1. OUR JOSH ALLEN HIGHLIGHTS
Last season, the Buffalo Bills found themselves up in the Wildcard Round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs. Josh Allen caught a touchdown pass. He completed a deep pass to John Brown, the Bills ran the ball well, and found themselves up 16-0. Then reality melted. Allen was sacked by J.J. Watt to force a field goal. Allen took a 19 yard sack underneath the body of Jacob Martin. Then Deshaun Watson happened. The Bills lost in overtime.
In the Super Wildcard Round, Allen continued his meteoric rise from frontal lobeless daredevil who could jump twenty-seven school buses on a dirt bike while stiff arming Anthony Barr, to a legitimately great quarterback in Buffalo’s 27-24 win over the Colts, all while still providing absurd plays that make Josh Allen who he is—Josh Allen.
Entering this game, the Bills were a tough match up for the Colts because of their great spread quick passing game. They could stretch the Colts horizontally to find holes in the zone. They also have a deep wide receiver group with the speed needed to stretch the Colts’ defense vertically as well.
On first and ten with 4:53 left in the first, the Bills started their first touchdown drive. The Colts are playing a Tampa 2 coverage. Inside linebacker Bobby Okereke (#58) has the intermediate middle. Stefon Diggs (#14) is the #3 wide receiver in a trips left formation running a post inside of Okereke that he takes up the seam. On the other side of the formation, Dawson Knox (#88) is running a corner. This route occupies the deep half safety Khari Willis (#37). Allen pump fakes to keep the safety wide and the middle of the field open. He replants, and then hits Diggs, putting the ball right in front of Willis.
On their first drive, Allen missed a sideline pass rolling right. That was the only miss he had. For the rest of the game the sideline warped into a magnetic plane that Allen was able to control. Indy is playing cover six, with the thirds vertical cornerback being on the left side of the field, away from the tight end Knox (#88). Knox’s post splits the safeties and occupies each one. Underneath, from the opposite side of the formation, is Gabriel Davis (#13) running a deep dig. The interior of the Colts run a loop that is able to free up defensive tackle Deforest Buckner (#99). Allen escapes the pocket, Darius Leonard (#53) follows Allen instead of feeling and chasing the crosser, giving Allen the space to zip it to the bunny hopping Davis.
This throw is something minuscule that means so much. One of Allen’s best traits is his eye control. He can manipulate the defense with his mind. This, in combination with his athleticism and ability to throw on the run, allows him to move the defense as he wants to, and create open throws on his own. In the redzone, on first and ten, Buffalo rolls Allen right from 22 personnel. He reads each deep crossing route, sees both covered, but rather than immediately dump the flat, he continues his run to keep Okereke (#58) in front of him, and open the flat for Zach Moss, turning 2nd and 10 into 2nd and 3.
On the following play, Buffalo would go up 7-0. This is the most convoluted and grotesque read-pass option you’ll ever see. Lately, the Ravens have based their offense around counter motion (pulling two backside blockers to the playside) and have run zone reads and read-pass options off of it. Baltimore’s is bright and crisp. This is that if that was placed in a garbage disposal and garbled up.
Buffalo pulls left guard Ike Boettger (#65) to the edge, and leads Devin Singletary (#26) from the off-set fullback position to seal the edge and to set up quarterback power. Buckner (#99) spins away from the strong play side duece block, suffocating any rush lane Allen may have. Brian Daboll built in a fail safe. Knox, the play side tight end, sells the block on Kenny Moore (#23) before seeping out to the corner. Rummaging behind the line of scrimmage, sucking the defense up, Allen is able to pull the ball out of his pocket, and hit a fadeway and-one touchdown pass to Knox to take the lead.
After a run-run-run drive that failed, the only thing that could prevent the Bills from moving the ball, the Bills were able to take shot deep in their own territory. Similar to the previous throw to Davis, Buffalo used a deep route to open up the intermediate. The Colts are playing cover three sky, where the safety Willis (#37) has the flat. In a stacked set, Diggs runs a post that pulls the sideline third cornerback, and behind him is Davis running the corner. Allen reads the corner taking the post, since he’s vertical after five yards, and escapes the pocket away from the interior blitz. On the run, he pumps the drag, uses his eyes to hold Willis, the flat defender, forcing Willis to cover two routes at once, and tosses it out of bounds and up the sideline, in an impossible spat of space where Davis can get two feet in.
