Let Me Explain: Breaking Down the Bills Use of the Sweep
The Buffalo Bills are returning to New Era Field as one of seven teams that are 2-0 in the NFL. They scored four touchdowns against the New York Giants, two of which came off of beautifully designed runs using the “sweep” concept.
Every touchdown for the Bills on Sunday was a work of art and was the result of a masterful drive by the offense with two of the four ending using the “sweep” concept. Both were executed flawlessly and were great play calls.
The Bills left East Rutherford, New Jersey, as the conquering heroes of MetLife Stadium after being the first team since the 2006 Chicago Bears to win two consecutive games at MetLife. The Bills are 2-0 for the first time since 2014, and are only one of seven (7!) teams in the NFL that have that record.
Overall, it was a great team win and it was nice to see the offense finally clicking on all cylinders to match the fantastic play of the defense.
The Bills won their week two match-up 28-14 and scored all four touchdowns through the ground game. Technically, the second touchdown of the day was a pass from Josh Allen because it was forward, but it was through a designed run.
In this column, I will be breaking down a few keys plays from the game for the novice fan that may not have an in-depth knowledge of football. Each week, there will be a breakdown of what either propelled the Bills to victory or heart breaking defeat. So welcome to “Let Me Explain” and let’s get into it.
The Sweep Concept
On two of the four touchdowns, the Bills scored using the sweep. The first touchdown was a QB sweep with Allen, and the third was a jet sweep with wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. The Bills executed both of these plays beautifully, as it resulted in 14 points for them.
So let’s breakdown what a “sweep” actually is.
The sweep is a widely used play in the NFL that consists of either a pitch or handoff from the QB to the RB or WR, or the QB/RB takes it themselves straight from the snap from the center.
Generally, two offensive linemen will do what is called a “pull” from the offensive line, which is when the lineman takes himself, or pulls, out of the formation of the line and loops around to block in front the runner by the WRs and TEs.
To help it all make more sense, I added in the picture above to show what a guard pull looks like.
So on a sweep, its the same as the screen pass except the center (C) might pull with the guard or the offensive tackle (T) will pull instead of the C. The rest of the linemen that stayed will shift down to block the players left behind by the players who pulled.
Once the RB, WR, or QB has the ball in hand, they will run parallel to the offensive line and towards the sidelines to allow the blockers to get in front. This run generally goes in between the WRs with the linemen blocking the safeties or linebackers and the WRs blocking their cornerbacks to open up a hole to run through.
This run though can go many ways to throw off the defense, but we will get into that later.
It is always up to the runner to follow his blockers and determine the best position to run through and get into the open field. When run correctly like the Bills did, it can lead to six points or a big gain.
The First Touchdown
After marching down the field, the Bills ran a QB sweep with Allen to punch it in for six and tie the game. The blocking on this play allowed it to be executed flawlessly and result in Buffalo’s first touchdown of the day.
The way it worked so well was that the Bills had the defense all shade over to the left, and they ran the ball to the right. The Bills lined up with three WRs to the left side and Frank Gore standing to the right of Allen.
With the three WRs to the left, it made that side the “strong side” of the offense because more players were lined up on that side. To counteract this, the Giants lined up three defensive backs on the WRs with a safety over the top.
Besides Gore, tight end Dawson Knox was also to Allen’s right. The Giants had their four linemen who were shifted towards the left side of the offense, two linebackers in the middle, the second safety behind them, and the third linebacker was covering Knox.
The Giants defense mostly focused on the left side so it was easy for Allen to reach the pylon.
Allen to the house! #BUFvsNYG | #GoBills pic.twitter.com/toZqPEE3Wf— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 15, 2019
When the ball was snapped, left tackle Dion Dawkins and left guard Quinton Spain moved to the right leaving the defensive end on their side untouched. Right tackle Cody Ford and Knox both moved to the left pushing the defensive end on their side into the middle to try create as much havoc as possible.
The two linemen who pulled where center Mitch Morse and right guard Jon Feliciano. Morse takes out the linebacker Alec Olgetree (47) and Feliciano takes out the safety Antoine Bethea (41.)
This leaves Allen with Gore as a blocker and only one man to beat in safety Jabrill Peppers (21) who has no chance of stopping Allen from scoring.
The blocking by the offensive line on this play allowed the touchdown to be scored. It was a genius playcall by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll about six yards out from the end zone and the blocking was spectacular.
The Third Touchdown
The third touchdown of the day for the Bills put them up by two scores for a 21-7 lead. Buffalo marched 98 yards in just seven plays to get this touchdown.
After a 51-yard pass from Allen to Cole Beasley, they were set up nicely at the Giants 19-yard line and once again ready to strike within the red zone. So far this season when in the red zone, or 20 yards until the end zone, the Bills are a perfect 100% with all of them resulting in touchdowns.
For this touchdown, Daboll decided to call a jet sweep for speedster McKenzie. The Bills once again came out in a three WR set with all of them lined up to the opposite way of the run. The run went to the left so they were all on the right.
McKenzie stirring things up. 😏#BUFvsNYG | #GoBills pic.twitter.com/CclsqSi9tw— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) September 15, 2019
On this play, no linemen pulled, and the only blocker was Knox who makes an outstanding block and pushes his defender about ten yards downfield to make room. Allen had Gore lined up on his left side and used him as a decoy.
The Giants defense bit down hard on the fake handoff to Gore as two of the linebackers followed him. Also, Bethea isn’t even looking at the run and is facing away towards the WRs on the right.
Peppers is lined up over Knox, and DeAndre Baker is the cornerback who is covering McKenzie and follows him as he moves down the line to get the pitch from Allen.
After McKenzie gets the pitch, he completely outruns the linebacker Oshane Ximines (53) and continues to run parallel until he gets behind Knox. He also delivers a glorious head fake to Baker that makes Baker pause giving him the lane to the end zone.
Knox’s blocking on Peppers is what seals the deal. Peppers is doing everything he can to get Knox off of him, but he can’t and Knox moves him down the whole length of the field until McKenzie scores.
Since Knox does this, it allows nothing but open space for McKenzie. When McKenzie delivers the head fake on Baker, this gives Knox the opportunity to block two guys at once, which he does masterfully.
Knox is man-handling Peppers and is able to move Peppers and plant him in front of Baker to stop Baker from making a play on McKenzie. Right before the touchdown, Knox shoves Peppers off him, knocking him over and tripping up Baker as McKenzie walks in for six.
The Giants had no chance thanks to the great blocking from Knox.
What Did We Learn
The Buffalo Bills had a fantastic gameplan on Sunday that was executed to perfection. The use of the QB sweep to score the first touchdown was a genius playcall and the right one for the situation.
The Bills are 2-0 and the hype train is real. They have yet to miss on an opportunity in the red zone, the defense is stout once again, and the poor blocking and offensive line play are a thing of the past.
The Bills are fun to watch finally and have the pieces in place to make a run to the playoffs.
The sweep concept is a great concept for a team like Buffalo who have fast players at almost every key position. The sweep is an easy thing to understand but can do great things for a football team.
Hopefully, next Sunday you can spot this play and understand it more. The Buffalo Bills open up a two game home stand on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 P.M.