Inside The Bills

How the Bills dictated play to Watt

Posted by Chris Brown on December 7, 2015 – 10:43 am

Too many times in his career Houston DE J.J. Watt has taken over games. He did it last season against the Bills in Week 4 when he racked up nine quarterback hits, five tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. Buffalo was not going to be put on their heels Sunday. Here’s how they dictated play to Watt to neutralize him.

1 – Run away
The Bills established their run game early by effectively setting the edge allowing their quick and elusive backs in LeSean McCoy and practice squad call-up Mike Gillislee to get outside and face one-on-one situations. They also made a point of running away from Watt, and even in doing so had him blocked up to prevent his trademark backside pursuit.

“They are a good defense,” said McCoy. “Lately they have been playing well together, so that was just the main key. Kind of run the ball, get some one on one opportunities. The guys in the back field, the line up front lately has really just been putting it down, they really have.”

2 – Using Watt’s motor against him
Watt is revered not only for his rare God-given talent, but his non-stop motor. But Buffalo at times used his desire to get upfield quickly against him. Instead of trying to beat Watt to a spot in Buffalo’s offensive backfield they had RT Jordan Mills and their tight ends on occasion give Watt the outside rush lane and ran their backs underneath him. They then had the tackle or tight end simply position himself to wall off Watt as he tried to loop back behind the play to get involved. Essentially Buffalo’s tackles and tight ends just had to get in his way for a second or two before the back or Tyrod Taylor got out of harm’s way.

“We had to slide to him, or just getting hands on him,” said RT Jordan Mills. “Trying to change his pass rush. If he gets a straight line, bee-line to the quarterback, you’re never going to stop him. Just changing up techniques, giving him different looks that he hasn’t seen before, and having Wood or Urbik come and have the inside, just in case, they were right there.  It was the whole offensive line that did a great job against him.”

3 – 2nd line of defense
Buffalo also employed a second line of defense against Watt. There were times that the Bills left a lineman in a one-on-one situation with Watt, but there was always a second linemen, back or tight end in position to help should Watt win the matchup quickly and threaten the pocket.

“He garnered a lot of our attention,” said Eric Wood. “We knew where he was each play. When it comes down to it, guys have got to win matchups.  Especially that right side, I think they did a good job of that.”

4 – Not much air
The Bills run game and an early lead allowed them to largely rely on short passes as the ground attack did a good job of keeping them in short down and distance. And the times when they did go deep Buffalo went with max protection.

“I face double-teams, triple-teams every single week so, it’s nothing new,” said Watt. “They didn’t throw the ball a whole a lot, and did a great job running the ball. They had a good scheme coming in. Their right guard and right tackle are out. They’re not just going to leave you go on those guys. I think they did a good job on that.”
The Bills could tell after a while that Watt was getting frustrated as he did not have much of an impact on the game at all. Even the one sack he did have got nullified by offsetting penalties. McCoy knows how it feels when an opponent keys on you and slows you down.

“We just hit him, that was the key,” said McCoy of the plan for Watt. “We knew where he was going to be at. To his credit man we kind of game planned for him. As you should, a guy like that who has been dominating. They get frustrated, I can tell at times he is frustrated. I know the feeling, used to making plays and you’re not making them. The team is kind of taking you out of it, so you kind of get pissed off a little bit. But the guys up front just really put their pads on him. Every single play, pass or run. Just having that conscious effort of knowing where he is at to hit him.”

Watt’s stat line Sunday was four tackles, one for loss, zero sacks, zero quarterback hits.


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