Dose of humility fuels Allen to bounce back performance vs. Raiders
In the aftermath of his team’s dominating 38-10 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a compelling take on the week which followed his four-turnover performance in last Monday’s loss to the New York Jets.
And it was one that may help explain what makes him such a strong bounce-back performer in games following a loss or a poor outing.
“I love feeling how I felt last week, I really do,” Allen said. “It makes the good feel that much better and it forces us to be better and I want to be the best I can be … I take the bad with the good, I understand it and I’m just trying to let it fuel me.”
After a week in which his play was scrutinized to a stronger degree than any time in recent memory, Allen responded Sunday with a performance that seemed tailored to answer his critics, completing 31 of 37 passes with three touchdown throws, no interceptions and, most importantly, no situations where he defaulted to trying to make high-risk plays with his arm or his legs at inopportune times.
Against the Raiders he was efficient, accurate and patient, taking what the defence gave him in completing 18 of 21 first-half passes, including his first 13 in a row, heeding the advice of Bills head coach Sean McDermott who counselled him to live to play another down, rather than trying to win the game on every series or every throw.
A hint about his refined approach came during the Bills first possession. On third down, trailing 7-0, Allen scrambled to his right while pumping his arm for a throw, before deciding to step-out of bounds and take a sack, forcing his team to punt. (A week earlier, all three of his interceptions had come on third-down plays.)
A few plays later, the Bills got a short field off an interception, leading to the game-tying score from which they never looked back.
At age 27, entering his sixth NFL season, the essential challenge for Allen has been to learn when and when not to reach into his toolbox of spectacular downfield throws and hard-charging runs up the field. And to count on the players around him so that he can become more focused on consistency that wins games rather than splash plays that dazzle and impress.
While that concern has existed since the Bills took him with the seventh pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, it unexpectedly heightened during the second half of last season when Allen at times — in his own words - “let things get away“ from him.
The first two games of this Bills season have demonstrated the extremes of Allen’s style — playing aggressively and carelessly while blowing a 10-point lead against the Jets; while on the other hand staying patient and efficient against the Raiders in a game that opened with a Raider touchdown and a Bills punt.
That punt was the Bills first and last of the day. Their next eight possessions consisted of five touchdowns, a field goal, a drive that ended on the Raiders one-yard line and another in victory formation.
That efficiency was fuelled by a balanced attack in which Allen ran just 3 times, twice of which were quarterback sneaks, while handing the ball off 30 times to his running back trio of James Cook, Latavius Murray and Damien Harris who combined for 178 yards.
The ground game, combined with Allen’s efficient throwing, allowed the Bills to control the time of possession by a 2:1 margin. After Buffalo opened the second half with a nine-minute drive ending in a touchdown to take a 28-10 lead, the Raiders had just three possessions the entire second half.
So often the Bills offence seems to retrench at some point to Allen scrambling and looking for receiver Stefon Diggs, to a fault. Against the Raiders, Diggs had seven catches, Gabe Davis six and rookie tight end Dalton Kincade five, among nine Bills who had at least one catch.
The Bills biggest gains Sunday came not from Allen chucking the ball half the length of the field, but catch-and-run plays where he was able to buy time with his legs, allowing his receivers to get separation before he hit them in stride for yards after catch.
Teams still have to defend Allen’s ability to go deep vertically. But as McDermott noted post-game, Allen is very tough to stop when he’s willing to take the stuff defences surrender to him underneath.
In trying to understand the Bills offence during the first two weeks of the season, it should be noted that the Jets have one of the NFL’s best defences and the Raiders do not.
But regardless, Allen’s performance against the Raiders provided a blueprint for how the team wants him to run the offence.
He just needed the dose of humility provided by the Jets to do so.