Best and worst coaching decisions of NFL Week 15: Bucs plan fuels Baker Mayfield’s big day

Best and worst coaching decisions of NFL Week 15: Bucs plan fuels Baker Mayfield’s big day

Cover 7 | Tuesday A daily NFL destination providing in-depth analysis of football’s biggest stories. Every Tuesday, Ted Nguyen breaks down the best and worst coaching decisions he’s seen during the week’s games.

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Joe Brady is completing the elusive process of building a rushing offense to complement Josh Allen. The Buccaneers are relentlessly attacking the gaps in the Packers’ zone-heavy scheme. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is getting tougher to defend, and it’s time to end the Ka’Darius Toney experiment in Kansas City. We’ll learn all this and more in this week’s best and worst training decisions.


The Bills lean toward the running game

“I felt like the kid who didn’t do anything in the draft class but got an A,” quarterback Josh Allen said after he passed for just 94 yards in the Bills’ 31-10 win over the Cowboys.

If I told you that Allen would pass for under 100 yards and that the Bills would beat one of the best teams in the NFC, would you have believed me? Probably not. The Bills offense the last few years has been completely reliant on Allen’s playmaking ability. It was strange to see this offense firing on all cylinders with Allen only attempting 15 passes.

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The “Cook Index” is measured by “the number of times teams pass the ball in the first and second in the first 28 minutes of regulation, with time remaining and recording differential impact passing tendencies.” The Bills had the third-lowest Cook Index rating of Allen’s career. They haven’t had a run-heavy game since Allen’s sophomore season in 2019. They have a 62.8 percent rushing success rate on 46 carries (not including kneeling).

Brady did an excellent job of mixing up personnel groups and formations throughout the game. The Cowboys had a lot of trouble matching up with the Bills’ heavier personnel groups like 12 (one running back, two tight ends, two receivers) or 21 Colts (two running backs, one tight end, two receivers). The threat posed by Allen’s arm likely scared away Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn from the game with base personnel and the Cowboys’ nickel group was physically overwhelmed play after play.

15:00 remaining in the fourth, second and eighth quarters

The Bills were getting a lot of yardage from zone read plays where the running back crosses the quarterback’s face to receive the handoff. So, if he is shifted to the right, he has to shift to the left to get the handoff, and vice versa. They were also getting a lot of production from drag traps. I like the run concept in the chart above because it plays off the zone read and tackle trap. The play is essentially a trap tackle but with the running back using counter footwork.

James Cook was cleared to Allen’s left, he went right to make the handoff and slid back to the left. Right tackle Spencer Brown pulled left to detain Micah Parsons.

Parsons stayed square and compact as if he was playing a zone read, allowing the Bills to get around him.

Parsons was so far inside that Brown didn’t even have to block him. He pushed it inside with one arm and kept going looking for a block in the secondary. Allen ran out to lead the pack but was a bit of a semi-screen, and Cook went out for a 17-yard run.

McDaniel’s creative game designs

About 10 years ago, NFL schemes were simple, generic and boring. The offensive coordinators were all married to their “pro-style schemes,” and everyone ran different versions of the same offenses. Now, we have out-of-zone attacks, pass-happy teams, option teams, and then there’s the Miami Dolphins offense. Head coach Mike McDaniel is from the Shanahan tree, but his offense has evolved to find the speed of any play to present. Their ground game is built on the ability to get outside. When you run outside like they do, you have to find a way to change the looks you give the defense. You can’t just keep throwing the ball out, because eventually, the defense will spread out and flow quickly to the outside.

Over the course of the season, McDaniel experimented with different moves to get the ball outside, drawing inspiration from everywhere including his high school Wing-T teams. Against the Jets, the Dolphins staff seemed to have created a new way to get the ball to the perimeter.

1:02 left in the second quarter, 1st and goal

On first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the Dolphins lined up in a pistol formation and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa moved tight end Durham Smythe across the formation to double team the edge with left tackle Terron Armstead.

Running back Raheem Mostert opened with his right foot as if he was running into the running back area inside. Tagovailoa also gets open on the right as he does in the zone read.

The movements of Mostert and Tagovailoa caused the Jets’ second-level defenders to freeze to prepare to defend the interior run.

Mostert then raced out to the left and Tagovailoa spun to pass him the ball. The Dolphins’ rim was blocked, and Mostert was able to walk across the goal line without any pursuit from the second level.

The Dolphins’ injury-riddled offensive line was being decimated by the Jets’ defensive line, so having these perimeter plays in the game plan was essential.

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Box attacks the seams

Baker Mayfield went to Lambeau Field and controlled the ball for 381 yards and four touchdowns and finished with a perfect quarterback rating. The Packers played zone on 81.7 percent of dropbacks against the Bucs, so offensive coordinator Dave Canales attacked them time and time again. On plays targeting seams (four-foot variations, and hook/seam combinations), Mayfield was six of seven for 135 yards and two touchdowns (19.3 yards per attempt). I liked the variety of plays they used to attack that area of ​​the field.

