It seemed like Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio knew that playing it safe would leave his short-handed defense with no shot of stopping the Bills’ high-powered offense. So the Broncos ended up bringing more pressure and playing more man coverage than they normally do in hopes of creating negative plays. Unfortunately, this approach didn’t end up producing the intended results. Josh Allen was brilliant regardless of what Fangio threw his way, and the Bills clinched their first AFC East division title since 1995.
Taking away what the Bills do best is easier said than done because they have two really good receivers in Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, and because Allen can hurt a defense in so many ways. On the below 3rd-and-5, the Broncos played man coverage with the two deep safeties focusing on Beasley (slot left) and Diggs (outside the numbers to the right). Unfortunately for Denver, man coverage equals backs turned to the quarterback. And this left Allen lots of room to run in the middle of the field.
On the below play in the 3rd quarter, the Broncos again ended up playing man coverage. This time, they left cornerback De’Vante Bausby, making just his 2nd start of the season, alone on Diggs. At the top of the screen, you can see that Diggs ran a stutter-go route and got Bausby to bite just enough.
Allen ensured Bausby would not have any help over the top by looking left initially to hold the deep middle safety. Then he delivered an absolutely perfect ball on a throw 60 yards in the air.
We’ve said it multiple times before this season, but Allen has improved so much in year 3 because he’s putting together all of the different elements of playing the position. Holding or looking off defenders is a big part of that.
On the below touchdown, Allen again was able to influence the defense to ensure his intended receiver would be open. The target here was wide receiver Jake Kumerow, running a seam route from the slot.
The Broncos were playing quarter-quarter-half coverage, as you can see below.
The defender that could take away Kumerow’s route was the backside safety. Allen clearly knew this pre-snap and looked right after the snap to hold him.
Then he fired an absolute missile.
From the end zone angle, you can see that Allen knew exactly what he had pre-snap. He looked right to hold the safety, planted his back foot, and immediately turned back to the left before throwing a seed.
Looking off defenders isn’t just about going through the mechanics of looking in one direction then throwing to another. It’s about knowing what you’re looking at pre-snap and clearly understanding what the defense is trying to do, something Allen has gotten substantially better at in 2020.
Speaking of which, Allen’s ability in this area enabled him to handle some of Denver’s pressure that broke through Buffalo’s offensive line. Multiple times, he found receivers with pass rushers in his face.
You don’t make that throw unless you quickly process where defenders are in coverage.
Later in the game on a 3rd-and-6, Allen recognized the Broncos were playing man coverage and knew he could again lay the ball out across the field for Stefon Diggs.
From the end zone angle, you can see that Allen gave himself a split second extra of time by retreating back and to his left. His elite arm strength gave him the ability to make a good enough throw off his back foot without following through entirely.
Again, that’s not a throw you’re making without knowing where defenders are on the field.
Allen accounted for nearly 400 yards of offense and 4 touchdowns on the way to helping the Bills clinch the AFC East on Saturday. There aren’t too many effective ways to handle the Bills Offense, as Denver learned in Week 15, and this makes them a legitimate contender. It will be fun to watch them make some noise in the AFC playoffs this year.
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