Seems the Bills are having trouble getting their starting 22 on the field. This week's All-22 Review from Jeremy White will feature a look at how the Bengals were able to hit big plays, nice throws from Thad Lewis, and an offense that was missing two big pieces.
We will have a bit more time with Thad Lewis, so we don't have to talk about a QB controversy just yet. The Bills will likely start Lewis against Miami as EJ Manuel's rehab continues. I'll admit it's entirely possible that Lewis plays well enough to keep the job, but it's not all that likely. I've seen good things from both QBs, and Bills fans should be fairly pleased considering the two had a combined ONE game of NFL experience coming into the season.
The offense continues to work. The defense is still getting beat. What happened on Sunday? Let's take a look.
The Big Play Bengals
Cincinnati came into this game with only one rushing play of 20 yards or more. On the opening drive they sucked the Bills in with a beautifully designed and called end around that ripped off 34 yards and set Cincinnati on the right track.
Cincinnati sets the trap with a pitch play to the near side of the field. As the bills begin to track the play they have 9 defenders pursuing the ball. If you'd like to toss Jairus Byrd in that mix you can make it 10. Their eyes are in the backfield and they're doing what they do - attacking the football.
As the trap is set, the pitch shows just how much trouble the Bills are in.
The Vine shows just how much Kiko Alonso and Jairus Byrd are cooked on this play.
Watch the play a few times (You should do this with all of these)
The Bengals use Alonso's pursuit against him. On this play he does what he often does - seek to destroy the ball carrier in the backfield. Alonso has a knack for sliding off lineman and cutting into running lanes. If this ISN'T an end-around, Alonso has it blown up. The play worked to perfection.
It's a huge run play on the opening drive...and a sign of things to come.
The Bills overly aggressive attack hurt later in the first half as Cincinnati dialed up the screen pass at the right time. This has the look of a team that knows what it's doing. I came away from the game, and the tape feeling like the Bengals are a team that has their...um...stuff together.
Mike Pettine shows a variety of looks over the course of a game. The Bills were gashed on a huge screen pass that was either just a right-call-right-time...or a tell somewhere along the way.
Cincinnati throws a quick screen to the left side after a playfake. The Bills are blitzing from that side of the field with Nickell Roby, while Mario Williams comes roaring around that left end as well. When Marvin Jones catches the ball...he is the one man embodiment of "getting the ball to your players IN SPACE".
It wasn't the only screen that killed the Bills. 2nd quarter, play action to the right side and a throwback to the left is yet another "IN SPACE" moment. The Bills are all in...just on the wrong side of the field.
Mike Pettine has an aggressive defense. It might have just been a few perfectly-timed calls that set the Bengals on their way. You want screen passes like this from the Bills? Me too, but the Bills did call a few screens that were blown to bits. The screen is only half the battle...it has to come at the right time. The Bengals clearly had that identified.
Missing Stevie Johnson
Thad Lewis had a nice day passing the ball downfield. I'll get to that a bit later, but first I want to tell you what I saw that was missing in the Bills loss. On 3rd and3, down 17-7 in the 2nd quarter, the Bills went to a bread-and-butter play. One problem. Their best slant WR and their best slant QB weren't playing. The Bills missed on slants several times. Sometimes the throw was high, late, behind, or low. Other times the WR wasn't open, or wasn't on the correct angle. This is where the Bills desperately needed Stevie Johnson.
Check the following videos - First is Chris Hogan, then Robert Woods, and Stevie Johnson shaking a man in press coverage...
This isn't the best that Hogan ever does...or Woods either. I'm not trying to say either is a bum off the street. They're just not as good as Stevie.
I'm telling you...this is a consistent strength of his. If they're calling slants and they're not throwing to Stevie, they're at a disadvantage. This game, it hurt. No matter the coverage, inside, outside, press, man, zone, 4G...he shakes it almost every time. They missed Stevie.
No Stevie? Bad news. Flash Goodwin? GREAT news. His touchdown reception could change the way team's play against this Bills team.
This is a deep throw and it's what Bills fans have been clamoring for, right? Right. I promise you that EJ has this throw in his bag. Goodwin speeds straight by his defender, and the speed is breathtaking. The guy "covering" him has absolutely no chance. EJ can hit this. There's room for error, and an open receiver. It's a defense the Bills see a lot of (One safety high and man coverage on the seams that they run so often). This is a play the Bills have run before. Goodwin changes it. He'll change a lot of things if he stays healthy.
You're shouting at me now.... "EJ CANT THROW IT DEEP!" He can. But I'll get with you on one throw that we haven't seen EJ that is absolutely needed. On the first possession TJ Graham ran his usual fly route. He was open. Lewis hit him easily. This is the throw they've needed. Make no mistake...the Bills know it. EJ knows it. They'll keep going to it.
One high safety (who comes into the picture late). It's a look that the Bills see quite a bit. New England, Carolina, Baltimore. They'll see more of it, and they'll keep throwing this. Remember it. It's the throw they need.
Thad's Passing Chart
The Real Rub
You can worry about the deep ball. Or you can live in my world. Where watching this next video on a loop drives you crazy.
That looks like the same play. It's three attempts with the giant people.
PLEASE RUN A QUARTERBACK SNEAK!!! I PROMISE YOU, YOU WILL PLAY THE SHOUT SONG AND CELEBRATE WITH TOUCHDOWNS!!!
IS ANYONE LISTENING!!!!
Till next week...