With the emergence of the offensive line, let’s look at the man in the middle
The Buffalo Bills put together a flawless offensive performance taking down the New England Patriots. The surging offensive line has been heralded for the return of Devin Singletary and a newly balanced offense that could be well-nigh unstoppable. At the center of a lot of the discussion (literally and figuratively) is veteran Mitch Morse. Let’s take a gander at the part he played in one of the most dominant victories we’ve ever seen.
The ability for linemen to work together is perhaps the most important trait for success. Right out of the gate we see a block successfully passed by Mitch Morse to Ryan “Rick” Bates. Because the block was passed well, the original defender is no threat to Josh Allen AND Morse is free to take on a second block.
You’ll likely notice that these plays show off more than Mitch Morse, though he’s the center of our attention. Morse holds his initial block, then turns and pushes into the pile. That contributes to a large pileup where the Patriots’ overload is nowhere near as effective as they’d like. It creates enough pressure to flush Allen left, but the wall created by Buffalo makes it hard to pursue.
The Bills have been using a healthy dose of pulling blockers. Morse and Spencer Brown both pull to the left (our right). Morse is on a block right away. More importantly, as he hits his man he uses the contact to pivot and seal off the lane completely. It’s hard to do it better than this.
While centers are often tasked with helping the guards, there are bound to be some one-on-one battles. Mitch Morse usually handles these pretty well. The side-to-side dance should be considered a solid Morse victory.
I don’t have data to verify this, but compared to past versions of the Bills’ running game this feels different. I’ve called out instances where they bunched up the formation and relied on brute force that I’ve suggested is not a strength of well… anyone on the line really. This run is more like their passing designs with gaps between linemen and the skill-position players. This play illustrates why I prefer this to the brute-force style. Mitch Morse is fast and can execute this at a much higher level. Look above to Play 3 where Spencer Brown also shows off some speed.
I’ve done a couple Mitch Morse pieces and without a doubt he’s a player I love seeing play for the Buffalo Bills. That doesn’t mean flawless though. The line has had their warts, and were even blasted through much of the season. They’ve overcome those issues in some part by changing the cast. Ryan Bates seems to be settling in nicely. More importantly (in my opinion) though is a shift toward emphasizing team strengths. A glaring example is playing Devin Singletary as the feature back, allowing him to work into a groove. Having players like Mitch Morse work with zone blocking and pin-and-pull schemes (see below) and using their speed to their full advantage also seems to be paying dividends. I don’t see a massive influx of talent all of a sudden. Rather they’ve begun leaning on the talent that was already there.