Allen's first game back is a success

November 25, 2018

Playing in his first game in 42 days, rookie quarterback Josh Allen took a step forward by leading the Buffalo Bills to a 24-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at New Era Field.

Allen used his arm and legs to personally account for 259 of the Bills' 327 total yards, while throwing for one touchdown and running for another. Allen faced what should be the toughest defense he will see the rest of the season and made a statement in the first quarter as the Bills produced long touchdown drives on their second and third possessions. 

On the Bills' first touchdown drive, he hung tough in the pocket, knowing he was going to get hit and completed a deep throw to Kelvin Benjamin. The 32-yard play, made against Jaguars star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and an additional 15-yard facemark penalty on Ramsey put the ball at Jacksonville’s 17-yard line. On the next play, Allen rolled to his right and made an on target short throw to tight end Jason Croom. The 11-yard play put the ball at the six-yard line, and Isiah McKenzie finished the drive with an end around to put the Bills on the board first.

The second drive featured Allen’s signature throw of the season to this point. Once again, he showed toughness by hanging in the pocket, and this time was crushed by two defenders as he unleashed a bomb to speedy wide receiver Robert Foster. The ball traveled about 40 yards in the air and Foster, who blew right by Jaguars safety Barry Church, caught it inside the Jacksonville 40-yard line. It was an easy path to the end zone from there and the Buffalo crowd went nuts. It was the Bills' longest pass completion of the season. A Bills offense that struggled to score more than one touchdown in a game now had two scores and 162 total yards in the first quarter alone.

The passing number don’t look pretty for Allen after that, but trust me when I tell you he passed the eye ball test. After that first quarter, Allen was just 4-of-14 for 35 yards, but a couple of third down passes that were good for first downs were wiped out by penalties, and a beautiful 35-yard throw to Deonte Thompson was knocked out of the receiver’s hands by a Jaguars defensive back.  

Allen’s legs were a bigger factor than his arm over the final three quarters. Allen has consistently downplayed the critical comments made about him by Ramsey before the season began, but the rookie quarterback sure looked like he had a perusal grudge against Ramsey and his teammates. It sure seemed like Allen wanted to be the man making plays, whether through the air or on the ground. He ran the ball 13 times, although the last two were kneel downs as the Bills went into victory formation.

Unfortunately, those two yards he lost dropped Allen down to 99 yards rushing in this game, but that is still a Bills franchise record for most yards on the ground by a quarterback in a single game. Tyrod Taylor had the old record of 79 yards.

It was Allen who accounted for, what turned out to be, the game winning touchdown on a 14-yard quarterback draw on the first play of the fourth quarter. Credit Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for going with an empty set and spreading the Jaguars defense out. Allen read the middle linebacker and ran right up the middle. He broke two tackles and juked another defender on his way to the end zone and flexed for Bills fans as part of his touchdown celebration. On that same drive, Allen had a real nice 19-yard completion to Foster into a pretty tight window.

Allen had two more key plays as the Bills were protecting the 21-14 lead later in the fourth quarter. The Bills started a drive at their own five-yard line with 9:20 left. Facing a 3rd-and-4 from their own 11-yard line, Allen got the ball out on time and hit Isiah McKenzie on an out route for a first down and some breathing room.

Two plays later, Allen avoided a sack attempt off the edge from Myles Jack and used his legs once again. He burst up the middle and then outside to his right for a 45-yard run, the Bills' longest run of the season. Buffalo ended up punting, but they flipped field position as Colton Schmidt’s punt rolled dead at the Jaguars' two-yard line. A Jordan Poyer interception on Jacksonville's next possession led to a Stephen Hauschka 22-yard field goal that, basically, sealed the Bills' fourth win on the season.

The 24 points are the second most scored in Allen's starts this season. The Bills put up 27 first half points in the upset win against the Minnesota Vikings.

Like I said, you might see 8-of-19 passing and not think much of Allen’s day, but he had 259 yards of offense, two touchdowns, no turnovers and no sacks against a good Jaguars defense. Between that and the emotion/passion Allen showed throughout the game, it was a day that should make Bills fans feel good about the rookie signal caller.

I can’t wait to see what the next five games will bring.