11:01 remaining in 3rd, 2nd and 5th quarter

On the Packers’ 26-yard line, the Bucs lined up in a compact formation, which usually calls for soft territory. The Packers were in Cover 3, which is the best coverage to run four sectors against. This was a creative variation with receiver Deven Thompkins moving in an orbital return move as eye candy and running back Rachaad White running down the sideline.

After the snap, Mayfield Pump faked Thompkins, which prompted the Packers’ linebackers to bite underneath him.

The free safety was pulled horizontally by tight end Cade Otton, leaving White wide open for a touchdown.

12:27 remaining in 2nd, 3rd and 6th quarter

On third-and-6 on the Packers’ 19-yard line, the Bucs lined up in a loose set formation with receiver Mike Evans lined up at the point. Although there were only two bars, this play created the same effect as the four sectors because it emphasized the free safety. Receiver David Moore lined up inside and ran across the safety’s face, while Evans ran down the sideline (top numbers). Without a third header off Evans to occupy the corner, Evans needed to beat him with a move at the top of the route, which he did beautifully.


Tomlin kicks the ball away

It’s hard to win in the NFL without a good quarterback. Mike Tomlin hasn’t had one since the Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger at the end of his career. Roethlisberger wasn’t very good in his final season, but the Steelers have failed to field a quarterback who can match his level of production at age 39 ever since. Tomlin still has a record of 17 years of never finishing with a losing record, but he is in danger this season. The Steelers were hammered by the Colts on Saturday, but they had a glimmer of hope of getting back into the game in the third quarter. However, Tomlin squandered their chances.

With 3:25 left in the third quarter, the Steelers were down 11 points. They drove the ball to the Colts’ 29-yard line but committed a punt to back it up to the 39, putting them on third-and-14. Mitchell Trubisky attempted to throw a deep pass that fell incomplete. Instead of allowing kicker Chris Boswell to attempt a 57-yard field goal into the Dome, the Steelers punted the kicker 22 yards. Last week, Boswell kicked a 56-yard field goal outdoors in Pittsburgh, so he definitely has the range. I don’t understand the decision to give up the opportunity to cut the deficit to one possession.

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It’s time to end Tony’s experiment

Kadarius Toney has special motor skills. He can explode and change direction with some of the best athletes in the NFL, but none of that matters because he’s also one of the most unreliable players in the league. At the beginning of his career, he was unable to stay healthy. Now that he’s healthy this season, he continues to make game-changing mistakes.

He dropped two passes in Week 1, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Last week, he flagged offsides and didn’t check with the referee to see if he was prepared for what should have been one of the most amazing touchdowns we’ll ever see.

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The Chiefs are far from perfect but are good enough to start a pivotal 4-game stretch with a win

Perhaps this week Andy Reid was trying to send a message that he still believes in Tony, giving him a chance to redeem himself. Tony ran more routes this week than he did in any other game as a boss.

Early in the fourth quarter, they called it “Music Road.” He got open but dropped a perfectly thrown ball into the hands of a Patriots defender. He’s had five drops and has only 27 catches on 38 targets this season. The Chiefs don’t have a lot of talent, but you simply can’t keep throwing Tony on the field and expect different results. It’s time to stop Toney’s experiment as a receiver. You can give him a fly, throw a screen here and there, or use him as a punt returner, but that should be the extent of his use.

Peak Jaguar G

The Jaguars got the ball across the Ravens’ 40-yard line on four separate drives in the first half and came away without a point.

Kicker Brandon McManus missed two field goals on the Ravens’ first two drives into territory. On the third drive, the ball just slipped out of quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s hands during a scramble, and the Ravens recovered the fumble. On the next drive, with 30 seconds remaining in the first half, Lawrence threw a beautiful 36-yard moonsault pass to Zay Jones to get the Jaguars to the Ravens’ 5-yard line. Without a timeout, they had to rush to the goal line and either punt the ball or run the play. They elected to run a play with the clock ticking under 11 seconds. Just, it was a terrible play. Lawrence threw a one-yard pass to Parker Washington, which was tackled inbounds. The Jaguars didn’t have time to rally, and time ran out.

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I had no problem running the play in this situation, and it might have been the right decision to try to sneak in an extra play rather than just kick the ball, but the play called didn’t make any sense. I’m not sure if that pass was intended for these situations or if it was called through Lawrence’s headset, but throwing a pass so close to the end zone leaves no room for error. The play was a throw to the flats in the slot with the outside receiver blocked. I’ve seen this situation many times where the offense hits a big play to get into the red zone. I always thought the best option was a goal line fade because you can run it quickly without having to worry about protection, and if you don’t get the look right, you can just throw it out of bounds. No matter how you do it, you have to throw the ball into the end zone in that situation. The Ravens’ defense can’t miss opportunities, and the Jaguars missed all of them.

(Top photo of Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales: David Berding/Getty Images)

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(Tags for translation)Baltimore Ravens

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