The Buffalo Bills’ offense looked different Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, partly because it stayed the same.
The Bills stuck primarily with the same five skill players around quarterback Josh Allen and the starting offensive line, using running back Devin Singletary, tight end Dawson Knox and wide receivers John Brown, Cole Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie. Each of those players was in for at least 70% of the offensive snaps.
“I think some of the no-huddle stuff,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said, explaining the reduced substitutions. “Again, there are a couple of ways to game plan. Obviously, you’d like to try to use as many guys as you can use, but if you’re going up-tempo and rhythm offense, the changing of personnel packages slows things down. So, when you’re getting positive yards, whether that be in the run game or plays in the passing game, you don’t want to give the defense an opportunity to substitute.
“There were a couple of plays there where Josh went quick and we caught them with 12 guys on the field, or we got a quick sneak. When you’re not changing personnel, it allows you to play quicker.”
It was hard to argue with the results. The Bills scored a season-high 37 points, and Allen played perhaps the most complete game of his young career, accounting for more than 300 yards of offense and four total touchdowns, without any turnovers.
“I think he showed his personality, honestly,” coach Sean McDermott said. “He's a highly competitive young man. Got a lot of confidence in that young man. He competes at a high level, whether he's having a one of his best days or he’s not. And, Sunday I thought was one of his better days and he's only going to get better.”
Whether the Bills shift to more of an up-tempo attack consistently remains to be seen.
“That was one game, a one-game plan, specific for the Dolphins,” McDermott said. “We'll just see how it works here every week. Regardless, we’re always going to try and put our players in (good) position, like you know we talk about. That's the job of us as coaches.”
“You take a look at the team you’re playing, some of the things they do against it, you look at yourself and your personnel and what you think you can get out of it,” added Daboll. “Just because you go no-huddle doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to drive down and score a bunch of points. It’s the execution of whatever concept, whether it’s huddle-up, use different personnel groups, go fast. Going fast allows them to have more time at the line of scrimmage, so you can see things, we can communicate up until the time ends. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
2. The other significant change to the offense involved Daboll moving upstairs. According to both McDermott and Daboll, however, the change wasn’t as significant as some thought.
“Like I said after the game, he wanted to look at that,” McDermott said.” We talked about him taking a look at that from that perspective and I don't think that had much to do with the outcome of the game, honestly. What had the most to do with the outcome of the game was, again, the game plans, the mentality, the execution, the fundamentals and the technique.”
Daboll is able to communicate directly with Allen until 15 seconds remains on the play clock. The only difference is, between series, they talk on the phone as opposed to face to face.
“I give credit to the players,” Daboll said. “You can see some things up top, and I probably have a broader vision of it, but at the end of the day it’s about the players, and they did a really good job executing. I’m happy for those guys.”
3. McDermott gave the players a “victory Monday,” meaning they weren’t required to be in the facility. Several of them were, though, particularly those who are on the kick coverage unit. They wanted to review the breakdown that led to a 101-yard touchdown for Miami’s Jakeem Grant.
“They got to the edge a little bit. We've got to go back and look at that,” McDermott said. “That’s something we definitely have to address this week.”
Special teams coordinator Heath Farwell did so Sunday night on the flight home, and again Monday. The kick return wasn’t the only problem for the special teams, as the Dolphins also recovered an onside kick.
“That team is playing with house money, in terms of their approach,” McDermott said of the two-win Dolphins. “They’ve done a lot of gadgetry up to that point, whether it's been on offense – first play of our game here was a reverse pass, I believe, against us in the first go around. … They had already shown onside kicks this year, fake punts. And give them credit. They executed at a high level, we didn't execute and that's something we've talked about this morning.”
4. Cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Kevin Johnson had nearly a 50-50 split in playing time, with Johnson playing 36 snaps and Wallace playing 33. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier made it sound Monday like that could continue.
"As we were going through the week and our preparation we thought this would be a good thing to do based on what we were seeing from the opponent," Frazier said. "We'll take a look at it again this week and see what's the best thing to do. Kevin is a really good football player and so is Levi. You want to get them on the field. We’ve been using Kevin previously at the nickel position and given him opportunities that way. But he's been a really good corner. And so we wanted to give him a chance and we’ll see how it goes this week as we prepare."
Wallace was credited with four tackles and Johnson made three against the Dolphins.