The Buffalo Bills offense has lacked a vertical passing game all season. In this week's All-22 breakdown I'll show you the play that Ryan Fitzpatrick hit against the Jags, and just how much the threat of the long ball means to an offense. We'll take a look at RG3 and his success.
Ryan Fitzpatrick's 51 yard pass to TJ Graham to set up the Bills' first touchdown against Jacksonville is a play the offense has been waiting to hit. It's been there several times throughout the season. Over and over the throw was missed, or protection broke down, or pressure off the edge led to a disruption. This time it hit. Take a look at how it happened, and just what the deep ball can do for an offense.
We'll start with the big play. The first over-the-top completion of the season for the Bills. Usually this throw from Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to be down the sideline. There have been opportunities against the Patriots, 49ers, Colts, Patriots a few more times, and countless other times that the deep throw isn't called because the Bills haven't been able to hit it.
They finally did...and if you've been keeping up with my All-22 breakdowns...it should come as no surprise just how they dialed it up.
The Bills face a 2nd and 20 and line up with a three WR set with Fred Jackson in the backfield. The Jacksonville safeteis lineup off set. The near side safety creeps down toward the line of scrimmage...a look the Bills have seen quite a lot of this season. Opposing defenses are not shy about this. They'll bring a safety down into the box and (in my opinion) dare the Bills to throw it deep.
Fitzpatrick sees this...and audibles to a different play.
When he talked about it with us on Monday he said it was one of two plays they had called. He referred to it as a "check with me" play that they'd pick based on what the defense showed. Fitz said, "We went to the pass play. That was great to hit that pass. That's one that TJ and I have hit a lot in practice. It was good to get during the game. It's one of those things where you give him a hard time when he gets tackled at the one yard line."
Funny line from Fitz...truth be told TJ had to slow down for the ball and likely could have walked into the endzone on a better toss.
The safety backs off momentarily...and then continues toward the line. From the 40 yard line, all the way down to the 48 yard line at the time of the snap.
Here's the look. Time and time again the Bills have called a play to beat a team down the field. The moment has arrived yet again.
TJ Graham takes an inside position and proceeds to smoke his defender. Breaking free into the secondary there is only one safety back and as is the case in this scenario - he's toast. He just doesn't know it yet.
The Jacksonville D holds its two LBs on the play, along with the safety who crowded the line. They've got the Bills logo covered pretty well. It appears that they're expected a screen pass or dump off to Fred Jackson.
The throw however, isn't a dump off. It's over the top of the defense to TJ Graham who gets behind the defense.
The end zone look gives you a good idea of just how much room there is for Fitz to throw to. The question now becomes this: Will teams dare them to throw that still? My guess is YES. What would it mean to fear a long ball? I'll show you just what it can do - courtesy of RG3 and the Redskins.
Remember this - Fitz's throw (good throw) traveled from the 39 yard line, to the 19 in the air. That's 42 air yards.
Robert Griffin III is obviously a rare NFL talent. While he's a danger to run the ball, it's his accuracy with the deep ball that is really remarkable to me. The Dallas Cowboys found out first hand what it's like to be beaten by RG3, and what it's like to play scared.
A pair of TD passes in the 1st quarter show you just what it means to be able to chuck the ball 60 yards to a spot.
First quarter the Redskins strike. This is a play-action pass that embarasses the Dallas defense.
Griffin sets and looks downfield knowing that he's going to have his man open. As the safeties squat just short of mid-field, Aldrick Robinson (who has a 40 time that's not as good as TJ Graham's...but is obviously quite good) is burning down the field.
As Robinson hits the 47 yard line, RG3 makes his delivery.
The ball leaves the hand of RG3 as Robinson crosses the 43 yard line.
This throw could be on a rope if RG3 wanted it to be. His receiver is as open as you could ever ask. Where's the throw delivered to?
The catch is made at the 14 yard line. This ball travels 28 yards just in the yardage it takes the receiver to track it down. To watch this live is to watch a centerfielder track a fly ball, and go get it.
A 68 yard TD pass where the ball travels 62 yards in the air. SIXTY TWO. From the 24 yard line, to the other 14 yard line. When you have to worry about a QB who can throw it over top of you, it leads to other breakdowns. That's 7 points for the Redskins, and burn marks all over the defense. How do they adjust? By overcompensating later in that same quarter. Another TD pass comes courtesy of the Cowboys new "Holy crap this dude can sling it" defense.
Here's the fear:
RG3 finds Pierre Garcon across the middle for a mid-range throw, and a run-and-catch that goes for a 60 yard TD. It's not the best throw from RG3. It's an incredible catch, and an incredible showcase of just how much the Cowboys respect the deep ball.
Garcon is the receiver at the top of the screen. Watch what the slot receiver does and just how the Cowboys react. On the outside is a short route that is greeted with a monster cushion from Dallas.
Griffin sets with pressure coming from both edges. The slot receiver in this play is doing one thing - stretching the field. You haven't seen the half of it yet.
Griffin squeezes one over the linebacker and into the hands of Garcon who makes an incredible catch on a ball thrown behind him. The safety behind Garcon is frozen for a moment, anticipating a chance at an interception. But what else do you see? The outside receiver has an 8 yard cushion....and what about our slot guy? He's still stretching.
Garcon snares the ball and begins his jaunt to the endzone. The safety...falls. The nearside corner, is standing still. The only hope is a chase from behind OR...our red circle. He's still chasing his man. Remember earlier in this same quarter there was a pass that traveled 62 yards in the air.
It isn't until Garcon is at the 34, and the corner the 19 yard line where he turns and realizes that he might be needed here. He never gets there. Garcon scores and the legend of RG3 grows.
A stretched field means running room for YAC yards, and Pierre Garcon just racked up about 45 YAC.
So what's it all mean? I've been seeing it all year. Chan Gailey gets his offense cracks down the field. They've had several opportunities to hit the deep ball. Week 13 against Jacksonville they finally got one. Gailey might now give the old, "Well I've seen him do it before so I know he can do it again" routine on Fitz throwing the deep ball but the truth is that he doesn't do it nearly enough.
It's not enough to know that a QB is capable of doing it. You have to be afraid of it. That's playing with a full deck.