Allen’s sideline throwing heroics transpire from his right arm immediately. He dips around the pocket like a disgusting white candy, a vessel for disco colored powder, and ejects from the left side of the pocket. Indy’s Pro Bowl flag football linebacker Leonard (#53) watches the seam, sees the crosser, but gets lost in Allen’s madness. He can’t chase the dig. Rolling left, flipping the ball drunk, belligerent, hilarious, and obfuscating the defense, he sticks Davis on the sideline once again.
Allen not only scorched a fringe top five defense for 26 completions, 324 yards, and 2 touchdowns, but he was also the entirety of the Bills’ run game. Allen had 54 rushing yards on 11 carries. Zach Moss and Singletary combined for 10 carries for 42 yards. Allen was the entirety of the Bills’ offense. He was their passing and rushing attack.
The pass game helped set up Allen’s run game. The Bills ran successful draw plays throughout this game. On this same drive, on 2nd and 10, in an empty 3x2 wide receiver set, the Bills were able to convert the first care free and climb out of the hole. Okereke (#58) was the only player in the box and he was concerned with Isaiah McKenzie’s (#19) route. Entirely focused on his coverage responsibilities, head turned from Allen, he doesn’t see Boettger’s (#65) second level climb. This leads the way. The interior defenders focused on their pass rush opens the door. Allen sprints, cuts inside the safety, and flips over the top rope for 16.
Back around the goal line, Daboll once again opts to use Allen’s body, instead of his arm to score. Rather than play a smaller edge rusher, the Colts move the brutal Denico Autry (#96) to defensive end. He becomes the read defender. Josh Allen fakes the hand off to Zach Moss (#20), keeps it when Autry crashes, then turns the corner and cuts inside of Leonard’s loop around the line of scrimmage to finish off the drive.
Allen’s pivotal throw came in the fourth quarter. Up 17-10, with 14:17 left, the Colts finally played cover one. All game long they had prevented Allen from going deep by playing cover six, and quarters, sticking on vertical routes, and giving up impossible deep crossing routes and throws to the sideline that only a quarterback like Allen could pull off. The biggest mismatch they had defensively was on the interior of their defense. Their defensive tackles had to win their match ups against Boettger, Mitch Morse, and Jon Feliciano. For most of the game they failed to get pressure, and when they did, Allen was able to simply out run it.
Needing a big play, the Colts brought the blitz to snuff out this drive. Allen recognized Willis (#37) sniffing around the box, and audibles to the shotgun changing the playcall. With Julian Blackmon (#32) rolling to the center of the field pre-snap the blitz was on. The Colts slanted their defensive line left and brought six. Calm. The blitz picked up. Allen checked left to hold Blackmon. After resetting his feet he went back to the right sideline where his All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs beat T.J. Carrie on the vertical route. 35 yards. 24-10 Buffalo.
Josh Allen isn’t Josh Allen without the stupefying and surreal. Most will point to these plays as being faults in his brain, something wrong with the foundation of who he is. What they fail to understand is these plays are vital to Allen being the player he is. You can’t love the beauty of sideline laser beams, disgusting barbaric read pass options, suicidal bloody quarterback draws, if you can’t also appreciate the times when his frontal lobe melts off his brain and seeps out of his nose.
His incredible performance was almost all for nothing. Because like last year, in field goal range, driving to ice the game, hilarity ensued. On a rare play where the Colts were able to get interior pressure thanks to Tyquan Lewis’s (#94) wide rip around Feliciano (#76), Allen rode the carousel, spun out of the sack, and right into Autry (#96). Slimy and lubricated he was unable to slip out of this one. During his struggle, trying to squeeze out, he lost the ball. The Bills recovered. It still meant an 18 yard loss and turned a potential field goal attempt into a punt giving Philip Rivers a chance to fail to lead a fourth quarter comeback again.
If these are too many words, and you are a cigarette smoking, leather jacket wearing maniac who hasn’t read since a fourth grade book report required you to read The Egypt Game, here are the highlights, grand and beautiful, soaking in milk, perfect and trapped in eternity.
This week the Bills get the Ravens, a team who plays a completely different style than the Colts. Man coverage. High blitz rate. Spectacular outside cornerback play. Enormous and hulking defensive line. An inability to generate front four pressure. Can’t wait.
