One of the most discussed storylines in the 2015 season has been the consistent use of the double teams against the Texans pass rush, in particular against J.J. Watt. Now, some teams have been stubborn, in some sense, and left their offensive lineman in one-on-one situations against Watt and others. They paid a price. However, the teams that have had offensive success against the Texans have consistently double or even triple teamed Watt to keep him from getting to the quarterback.
That was no more evident than against the Bills. The Bills, obviously, learned from their own failings last year at NRG Stadium. Interviewed in the off-season about facing Watt at NRG in 2014, Bills center Eric Wood noted that they didn't plan or adjust any differently for Watt than any other lineman. Then, he chuckled and said…
"That was a mistake."
I thought about that interview a bunch on Sunday because the Bills new staff seemingly went into Sunday's game with two mantras.
- Don't let No. 10 beat us.
- Ditto for 99.
Ultimately, the Bills limited the Texans defensive end to no quarterback hits, no sacks and/or no tackles for a loss. But, there were occasions where that singular focus came at a cost. To beat New England, the Texans will have to exact the same cost on the Patriots in NRG Stadium on Sunday night.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Bills started a drive deep in their territory and put 12 personnel on the field - one running back and two tight ends. One tight end, Charles Clay ran a pass route while Chris Gragg was used to help in pass protection. As such, the Bills put four receivers into the route and left six to protect QB Tyrod Taylor.
It's time for a little math before we move on. Five players were involved in the execution of the pass.
Running back on a pass route
Tight end on a pass route
3 wide receivers on pass routes
That left six blockers to defend the Texans four front defenders as the Texans dropped seven into coverage.
But, let's dive a bit deeper into the math, especially up front. There were six to protect Taylor, but one of those was a tight end Gragg, which was unfortunate for Buffalo on this play.
From left to right, the Bills single blocked Jadeveon Clowney, double teamed Watt, single blocked Vince Wilfork and engaged initially in a double team on DE Jared Crick. With only five true offensive linemen to block four Texans, the Bills were left with a choice.
The easy part was the decision to double team Watt with right tackle Jordan Mills and right guard Kraig Urbik. But, with Clowney and Watt on the same side, right guard Richie Incognito was left with no choice but to double Jared Crick at the snap.
Left tackle Jordy Glenn did a solid job on Crick, so Incognito was able to drop off the block and help somewhere else. The problem for the Bills though was that there was nowhere to help out because the only other true rush threat, Clowney, had already destroyed the tight end on the left side.
He ripped past Gragg like he was an old school turnstile at a ballpark. Gragg had no chance to slow down the Clowney train and because Gragg couldn't slow No. 90 a bit, Incognito had no time to scan the situation and provide assistance to the outmanned Bills blocker.
Clowney had Taylor in his sights from jump and…
...finished with his second sack of the season before the Bills QB could even think about throwing the ball.
The Texans dictated to the Bills how Buffalo would protect by putting Watt and Clowney to the same side. Figuring that the Bills would choose to double Watt, and not both he and Clowney, it ensured that Clowney would get a 1-on-1 matchup with a tight end.
Against the Patriots, there's little question that the Patriots will use multiple blockers on Watt and perhaps even Clowney. It's imperative that the rushers getting single-blocked win, and win often. More of this as a result and the Patriots may have to adjust to how they protect Tom Brady. They'll be prepared with multiple ways to slow Watt, in particular, as they've been in past years. But, more of this from Clowney, Watt and company and it could force New England into adjustments it doesn't want to make on Sunday night.
Jadeveon Clowney signed a deal with the Texans on Friday. Check out these photos from the Draft, OTAs and more.