Tyrod Taylor, making his first NFL start, led the Buffalo Bills to one of the more impressive wins of the weekend as they knocked off the Defending AFC Finalists, the Indianapolis Colts, 27-14. The quarterback turned in a solid performance, completing 14 of 19 passes for 195 yards, while adding 41 yards on the ground over 9 carries. He showed a number of impressive traits in his debut, both as a runner and as a passer.
One of the first plays a quarterback learns is “18 Sweep,” where the quarterback takes the snap and runs around end with some lead blockers in front of him. Midway through the second quarter, the Bills ran a version of this play ‒ with a professional crack block element. Tyrod Taylor stands in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel on the field and running back LeSean McCoy on his left. Tight end Charles Clay lines up as an upback behind left tackle, while wide receivers Robert Woods (#10) and Percy Harvin (#18) are in an inverted slot, with Harvin off the line of scrimmage:
At the snap Taylor and McCoy meet at the mesh point, with the QB keeping the football. McCoy is aiming to take out an edge defender on the backside while Clay and big left tackle Cordy Glenn (#77) lead Taylor around the left edge. But the crucial element on this play is the block from the diminutive receiver Harvin on the outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome (#91). Just before the snap the WR comes in motion towards the football from the outside and, as the play develops, the receiver delivers a crack block on the unsuspecting OLB:
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Harvin executes the block perfectly and, with Newsome accounted for, Clay can pull in front of the QB. With the edge sealed, Clay leads Taylor around end for an 8-yard gain. The run does not pick up a first down for the offense, but sets up kicker Dan Carpenter to convert a much easier field goal.
Buffalo’s first touchdown of the 2015 season came earlier in the quarter, and is a good example of Taylor’s ability to deliver the ball down the field. With the ball on the Buffalo 49-yard line, the QB lines up under center with 12 offensive personnel in the game, with a TE and WR on each side of the formation in a wing slot look. The Colts defense has their base 3-4 defensive personnel in the game, while the secondary shows Cover 6:
The Bills run a mirrored pass play here, with the two TEs executing quick out routes while the outside receivers run straight vertical streak routes. Harvin, lined up at the bottom of the screen, runs his vertical route against Darius Butler, who is using off man technique on the Cover 4 side of the coverage. The CB expects to have help from veteran safety Mike Adams (#29) on the inside, so Butler uses outside leverage in an attempt to keep Harvin towards the middle, and his help. But best-laid plans and all:
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Adams creeps down towards the line of scrimmage, influenced by the out pattern from TE Matthew Mulligan (#82). On the outside, Butler maintains outside leverage for a time, but Harvin’s acceleration eliminates the cushion quickly. When the CB turns his hips to run with Harvin’s vertical route, the WR turns on the afterburners and is able to angle his run to the outside of the defensive back. From here it is a pure foot race.
For his part, Taylor executes a very solid 5 step drop from center and, after planting and gathering himself, he launches a perfect rainbow that Harvin runs under right at the goal line. Just the way offensive coordinator Greg Roman drew it up.
[Editor’s Note: The smooth audio stylings of Matt Waldman breaking down this play are also recommended.]
Taylor’s most impressive play of the day might have been this third down early in the third quarter. The offense faces 3rd and 8 at the Indianapolis 30-yard line and the QB is in the shotgun with 11 personnel on the field using trips formation to the right. The Colts have a 4-2-5 alignment on the field, with rookie strong safety Clayton Geathers (#42) lined up as a linebacker for this play.
In the secondary, Indianapolis shows Cover 1, with the single-high safety shaded towards Sammy Watkins ‒ and away from the three receivers. The Bills send four receivers out on pass patterns, using two nice elements.
The first is the crossing pattern concept between Watkins and TE MarQueis Gray (#48). The receiver and tight end cross over the middle, which normally is a very nice option against Cover 1. But to the outside on the right side of the formation, the other two wide receivers – Woods in the slot and Harvin on the outside – run an out/streak combination. The outside receiver (Harvin) clears out the sideline for Woods on the deep out route:
Taylor has some options with the football but first he must survive the blitz, because it is coming:
Off the snap, the defensive tackle who lined up on the outside shoulder of the left guard will cross over to the opposite A Gap. Geathers and linebacker Jerrell Freeman (#50) then attack the spot vacated by the DT, with Geathers aiming to the inside and Freeman to the outside. The rookie safety comes away unblocked:
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But the quarterback hangs in the pocket, firing a strike to Woods along the sideline for the big third-down conversion. With the outside cleared by the streak route, there is a nice throwing window for the QB and the WR to connect.
From the end zone angle, you can see how the blitz nearly got to Taylor:
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When the DT swings to the inside, LG Richie Incognito rides with him to the right. This opens up a big hole between the LG and LT, which Geathers and Freeman quickly fill. McCoy steps into this hole to try and pick up Geathers, but his attempted shoulder block misses and connects with his teammate, Incognito, who is trying desperately to work back outside and pick up Freeman. Nevertheless, Taylor hangs in the pocket and delivers a perfect pass.
The Bills would score a touchdown on the drive to extend their lead to 24-0. The Colts’ rally fell short, and Buffalo improved their record to 1-0, joining their AFC East rivals with perfect starts. Taylor and the Bills face a big test this Sunday, with the defending Super Bowl Champions coming to town. But in terms of tests, the quarterback passed his first one in his debut as a starter.
All video and images courtesy the NFL Game Pass.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.