Throughout the season, and for the last decade of football, we’ve seen it happen time and time again. The head coach opts to kick instead of listening to the computer and going for it, stands agasp when the game is lost, stemming from this decision alone. All cowards going to hell, as it is written in stone.
Last weekend both Mike Vrabel and Mike Tomlin, two head coaches who lead teams who pride themselves on being STRONG, TOUGH, BLUE COLLAR, and PHYSICAL, made decisions opposite of their apostolic foundation, and punted when they should have gone for it.
Against Baltimore, the Titans were down 17-13 after Justin Tucker didn’t do what he always does, missed a 52 yard field goal, in what was typical TITAN UP style football. Armed with great field goal position, the Titans aimed to take the lead on the ensuing possession. They found themselves facing 3rd and 2 on the Ravens’ 40 yard line. Derrick Henry tried to ram himself through the interior. It failed. On 4th and 2, instead of TITANING UP, the Titans tightened up, and punted the ball to Baltimore’s 15 yard line. Despite having 2K Derrick Henry, and a top five offense, Tennessee gave the ball away all for 25 yards of field position. They would never get this close to scoring again.
On the following possession the Ravens almost iced the game on 4th and 2, their conversion rejected by an offensive pass interference penalty. They settled for three points. The Titans, with 4:13 remaining, would need a touchdown to tie. Khalif Raymond slipped on a post route. All Marcus Peters does is intercept quarterbacks, and this interception gave the Ravens their revenge from the previous two matchups.
The Steelers dropped their pants down 28 points against Cleveland. Starting the game off with a hilarious snap over Ben Roethlisberger’s head, where instead of trying to just recover the ball, both he and James Conner tried to fall on it out of the endzone, turning two points to seven. Finally, after realizing the Browns’ malodorous outside cornerback play, the Steelers were able to attack Cleveland in the intermediate and vertical game to make this one interesting, until, Tomlim wussed out.
On 4th and 1, at the start of the fourth quarter, down 23-35, with the ball at their own 46 yard line, and the metaphorical wind at their back, the Steelers had minutes to come up with a playcal, and the receiver talent to win any coverage matchup they may have. Instead of going for it, their punt unit scurried around in the lamest attempt to draw the defense offsides you’ll ever see. The Browns didn’t flinch. The Steelers punted. Baker led Cleveland on a 6 play 80 yard touchdown drive to put the Browns up 42-23 and kill it.
Both coaches were COWARDS in the Super Wildcard Round. Each one will have to spend their summer fishing, staring out at the horizon, reflecting upon the sins they committed. Each one deserves the loss they suffered, and they shall carry it as a stain upon their hearts. Hopefully they learn their lesson next season. Losing games on fourth down is what Al Pacino made a speech about, and what makes the game beautiful.
Always and forever, kicking is for cowards.
3. STUFFED BOX PIZZA
The Ravens stifled the Titans top five offense, and after Corey Davis left the game, dejected and invisible, Tennessee had no shot. The Titans needed their outside wide receivers to beat man coverage. Only A.J. Brown could pull this off. Tennessee was stuck running into heavy boxes, and the Ravens murdered the Titans run game, stacking the box, and having a tackling performance for the ages. On 20 carries, the Titans only picked up 45 yards, and in addition, Derrick Henry only averaged 2.2 yards a carry, something impossible in Arthur Smith’s offense.
On these carries the Ravens played a typical NFL six or seven man box six times, and gave up 15 yards on these carries. They played eight or more defenders in the box on 14 of these carries and allowed only 30 yards. Rushing lanes were filled. Space constrained. If Derrick Henry was able to ride in an elevator care free before, he isn’t any longer.
Aside from a sheer arithmetical perspective, the Titans run game flailed for two main reasons. Henry’s vision was off. He missed cut back lanes. He cut too soon. He tripped over his blockers. He’d rampage through the interior on short yardage downs instead of waiting for the play to develop. The other problem was their tackle play was dull. Dennis Kelly was fine, instead of the great he had been all season, and third string left tackle David Quessenberry played like a third string left tackle. He couldn’t stick on his blocks, he missed his backside cuts, his head placement was off, all of it was hideous. It isn’t a hyperbole to say this, if Taylor Lewan was healthy the Titans would have won this game.
