Take the fastest player on the team and have him run the length and width of the field.
That good-sounding plan paid off for a touchdown for the second time in the past four weeks for the Buffalo Bills.
Rookie receiver Robert Foster’s 42-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter gave the Bills a 14-13 victory over the Detroit Lions. It was the same “deep over” route on which he scored a 75-yard touchdown pass in the 24-21 win over Jacksonville on Nov. 26.
“It’s beautiful,” said Foster of Allen’s throw. “It’s a perfect pass.”
A breakdown of the plays that shaped the game:
1. Deep over. Foster lined up on the left side of a restricted formation (tight to the tackle), just outside Patrick DiMarco, who was in a tight-end’s role.
Foster ran up the field then broke on a slant toward the left sideline, beating Lions cornerback Mike Ford.
“It’s just a deep over,” Foster said. “He’s just going to throw the ball somewhere where I can run and go and get it. ... That’s what practice is for. We practice that over and over and over again.”
Against Jacksonville, Foster’s TD came against a three-deep coverage.
This time, Detroit was in man coverage with a free safety, Glover Quin, in the deep middle of the field.
Isaiah McKenzie and Zay Jones were on the right side of the formation. McKenzie timed his clear-out crossing route so that Ford had to cut underneath him. With his 4.41-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Foster probably would have beaten Ford anyway, but McKenzie’s role clinched it.
“That was my plan,” McKenzie said. “When he called the play, I was like: OK, I’ve got to run over here and hopefully he’s gonna beat his guy regardless. But hopefully he has his guy over the top and I can kind of get in the way so he has to slow down so Rob can keep running.”
Jones was running a go-route, and his cover man, Darius Slay, fell down.
“Our outside post took his guy and he ended up falling,” said Allen, referring to Slay. “Robert was running away from his guy. I put it up and he made a really good play.”
2. Late touch throw: The Bills were able to run out the clock over the last 2:50 thanks to another fine touch throw from Allen to tight end Jason Croom for a 25-yard gain. It was a second-and-9 play, and the Bills were in a running formation, with two tight ends on the field.
Croom credited offensive coordinator Brian Daboll with good timing.
“We had been running the same run play to the back-side all game,” Croom said. “It was really just Dabs calling the right play at the right time. That’s what they were expecting on the back side, the run. We just executed.”
Croom leaped over Quin for the catch.
“When the ball is there, I want Josh to know he can trust everyone who’s out there,” Croom said. “That’s Josh just putting it only where I can get it. That’s all I need for him to do.”
3. Screen-pass tackle I. With Detroit at midfield on the first play of the fourth quarter, Lorenzo Alexander tackled Zach Zenner for a 5-yard loss on a screen pass.
Said Alexander: “It was man coverage for us. We were bringing the safety. We wanted to make sure as linebackers all week that we were aggressive and hugging up. Because when they sniff out blitzes, they were known for throwing screen passes. So just from film study, understanding that. You see the back let a safety to on a blitz, nine times out of 10 it’s going to be a screen.”
4. Screen-pass tackle II: With 6:31 to go, cornerback Levi Wallace reacted quickly to a step-back screen pass, tackling receiver Brandon Powell and forcing a punt.
5. Big run force: On the Lions’ final drive, Jordan Poyer tackled Theo Riddick for a 2-yard loss on a second-and-7 play.
“We were just playing downhill,” Poyer said. “We had an eight-man box called. I read a run and my gap opened up. They blocked our end and I played off him.”
6. The final tackle. Poyer tackled tight end Levine Toilolo in the open field for a 2-yard gain with 2:56 left to force the Lions’ final punt.
“We brought a nickel pressure,” Poyer said. “I had been studying it all week. On third and long they like the sail concept.”
A sail concept is a three-level combination to one side with one receiver going deep, one running an intermediate corner and a third running to the flat.”
“I kind of played in between them, read the throw and made the play,” Poyer said, referring to the corner and flat receivers. “I took the one behind me away and then knew I’d have to come up and make an open-field tackle, and I was able to make it.”