A win over the defending Super Bowl Champions will go a long way to build a team’s collective confidence. Eric Wood and Marcell Dareus get game balls for work in the trenches, while old offense and new defense make the difference. It’s tape time, with All-22.
The story of the day for the Bills is probably the five interceptions of Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Mike Pettine’s varied looks confused Flacco frequently, and put Bills players in positions to make plays. We’ll take a look at both of Aaron Williams interceptions, and then focus on Kiko Alonso and Marcell Dareus in the run game. While Alonso had a pair of picks, I think the All-22 can sometimes be better used to show you things you may not get to see on regular broadcast TV. Without further ado...let’s look at the D.
Aaron Williams is turning into a nice player. Williams, drafted as a corner was moved to safety by the Bills because it appeared that he couldn’t hack it at CB. Now it looks like the Bills have a solid player at both positions, and Mike Pettine is getting an awful lot out of Williams when he's in dire need of play makers in the secondary.
On the first of Williams two interceptions, he lines up in what appears to be man coverage.
As Joe Flacco steps back with the football, he sees both Bills DBs in man coverage, and believes he has a throw to the sideline available.
But the trap is set. Williams is not going to follow his man, but rather immediately turn and drop back into a zone look. (I can't tell you if this is necessarily the plan or just a clairvoyant-caliber move from Williams but it's safe to bet it's the plan).
Williams after just a few strides turns around to sit down while passing his man off to Jim Leonard. His head is around before Flacco's arm is moving. He waits. As Flacco's target comes open, he's running right to Williams.
Williams, ready. Flacco, no clue.
The trap is sprung and the Bills get the turnover.
Williams' second interception is a great example of a blitz that’s not, by the numbers, a blitz. Immediately after the play I gave Mike Pettine credit for sending a blitz at exactly the right time. Thing of it is...he only sent four rushers, but it likely felt like it was a jailbreak.
Jerry Hughes races from the middle of the line, around the right side, while Nickell Roby comes from wide left. The result is two defenders free-running at Flacco.
The LBs drop into coverage while Flacco is immediately pressured into making a throw. The DC dials up pressure, but Williams has to make a great play to make this happen. Flacco has his receiver singled up against Aaron Williams who was in press coverage.
Williams attempts a bit of a jam, but doesn't get much. He's in coverage by himself.
Williams stays with Torrey Smith into the endzone.
A perfect throw might win this matchup...
As we know, it wasn't a perfect throw. Credit the pressure, the player with the pick, and the man making the call. They lean on their coverage here, and in this case it's Williams that makes a great play.
Kookoo for Kiko
Kiko Alonso’s two interceptions and Marcell Dareus’ two sacks are the statistical highlights of their respective days. However, they led a Bills run defense to a shutdown performance, allowing 24 yards total to Baltimore. The longest run of the day was 7 yards, and it’s in large part because of these two.
Watch Kiko's swim move to stop Ray Rice...
There are more plays to show with both Alonso and Dareus picking up the run nicely. Alonso on a few occasions danced back into a cutback lane with his eyes in the backfield. He’s a heck of a player, and when you add in the ball-hawking that we’ve seen through four weeks, there’s reason to be very excited about what he brings to the club.
Marcell Dareus has been a bit of a mystery for Bills fans. He plays a non-glamor position so maybe we just don't see how good he is week in and week out. Week 4's matchup with the Baltimore offensive line brought out his best. When over the center he was consistently overpowering lineman, and releasing to make tackles.
The big man looked plenty mobile in stuffing the run.
Running the football has been hit and miss for Nathaniel Hackett's offense through four weeks. The difference in the Baltimore game, was consistent use of I-formation, or other traditional sets. The read option was used, but not exclusively.
Right from the start the Bills show they're willing to go more traditional. On the first play of the game CJ Spiller picks up 10 yards.
If you watch this play carefully, EJ freezes the linebacker (Red Circle) by standing and bluffing a quick throw. That half-step the LB doesn't get allows Spiller to find some room into the second level.
Fullback Frank Summers has a clean shot at the LB in the hole, and wipes him out...While Kraig Urbik is able to get to the Red Circle, and free Spiller up for a nice gain. Traditional run formation, and great success right from the start.
On Fred Jackson's TD run, Eric Wood clears the way.
It's another run out of the I-formation where Frank Summers leads the way. Wood chips the nose tackle, and then moves on to find a linebacker.
He finds Daryl Smith, and might as well put the Ravens LB on a dolly, because he rides him right out of the play.
Jackson makes his cut on the safety, and Wood just keeps going.
Arms up. Touchdown.
The success in the run game set up more playaction as well. Leading late in the game, OC Nathaniel Hackett dials up a deep ball that very well could have been the nail in Baltimore's coffin. Here's a look at the vine.
Notice that OLB Courtney Upshaw goes all in on the handoff to Jackson. Manuel keeps the ball, slides in the pocket and sets to deliver the deep ball to Robert Woods. Woods has again slipped behind coverage and is a sure thing for a deep touchdown. I chose the VINE here because you can't see that EJ doesn't get a chance to put everything into this throw from still shots. Manuel hops to set quickly, and under throws the ball for an interception.
This would count as "points left on the field" which the Bills have talked about since the end of the game. Fortunately, it didn't cost them.
One more thing that I'll leave you with as food for thought. Are the Bills babying EJ Manuel? No. I don't think that they're doing anything that isn't normally done with a young quarterback. On 3rd and goal of their first possession the Bills fail to score on a play where EJ ultimately takes a sack. There's not necessarily anything wrong with it, but be on the lookout for plays like this.
It's a half-field read.
As Manuel drops and looks to his right, all three of his targets are very close together. The Bills are looking for a quick throw, but no one flashes open.
MAYBE Stevie Johnson is available here for a back-shoulder throw? Maybe?
Manuel tucks and scrambles for a loss. The Bills settle for a field goal.
Great performances from Kiko Alonso, Marcell Dareus and Aaron Williams led the defense to a great day against the Ravens. Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine continues to find ways to fool accomplished quarterbacks (what happened against Geno Smith I have no idea).
Offensively I think you should expect to see more traditional run formations mixed in with some read-option. EJ found running room a few times and there is more to be had in that department.
Other questions I received, and the answers I gleaned from the tape:
Yes, Stevie Johnson was often open. He didn't have his best day (1 catch for -1 yds) but accurate throws get him a touchdown and some big gainers. Nothing shocking there. He can be better, and so can his QB.
Robert Woods is getting open quite a lot too.
Kiko's first interception was another example of confusing the QB. You can see Alonso and Manny Lawson communicating during the play and passing the WRs off to one another on their crossing routes. In this process Flacco just loses Alonso.
Cleveland next...off to watch their tape.
Thanks for reading!