The Ravens front won this game. Tennessee’s outside zone game didn’t work, their gap scheme plays didn’t move the first level. The Ravens melted their titanium run game.
4. WYATT RAY JIM BOB CHILI DOGGY TELLER
The Browns are an outside zone team. First and foremost. That being said, a lot of their enormous jolts of yards in their run game come from their power run game to turn horizontal flowing into a straight forward demolition. They like to run trap, power, and guard-tight end counter. And at the heart of these plays is Wyatt Teller pulling up on lighter defenders.
With Bud Dupree out, Teller (#77) was given free reign to take on lighter defenders like Cassius Marsh and Alex Highsmith. He was able to get his head on the inside shoulder, and even when he missed, he carried edge defenders upfield before plopping on top of them.
Puking and orange, in a splattering shade of garish, Teller obliterated those men a lesser size than him.
5. ALLIGATOR ARMS
It isn’t pass interference if you don’t extend your arm all the way. DeAndre Hopkins is a master of this craft, fully taking advantage of this wide receiver tool to pry bodies off him, and break free from coverage. A.J. Brown also understands this. Despite not having the pure speed to scorch cornerbacks, he’s able to win with size, physicality, strength, and an overwhelming body.
In Tennessee’s loss to Baltimore, Brown beating man coverage was the entirety of the Titans’ offense. Henry couldn’t do anything. With Corey Davis injured, or sulking, or a combination of both, on the bench after being unable to win his outside matchup all game, the Titans didn’t have the wide receiver talent to step up in his place, or win the matchups they had against Jimmy Smith, Chuck Clark, and whichever linebackers were in coverage.
Brown had 6 catches for 83 yards and 1 touchdown. Three of these catches and 52 yards came on their second drive, and their only touchdown drive of the game. On this drive, Brown displayed how to perfectly stave off Marlon Humphrey (#44), without fully extending his arm, and create space against a cornerback who is quicker and faster than him. This skill was paired perfectly with fades from the slot and from tight alignments out into green pastures.
You can extend, but you can’t fully extend. A little alligator arm prodding off the cornerback is acceptable. The first catch, the second catch, the third catch and touchdown, none of these plays are penalties. It’s just a larger man beating a smaller man exactly as the game allows.
I’m a sucker for offensive and defensive line play. Watching games live is merely an appetizer for when the behind view comes into play. The premier game from last weekend was Washington v. Tampa Bay. THE Football Team with Chase Young, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Montez Sweat up against the Buccaneers’ interior offensive line, who look and play like actual pirates, and the veteran Donovan Smith, crafty and aggressive, and the rookie phenom Tristan Wirfs acting as dragon book ends on a nerd’s shelf, were able to control Washington’s front in the first half.
Tom Brady averaged a little more than 17 yards an attempt. Throughout the first half he had all the time he needed to carry out his play action his fakes, sit, and deliver vertically. In front of him was his offensive line showing that pass protection isn’t passive, it’s war, and it should be just as bloody, purple, and gruesome as the run game is.
Washington was able to create pressure in the second half and stymie Tampa some. This was because of a terrible injury to Alex Cappa. His fractured ankle led to the inept Ted Larsen coming in, opening the door for Payne to destroy him with rips and bull rushes, and turning comfy and cozy into a sulfuric and heinous hellscape.
This is important for next week. The Bucs have moved Larsen back to the practice squad. They’ll have Aaron Stinnie replace Cappa. Up against players like David Onyemata, Sheldon Rankins, Shy Tuttle, Marcus Davenport, and even the occasional Cameron Jordan interior rush, the Bucs have a weak point in their offensive line for the first time this season. With the run game problems they have when Ronald Jones is hurt, this could be the difference in next week’s game.
7. LOST IN THE MOMENT
Despite the Bears’ offense finally scoring more than 30 points a game in the last month of the season, the entirety of the football watching world didn’t buy in on Mitch Trubisky hitting deep middle passes against the mediocre to atrocious defenses Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, Jacksonville, and Green Bay employ. We were all smarter than that. We were all better than that.
Up against a real defense, the Bears only put three points on the board, and the final nine was the result of a 0:00 touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham. Against one of the five best defenses in the league, who’s only failing is covering vertical passes, and defending the deep middle part of the field, the only way the Bears had a shot is if they converted every rare offensive opportunity they had into touchdowns, and hoped their defense could create another underwhelming Drew Brees performance from there.
