Good teams beat bad teams badly. After a weekend where the Bills became the fourth playoff contender to win by 18+ over the 2020 Broncos, it’s fair to accept they are not a good team. Sifting through the wreckage of a 48-19 laugher doesn’t bring out a whole lot of new information, but you’ll find a few thoughts and musings below.
- In a vacuum, Phillip Lindsay’s 11 carries for 38 yards against the Bills is not cause for alarm. Most of the offense struggled, after all, and three of Lindsay’s carries came when the score was 48-13 and the Broncos were just killing the final minute of clock. If you take out the three carries that “didn’t matter,” Lindsay had a respectable eight carries for 33 yards.
What is concerning is that the Bills’ game is his best performance outside of the matchup with Miami since the last time Denver played L.A. It seems disingenuous to sweat his numbers when Kendall Hinton played, but Lindsay has averaged 2.44 yards per carry on 36 carries these last three weeks.
Over the same three week time frame, Melvin Gordon has 39 carries for 260 yards and two touchdowns to go with eight catches on nine targets for 54 yards and two touchdowns. With this big a sample size and the disparity between the two, it’s hard to lay the blame on the offensive line being the main culprit.
I need to go back over all the carries and see if defenses are more likely to run blitz when Lindsay’s in for Gordon, or if it’s situational usage, or something else entirely. After looking through the Bills carries that mattered (not the final three) I did notice they all came on first and 10 but one, which came on 2nd and 10. On three of the carries Lindsay gained less than three yards. Two occurred when the Bills’ defenders were even or outnumbered the Broncos blockers, and the third happened when Elijah Wilkinson was beat across his face on the backside of a gun-run.
I know Lindsay’s health is a concern as well, which begs the question: why isn’t Royce Freeman seeing more time?
If you take out Lindsay's last 3 carries that occurred when the Broncos were killing clock, he finished the Bills game with 8 carries for 33 yards. All came on 1st or 2nd and 10.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 23, 2020
He had four plays with 4+ gains. pic.twitter.com/40mNtYUTxY
- Elijah Wilkinson started at right tackle for a second consecutive week, which leads me to believe the Broncos’ coaching staff have an eye on trying to bring him back for 2021. Demar Dotson’s had a better season in totality, Wilkinson is 10 years younger and would make more sen$e as a backup behind Ja’Wuan James next season. Munchak may believe playing through pain early in the season hurt him more than was let on and that Wilk may still improve on what we’ve seen.
- This isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but Drew Lock struggled against Buffalo.
Drew Lock had all of one pass go for 15+ yards against the Bills. pic.twitter.com/bXZINFEvjM— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 22, 2020
Leslie Frazier’s defense is a tough one to crack and profiles as the type of scheme Lock’s struggled with before. They do a great job disguising responsibilities. This puts pressure on the quarterback to make the right decision after the ball is snapped, which is something the “rookie” quarterback hasn’t had much success with when there’s no run action or motion to help him. Lock’s final box score numbers hide the fact that he had two turnover worthy plays.
Full transparency: I grade this as a pick. pic.twitter.com/R0niOEjeE0— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 21, 2020
On the play above the Broncos are facing a 3rd and 7 at the 33 yard line, so if Taylor Russolino wasn’t just an XFL kicker, they’re right around field goal range. The Broncos keep six in to block. Because the back stays in, Buffalo will send a backer. I believe Royce Freeman is moved from next to Lock’s left to his right because it means Tremaine Edwards will have a longer path when he blitzes.
As far as the receivers, Shurmur brought out 11 personnel in a Trips Bunch set to the right with Noah Fant on the nub to the backside. On the snap Tim Patrick runs a whip route while K.J. Hamler occupies the safety. Jeudy’s running an out past the sticks, but Levi Wallace sees it and stays with him.
Thanks to the protection, Lock has a clean pocket to let it rip. Wallace is closing the distance on Jeudy as the receiver looks back to his quarterback. The ball will need to arrive in a hurry.
The still frame is a bit blurry, but the result is clear: Wallace closed the distance on Jeudy and dropped a pick six going the other direction.
Near the beginning of the fourth quarter down 38-13, the Broncos passed on 1st and 10 following a 14-yard run by Gordon. Lock hit Tim Patrick for negative two before he was sacked by Ed Oliver on 2nd and 12. The back to back negative plays led to a third and 22, the kind of obvious passing situations the Broncos’ coaching staff has done a good job avoiding the last two weeks.
The Broncos faced just four 3rd and 9 or longer situations in the Kansas City and Carolina games. On these plays Lock took a knee to seal the win over the Panthers, scrambled for eight yards once, and completed two passes for six yards. The Broncos wound up in five 3rd and 9+ situations against the Bills. Lock took one sack, scrambled for three yards once, and threw three incompletions. The worst of them had me scratching my head until I spoke with Coach Vaughn about it.
Bill playing situational football on 3rd&22. Coverage presents as 2high MOFO, possible Tampa concept w/ ILB aligned deep. 3 Buzz concept w/ almost no rotation by Safety to hook or post. Deep Hook players deny benders inside. C-F player hangs in seam breaking late. Thread pic.twitter.com/DtNQYDWYRb— Blitzology (@blitzologyblog) December 20, 2020
It’s not as if players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers haven’t also had issues with this coverage. Brady threw a pick into it earlier this year. Third and very long is a really tough situation for any quarterback and the best possible outcome is probably taking a check down to the running back or if the receivers set up a 50-50 situation and the QB avoids throwing the ball short and inside. Where I take issue with Lock’s play above is he either didn’t see the slot breaking on Jeudy late, or thought he could gun the ball past him. Both are problematic.
- Regardless of where you land on Drew Lock right now, he has two more games to flip the narrative before the offseason. At present, I consider his games against the Panthers, Texans, and Lions his best performances. In the Chargers and Raiders, he has two iffy defenses he’s studied and performed against before. Both should be statement games to close his second season.
December 22, 2020
- I came into this game really concerned about how the Broncos secondary would hold up. If you read my pre-game post, you already know the cornerback situation was a huge issue. Fangio came into the game with just three members of the secondary who had played more than 17% of the defensive snaps and lost one when Michael Ojemudia got himself ejected. So it should come as no surprise the Bills went pass happy and just ripped apart the coverages. Going into the 4th quarter with the score 38-13, the Bills running backs had all of 11 carries. Allen finished the day with 14 10+ yard passes across his 40 attempts.
- If you zoom in enough from the overall performance, there were a few nice plays by OJ, DeVante Bausby, and Will Parks. The Broncos new(?) slot corner had an awesome hit when he blew up a screen in the first half. Bausby continues to show nice click and close and his length is an asset when he has to disrupt the catch point. I thought the rookie had a really nice play isolated on Stefon Diggs, though it helped his cause that Malik Reed got pressure on Josh Allen.
On 3rd and 6 the Bills isolate Stefon Diggs on Michael Ojemudia. Malik Reed almost rips the ball out before it falls incomplete. pic.twitter.com/kneh9dcGOt— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 22, 2020
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