The Bengals certainly surpassed the Bills in their convincing 27-10 victory in the divisional round, but the game plans on offense and particularly on defense were master classes from Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo.
Behind an offensive line with three starters, Burrow threw exactly half of his passes (19) in 2.5 seconds or less against the Bills. He completed 16 of those attempts (84.2%) for 108 yards. Buffalo’s pass rush, mitigated.
Now two of his touchdowns came on attempts where he held the ball longer, and Hayden Hurst’s strike to give them a 14-0 lead was brilliantly designed.
Watch as Hurst and Ja’Marr Chase sell wide receiver screen, Burrow fake pumps it to make safety Jordan Poyer bite, then Hurst continues upstairs to a vacancy in the end zone.
In the snow, when traction was limited, there was just no way Poyer could hit the brakes in a split second and then explode in the opposite direction fast enough to get to the football. And of course the screen to Chase at the beginning of the play had to be respected. Genius.
As much as Cincinnati marched through the field with ease against a battered Buffalo defense, I want to focus on what Cincinnati did with a Bills offense that, while far from flawless since mid-September, has been scoring in the NFL and yards finished second per game during the regular season and came from a pretty sloppy 34-point outing with 423 total rushing yards.
And it wasn’t a lightning-fast plan at all.
The Bengals defeated Josh Allen just seven times with 47 dropbacks (14.8%). It was the Flash’s creativity, and often the Flash’s looks, that confused highly talented Buffalo quarterback and Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey all afternoon. It felt similar to Cincinnati in the second half of last season’s AFC Championship game, when Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense were unrecognizable.
Look at that “flash” in the fourth quarter. I put blitz in quotes because technically it was a two-corner blitz, but notice how both blitz corners slowed as they hit the line of scrimmage. Their presence should deflect a tackle away from defenders and then serve as outsiders to keep Allen from leaving the structure, where he is arguably the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL.
With the help of right guard inside, right tackle Spencer Brown had to respect the corner blitz, leaving defensive end Cam Sample essentially unblocked to charge up the field. Allen instinctively jumped outside and Hilton waited.
On the last game of the first quarter, already in a 14-0 hole, Allen was sacked by safety Vonn Bell for a game that wasn’t technically a blitz. On the snap, Sample ducked into cover at the left defensive end. On the other side of the line, Bell blitzed sending just four Bengals rushers after Allen.
Bell’s free run to the quarterback was right in the trajectory of Allen, who quickly wanted it out of Diggs’ hands. And with Sample floating down a hash mark, Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt could drastically extend his drop to contest that throw if made.
Because of this, Allen held the football and was eventually put on the turf on that first down. This was 99% a play design win by Anarumo.
And then late on, as the Bills drew their last breath in a comeback, Anarumo dialed in an amazing corner blitz that Allen and his offensive line never saw coming. Why is this? Hilton didn’t sneak near the line, he was ridiculously far from football at the moment.
As is usual with these zone blitzes, a defender took cover on the opposite side of the field, spoiling the initial picture for Allen. That caused enough hesitation to give Hilton the time it took to get all the way to the quarterback in the pocket, almost forcing a fumble and potentially saving a touchdown. Check out Stefon Diggs dashing through the middle of the field.
The game was ultimately ruled incomplete but was an overall success for the Cincinnati defense.
I have to mention that this wasn’t just a game-plan win for Cincinnati. Bengals players dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball and Burrows Club players were far better than Allen’s in skill position.
But every time the Bills showed any signs of life offensively, Anarumo reached into his bag of tricks to confuse one of the most talented quarterbacks in the world and his first-year offensive coordinator.
Those wrinkles were the icing on the cake for Cincinnati in one of the most impressive playoff wins in team history. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but the Bengals have the quarterback, offense and defense talent, and game plan mastery to win a Super Bowl.
https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/how-bengals-dc-lou-anarumo-confused-josh-allen-and-the-bills-in-convincing-divisional-round-playoff-win/ How Bengals DC Lou Anarumo confused Josh Allen and the Bills with a convincing divisional round playoff win