In the first quarter, down 0-7, with the ball at the 40 yard line, they had a chance. Chicago lined up in their hibernating bear defense and placed Mitch Trubisky at wide receiver. Typically this formation means some whatever three yard run play. Rather than stick to the typical the Bears got wet and wild like some 1990s diabetic cereal commercial. They pulled Mitch Trubisky behind the formation on a reverse, and running deep middle was Javon Wims. It was the throw of Mitch’s career. Perfect and down the center. The ball went through Wims’s empty hands.
From this point on the game was over. With an offense this bad, against this defense, these seven points were vital and crucial. The play call and throw was perfect. If only Daryl Mooney was active.
8. TAYLOR’S PLUNGE
Beer and nachos for the football watcher’s soul. Taylor Heinicke was exactly this. The Old Dominion undrafted quarterback, who accidentally started games for Houston and Carolina, and ended up as a backup in the XFL, became the newest animal riding on Washington’s quarterback carousel. He was the otter. Sly and weasely and slippery.
He was the centurion. Heroic and stoic, hitting throws in the face of gargantuan pressure.
He was the artist. Creative and sculpting the throwing lanes he needed to paint passes from the pocket.
Sliding across the pocket, completing incredible throws and crucial scrambles to put Washington down only 23-28, and eventually 23-31 on their game tying drive attempt. Heinicke turned what was expected to be a Saturday night blowout into something maroon and raucous.
The best play of the night of course was the plunge. This wasn’t a scramble, or a touchdown run, this was transcendence, an ascendance to a higher sphere of reality.
9. DEET IN SEATTLE
The Rams were the force that drained Russell Wilson of his mana, and turned his eggs into soft goopy mounds unable to withstand a whisper. In the first eight weeks of the season the Russell Wilson MVP season was here. The Seahawks were scoring 34.25 points a game and their lowest point total was only 27 points. Wilson’s deep passes were otherworldly, terrible and evil, and the ball was something he didn’t throw, but instead was something he manipulated with his mind.
Then they played the Rams. Los Angeles held the Seahawks to 16 points. They cratered the Seahawks run game by attacking and sitting on the outside shoulder, giving their young cheap linebackers plenty of room to scamper, and their aggressive secondary were missiles breaking on everything that bounced wide. The interior pressure prevented Wilson from dancing his little jig. And their quarters defense stuck to their vertical passing game. Seattle didn’t have an answer.
Since then, the Seahawks tried to create an efficient quick passing attempt. It never really worked. It was a lot of slants and drags. Tight ends sitting in hooks. Tyler Lockett running and standing in the flat. The magic Seattle had was zapped by the Rams week ten bludgeoning.
In three games, the Rams held Wilson to 53 completions on 96 attempts for 647 yards (6.7 yards an attempt), 3 touchdowns, picked him off 3 times and sacked him 16 times, and most importantly, Seattle averaged only 18.6 points a game, 12 less than their season average of 30.2. The same issues they had in their first matchup were there again. Inefficient short passing. Their deep passing covered aside from a broken play and an incorrect squat on the flat. The run game was meaningless. Their interior eviscerated by Aaron Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Morgan Fox. A stupid Pete Carrol punt, and pick sixed wide receiver screen were the rubble they couldn’t climb out from under.
The Rams have the best defense in the league. This defense is the perfect poison for the Seahawks’ offense. Los Angeles brought Seattle’s issues to light. And despite having seven weeks to prepare and make up for their inadequacies, they were never able to.
I’m getting older. I’m not a wild and crazy guy anymore. I get sleepy. Every day I have to take a nap. Whether its on my lunch break, or I’m in the middle of weekend plans, I have to stop, lay down, and sleep it for thirty minutes. It’s one of the great joys of my life.
Even playoff football can’t stop shut eyes. I napped during Los Angeles-Seattle. Falling asleep waiting for my habanero pot roast to finish cooking, the score 3-0, waking up to cooked flesh, and the score still 3-0. I napped during Chicago-New Orleans. Falling asleep 3-7, waking up to the score 3-7.
Too perfect. Too square. Too beautiful. Charged and refreshed. Did I miss anything? No, no, no I did not.