Saints film room: How New Orleans used motion to break open Buffalo's run defense

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 12:12:03 AM. Ted Ginn Jr. deserves a game ball for his performance in the running game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Ted Ginn Jr. deserves a game ball for his performance in the running game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

The Saints wide receiver didn’t have a single carry during the 47-10 win, but his presence on the field got the Saints running backs at least an extra 90 yards. He was the ultimate decoy, and the Bills never figured out how to adjust to his presence on the field.

Depending on your allegiance, you either laughed at how often New Orleans used the same motion to freeze up the Buffalo linebackers and get the looks they wanted in the running game, or you cringed as the defense was manipulated by Ginn play after play. For whatever reason, this wrinkle unlocked something in the Bills defense and was one of the reasons the Saints rushed for 298 yards.

It started early. One of the first examples came with 7:46 remaining in the first quarter on a fourth-and-1 play. The Saints came out in “11 personnel” with two receivers on one side of the formation and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and wide receiver Willie Snead tight on the other. Ginn motions toward the tight side of the formation, looping behind Mark Ingram.

The motion causes middle linebacker Lorenzo Alexander to get wide, which opens the middle of the field. He continues to spill out toward Hoomanawanui and Snead, expecting a sweep, as Drew Brees instead hands off to Ingram. With the middle of the field cleared, the Saints get double teams on both of Buffalo’s interior linemen, which opens a hole for Ingram to pick up 25 yards after breaking a couple tackles.

Ginn’s presence was felt in a big way in the second quarter when he again goes in motion, this time right behind the line, which causes a linebacker to move inside the tackles. Linebacker Ramon Humber is caught watching the motion, keeping his eyes on Ginn after the snap, which allows Brandon Coleman to get out and block him. A downfield block by offensive tackle Terron Armstead helps Alvin Kamara gain 9 yards.

The Saints liked this action so much they came back to it with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter. Ginn again goes in motion, which causes Humber to move all the linebackers inside. With the whole defense shifting left, Brees fakes to Ginn and pitches the ball to Kamara, who takes it around the edge for a gain of 19 yards behind blocks by guard Larry Warford, offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and wide receiver Michael Thomas.

New Orleans used the same action on the very next play, and with the defense again moving left, Kamara takes a pitch to the right and gets in the end zone behind a block from tight end Josh Hill.

It looked like Buffalo attempted to adjust late in the quarter when Ginn goes in motion and Humber follows him to the other side of the formation. The two inside linebackers also shift spots, but the Saints caught Buffalo out of its gaps and Ingram easily runs up the middle for a gain of 11 yards.

There are multiple examples of this, and New Orleans was even able to manipulate the Buffalo defense with simple tight end motion at times, but the icing came when the Saints ran the same pitch to Kamara for a fourth time in the fourth quarter for a gain of 9 yards.

The New York Jets had similar success against the Bills with similar motions a week ago, but coach Sean Payton said the Saints did not run the same plays. He did, however, note that New Orleans might have used Buffalo’s aggressiveness against it.

“We saw a good game (by the Jets), but it wasn’t anything in that specific game,” Payton said. “We’ve seen, obviously, all the tape, it’s an eight-week study. They’re an aggressive front. We got a couple different things that we didn’t see in the prior few weeks.”

This level of scheming is often seen in the New Orleans passing attack, as its known to attack specific weaknesses within a defense relentlessly. The same level of planning and attention to detail showed up in the rushing attack this week.

The Saints exposed something the rest of the league will see. Buffalo is going to have to find a way to clean it up before its next opponent uses motion to open up gulfs of space for its running backs.

The rest of the film study will be added to this post later this afternoon.

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