When the Colts were steamrolled by the Tennessee Titans in week 12, they were without one of the best players in the NFL with DeForest Buckner on the COVID-19 list. However Buckner was able to return to action this past Sunday against the Houston Texans as he returned to his dominant self on the football field. He finished the game with two sacks, three quarterback hits, five hurries, and four total stops according to Pro Football Focus.
So today we are going to highlight the dominant play of this All-Pro and talk about why he is so vital to this Colts’ defense.
It is rare to see Buckner unblocked in the passing game but that is exactly what happens here on a beautifully drawn up blitz design by Matt Eberflus. He schemes it so the corner blitz takes away the left tackle and the inside linebacker is selling the blitz over the guard to draw his eyes in. This takes both players away from Buckner who is lined up at defensive end. He is able to get downhill and nearly get a sack on the first drive of the game. Honestly if the Colts were playing any other team this would result in a sack.
I love how Matt Eberflus schemes up blitzes on the rare occasion he calls them. Gets DeForest Buckner completely unblocked for the near sack (I hate Watson so much for his ability to get out of these). pic.twitter.com/0nt3YGt6Jo— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 7, 2020
After that though, every other one of these clips will showcase Buckner straight up dominating the player lined up across from him. The Texans had a three guard rotation going with Max Scharping, Senio Kelemete, and Zach Fulton. All three struggled mightily against this elite defensive tackle. This play features Fulton struggling to keep up with the power and length of Buckner. Buckner starts with the bull rush then quickly combos with the swim to get by for the sack.
The Colts missed Buckner so much in week 12. Just an elite elite talent pic.twitter.com/sXewv1iAyt— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 7, 2020
While Buckner didn’t have a huge impact in the run game, mainly because the Texans went away from it early on, he did still make a few plays. Here he eats the double team from the center and right guard easily with his long arms. While eating both of these blocks, he is still able to fill the run lane and make the tackle for a quick stop. Excellent play and effort in run defense.
Buckner fighting through the double team to stop the running back for a short gain pic.twitter.com/u68e3ULBwe— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 7, 2020
Buckner had a ton of success in this game with a push-pull move. A push-pull is pretty easy to explain as it features the pass rusher starting by pushing into the blocker like they bull rushing and then quickly pulling back and using the offensive linemen’s leverage against them. Here Buckner makes the right guard look silly as he quickly tosses him for the ground and nearly comes up with another sack.
Too easy for Buckner on this push-pull rush pic.twitter.com/NFl5Bgu1pV— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 7, 2020
Nick Martin is one of the highest paid centers in the NFL. While he is having a bit of a rough season, he is still better than an average center in the league. Well, Buckner makes him look like a nobody with this swim move. He quickly gets inside and glides past the center while moving like a 300 pound man shouldn’t be allowed to move. Another elite pass rush that nearly resulted in a sack.
DeForest Buckner making one of the highest paid centers in football look foolish here pic.twitter.com/mrh9Mkjlme— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 7, 2020
I’ll give some credit to guard Max Scharping who did a great job of matching Buckner’s power on bull rushes in this game (I would also like to thank the Texans for continually subbing him out for lesser guards all game). However, Buckner was able to work past him using combos after the bull rush. Buckner utilizes the swim after the bull rush here and again forces Watson to leave the pocket.
Max Scharping actually did okay against Buckner when he was in the game at LG but here Buckner is able to beat him with a bull rush then swim to force Watson out of the pocket pic.twitter.com/4dsYZtCJjG— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 7, 2020
Justin Houston also had an outstanding game on Sunday but his highlight strip sack doesn’t happen without Buckner on the interior. Buckner easily beats his man inside with a bull rush and gets a hand on Watson, which forces him to bail outside the pocket. This gives the time for Houston to get around the edge and hit Watson from behind for the forced fumble. Buckner’s impact is felt even when it isn’t directly in the stat sheet.
Justin Houston's strip sack doesn't happen without DeForest Buckner. Buckner beats his man inside easily and forces Watson to drift right into Houston for the sack pic.twitter.com/ex2bIJ7RI2— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
Overall Buckner’s impact is irreplaceable and it was so evident on Sunday. The difference between this defensive performance and the one against Tennessee the week before is night and day. In this game, the Texans really only scored because of their elite quarterback and a few really nice plays from their receivers. Buckner truly disrupted this game and the Texans’ offense from start to finish. Elite game from an elite player.
Another near sack for Buckner with a push-pull pic.twitter.com/5QVlowoT4R— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
There really isn’t too much I can say here that hasn’t been said about DeForest Buckner this year. When Chris Ballard traded the 13th pick and gave out an 84 million dollar extension to Buckner, it came with the idea that he needed to be a superstar for this team or this trade could be extremely detrimental to the organization. However, Buckner has been the superstar that the defense truly needed to take the next step.
He impacts nearly every play and as a result, the defense is successful largely due to his impact. Colts fans should be happy this stud is part of this team’s future going forward because he is going to be a star for a long long time.