Good misdirection plays beat two of the New Orleans Saints’ most reliable defensive backs Thursday night.
Both plays produced touchdowns for Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox in the Bills’ 24-6 victory at the Caesars Superdome.
Here’s a closer look at key plays from the game:
Fake outside zone. The Bills put safety Marcus Williams in a one-on-one tackling situation on their first touchdown, and Knox beat him into the end zone. The Saints were in zone coverage with Williams on the left. The Bills faked a wide run right to Matt Breida with the offensive linemen all firing off to the right.
That was the misdirection that got a one-on-one situation. Knox ran in motion at the snap in the other direction, to the left, and caught a pass in the left flat at the 7. Gabriel Davis was in the left slot and shielded his man, P.J. Williams. That left Williams as the only tackler in Knox’s way. He was late to the scene and barely got a hand on the Bills’ tight end.
Williams entered the game as the No. 2 ranked safety in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, behind only Tennessee’s Kevin Byard. Williams missed only two tackles all of the 2020 season. (The Bills’ Micah Hyde was ranked No. 3 and Jordan Poyer No. 6 this season, according to PFF.)
Fake left. The Bills caught three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore peeking into the backfield on Knox’s second touchdown.
It was a fourth-and-2 situation from the Saints’ 24 in the third quarter. Knox went in motion before the snap to the right, and Lattimore followed him, signaling to Allen that it was man-to-man coverage.
The Bills again ran a hard play-action run fake to Devin Singletary, wide off left tackle. Knox took a step to the left like he was blocking on the weak side of the play, then ran up the right sideline.
Lattimore had his eyes on the run fake, saw Knox run into the pattern and slipped and fell trying to change direction to chase Knox.
The Saints blitzed safety Malcolm Jenkins off right tackle but Knox was wide open, catching the pass at the 13 and sprinting into the end zone. It gave the Bills a 24-0 lead.
Elite showdown. Stefon Diggs gave the Bills a 17-0 lead with a 5-yard TD catch to cap the opening drive of the third quarter.
Diggs put his great footwork on display in beating Lattimore one on one. He chop-stepped in faking a slant to the inside and pivoted to the outside. Allen’s timing pass was perfect, and Lattimore had no chance to defend the throw.
It was Diggs’ seventh touchdown catch of the season. He had eight TD catches last year.
Play-action success. The Bills had better balance than usual on offense. Twelve of their first 18 plays were runs, and they finished the first half with 18 pass plays and 16 runs.
The run-fakes worked again on a 26-yard pass to Davis in the second quarter, which set up a field goal that gave the Bills a 10-0 lead.
It was a third-and-2 situation from the Saints’ 46-yard line. Davis was the lone receiver on the right, and he motioned toward the right tackle at the snap, as if he was going to make a crack-back block on an edge defender, which the Bills ask Davis to do a lot.
Instead, Davis pivoted and ran toward the right sideline. Allen faked a handoff to Singletary to the left, bootlegged to the right and hit a wide-open Davis at the Saints’ 29. New Orleans cornerback Bradley Roby, covering Davis, was fooled on the run action and let Davis get behind him.
Streak breaker. Allen’s perfect interception avoidance record in the red zone came to an end late in the first half.
On a second-and-6 play from the Saints’ 12, Allen may have held the ball a bit too long, and right tackle Daryl Williams was beaten by the Saints’ best defensive lineman, Cameron Jordan. Allen’s arm was hit by Jordan, and linebacker Kwon Alexander made a diving interception of the fluttering ball.
It was the first interception in the red zone of Allen’s four-year career, and it came on his 251st attempt, counting playoffs, according to Buffalo News charting. It was Allen’s 71st red zone attempt this year.
For his career through the end of Thursday night’s game, Allen has 62 passing touchdowns, 27 rushing touchdowns and one interception in 252 pass attempts in the red zone.
Allen could have unloaded the ball early in the down to Emmanuel Sanders, who was running a shallow crossing route and was open at the 6-yard line.
But the Bills QB was looking to the end zone, where he had Knox in the middle and Davis running up the left seam. Both were well covered.
The Bills made only five turnovers in the first seven games of the season. The interception by Alexander was the Bills’ 11th giveaway in the past four games and the seventh interception in that stretch by Allen.