Strap in for our three-part journey
Look, this isn’t about gloating and reliving the fun times last season. There’s the issue of repeatability with turnovers, which we’re going to look at it. Buuuuuuut, if you happen to have a little fun watching these while we learn, I know I’m not stopping you. Welcome to Volume One of our three-part series “analyzing” the Buffalo Bills’ 2020 takeaways.
To reiterate, the focus for this series is to ask the question: “Can the Bills repeat what we see here?” The first element here is the pressure up the middle that causes Sam Darnold to scramble. That should be repeatable assuming the defensive line changes pan out. More importantly though, watch Matt Milano closely. It’s not JUST that he has eyes on Darnold the whole time. Before the ball is thrown he’s drifting backward. Why? Because he knows that’s where the receiver is supposed to be. Without looking.
Once again pressure causes the play to break down. Jordan Poyer’s crash toward the line confuses the New York Jets and leads to a clean hit behind the line of scrimmage. Jerry Hughes, who causes the initial disruption, is already back to the play and falls on the ball.
At first glance this might look like a bad throw, slightly to the right where Levi Wallace picks it off. On second glance you should notice that as soon as the receiver turns, Wallace comes back to the ball as well. All defensive players are considered eligible, which means they have a right to go after the ball, as long as they’re not going through someone else. Wallace boxes out the receiver, not allowing him to drift to where the pass is going. As Wallace is playing the ball, this is perfectly legal.
This is our first one that’s mostly luck. The Los Angeles Rams are trying to lateral up the field for a miracle and, as it happens nearly every time, the chaos of trying to do that leads to a critical failure. Tre’Davious White is in the right place at the right time.
As I’ve noted every year since head coach Sean McDermott joined the Buffalo Bills, the defense is coached to rain haymakers down on opponents. Josh Norman is picture perfect here as the left arm has a ton of force coming in, and the right arm is just as forceful on the other side to finish the tackle. No matter what, Norman was ending this play.
I posted another angle of this on Twitter simply because it makes me laugh. Quinton Jefferson make a phenomenal play, but it’s hilarious how casual he is about it. This is another example of how Buffalo preaches to go for the ball whenever possible.
A.J. Klein is a bit off on his angle. To be fair, Travis Kelce made a pretty nice shift on the move. What’s our lesson so far though? The Bills are taught to go for the ball. Josh Norman falls on it after the swipe.
Not only are the Bills taught to go for the ball, quite often the defensive backs seem like “watch the QB” is given to them as a mantra. Dane Jackson has his shorter route covered but sees the pass coming. He seems to recognize where the rest of his teammates are and navigates to the ball.
Quinton Jefferson gets a hand up and from there it’s anyone’s ball. Anyone turns out to be Jerry Hughes, and this is so sudden the camera operator is fooled. I don’t personally feel the Bills are preaching to the defensive line to get their hands up more than any other team. This is often a player-specific skill where some guys have a knack for it.
We’ll discuss total volume at another time when we ask if the Bills were especially good at creating turnovers. For now the focus is on replicating circumstances and the above grouping is very promising. There’s compelling evidence that the coaching staff is emphasizing skills that should lead to turnovers. There’s further evidence that the players are paying attention and executing.