiders, the Bills currently rank 3rd in red zone touchdown efficiency.

The Bills will need to maintain this level of consistency in the red zone. The defense gave Taylor several opportunities to capitalize versus the Bengals, and here is one he managed to convert.

Why It Worked:

Dennison sends out 11 personnel and aligns them in a five wide set and calls an all or nothing all verticals concept. The defense counters with their nickel defense and a single high safety. The outside leverage and ‘zone eyes’ by the defenders, especially the field slot defender, make it appear that the defense is going to play some sort of zone coverage. If the pre-snap picture stays the same, then Taylor will target the slot WR Brandon Tate running down the seam, a typical cover 3 beater.

Tight end Nick O’Leary is in a three point stance at the in-line tight end position, and he is running a bender route at the safety. So his route should hold that safety in the middle of the field. These are perfect routes versus this zone coverage.

On the snap, Tate released toward the numbers and attacked the outside shoulder of the slot corner. The corner doesn’t open up at all. His eyes are still on Taylor, so Tate then bends the route back toward the middle of the field to the back of the end zone. Due to the vertical release past the linebacker level the coverage now turns into man coverage and the slot defender is a half a click slow.

I don’t think fans understand how difficult of a throw this was, given the compressed field. A vertical/seam route vs. cover 3 or cover 3 match (zone to man) from the 12 yard line requires pinpoint placement. The throw must be over the top of the slot defender, but in the smallest area in the back of the end zone away from the single high safety, a defender who has much less ground to cover, given the compressed field.

Taylor needed to have perfect touch and trajectory on the pass to drop it into one of the tightest windows on any given play. He nailed it on a critical down and during a time in which the offense needed to hold up their end of the bargain.


The offense will need to maintain their red zone touchdown efficiency, but ultimately improve on third downs as a whole. The defense can not carry the team every game by giving them extra drives or short fields. The Bills will need to play complementary football.



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Erik is an avid football junkie. He played running back and cornerback at Canisius High School in Buffalo, NY before going on to play in college at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. After college, Erik entered the United States Border Patrol and relocated to the southern states. It was there, in Southern California, that Turner began his coaching career before transferring to upstate New York in 2009. He became the offensive coordinator at a local high school in 2010, where he coached three seasons. Erik founded Cover 1 as an outlet to continue learning and pass on knowledge about the sport. Erik is an alumni of The Scouting Academy in addition to his efforts with Cover 1 sports. Turner also recently was signed on to assist in NFL Draft coverage at Inside the Pylon. He can be followed on Twitter at @Cover_1_.

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