Lessons learned from the Packers’and Bills’ and Titans’ abysmal losses

Lessons learned from the Packers'and Bills' and Titans' abysmal losses

Chandler Jones might be a more reasonable argument. If the Titans can’t protect Tannehill, it’s a good idea to keep him out of play-action and the five- and seven-step drops that allow receivers to work downfield. If I were Tannehill, I’d want to play a quick game and get the ball out of my hands before assisting Jones in making history.

Lessons learned from the Packers’and Bills’ and Titans’ abysmal losses

Of course, there is a solution: maximum protection! The Titans don’t have to use five linemen to stop Jones and J.J. Watt. Rather than focusing the passing game on the mismatch of Jones and A.J. Brown against Byron Murphy, Robert Alford, and Marco Wilson, max protecting off play-action would have centred it on the mismatch of Jones and A.J. Brown against Byron Murphy, Robert Alford, and Marco Wilson. Three times, the Titans defended with seven or more blockers. The other two generated a 10-yard completion and a 39-yard reception by Chester Rogers on a flea-flicker play for which a slightly better Tannehill pass would have resulted in a big touchdown. The scary part is that it happened on a day when Tennessee had all of its stars in one place! Injury management is a major problem for a top-heavy club like this. What happens if one or two of the main players go down? If the offence struggled this much with Lewan, Henry, and Julio Jones all available and active, what happens if one or two of them go down? The answer could be similar to the 2020 Cowboys, whose title hopes were abruptly dashed by a weak secondary and offensive ailments.

Unlike the Titans, there is no smoking gun to point to when it comes to Buffalo’s poor showing. The Bills had a better offensive and were up against a much tougher defence in the Steelers, who were outstanding during their comeback victory. The Bills can rest easy knowing they won’t have to face the Steelers again before a possible postseason matchup. T.J. Watt will only be seen by Buffalo fans in their nightmares during the next few months. Watt and the rest of Pittsburgh’s pass rush performed admirably. The Steelers, crucially, modified their game plan from last year’s setback in Buffalo and were more successful as a result. In 2020, the Steelers utilised their blitz to pressure Josh Allen more than 54% of the time, deploying an extra rusher. The pressure was evident, with Allen under duress about 43% of the time, but the Bills were able to overcome the pressure as the game progressed.

The Steelers blitzed Allen once this time, covering 55 dropbacks. This is, as you might expect, their lowest blitz rate in a single game since Mike Tomlin took over as coach in 2007. Despite not sending any extra rushers, Pittsburgh was able to pressure Allen approximately 31% of the time. This was only the sixth game since 2009 in which a team only blitzed 3% of the time and still managed to maintain a 30% pressure rate. Its pass-rushers were the ones who made it happen. Watt and Cameron Heyward were the two most talented players on the field. Buffalo’s linemen, I believe, would believe they should have had a better day. Both tackles struggled against Watt, with right tackle Daryl Williams having an especially difficult day. Watt was shifted around the formation by the Steelers for a few occasions, but he mostly used the right side.

Watt, who spent the majority of the day in the Buffalo backfield, forced a fumble and added a sack on an Allen scramble. When the NFL says that players require training camp and the preseason to prepare for the season, his Week 1 performance should be the NFL Players Association’s main argument. The Steelers also adjusted how one of their other young stars was utilised. Minkah Fitzpatrick was originally a slot cornerback for the Dolphins, but after the Steelers acquired him in 2019 by trading a 2020 first-round pick to Miami, he was switched to free safety, where he has excelled. In 2020, Fitzpatrick stood up deep against the Bills for the majority of his snaps, but here’s how that altered in his throw snaps from Sunday’s game, courtesy of Next Gen Stats from the NFL:

Fitzpatrick moved all over the field to confuse Allen, who saw various pre- and post-snap looks all the time. From the Bills’ standpoint, the best way to deal with these adjustments was to spread Pittsburgh out with receivers. More than 44% of the time, Buffalo used four or more wide receivers. It ran 22 plays out of an empty backfield, eight more than any other team in Week 1, but it didn’t address the problem. In Week 1, the league as a whole averaged 7.2 yards per attempt out of the backfield, but Allen went 11-of-19 for 86 yards on 5.1 yards per attempt.

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