In what was one of the biggest early season games in recent Bills history, Buffalo’s defense rose to the challenge. They held the Patriots to just 224 yards and 9 offensive points. That’s a game you have to win. Unfortunately, 2nd-year quarterback Josh Allen had one of the worst games of his young career.
Allen’s talent is undeniable. But the deficiencies in his decision-making and game-management abilities were on full display against New England. Each of his 3 interceptions were avoidable. His first and third interceptions were forced passes into tight coverage where Allen was trying to make a big play.
I’m not exactly sure what Allen saw on that last interception.
Allen’s 2nd interception was a bit of a missed opportunity. First, as you can see below, his intended receiver actually had a step on his man. Allen moved backwards unnecessarily in response to the pass rush, though, despite having room to at least stand firm if not step up in the pocket. He didn’t transfer his weight and ended up throwing off his back foot as a result, leading to an underthrown ball and an interception.Allen was clearly looking to try and hit the big play all afternoon. That’s not exactly easy to do against New England’s secondary. Had he looked more to keep the offense on schedule and get the ball out of his hands, he might have found his running back, Frank Gore, in 1-on-1 coverage against a linebacker who happened to fall down on the play.
Now, obviously there’s no way Allen could have known the linebacker was going to fall there. In man-to-man coverage, quarterbacks generally pick the best individual matchup or man-beating route concept. In Allen’s defense, his intended receiver, Zay Jones (#11) did have a step. The point is more about Allen’s approach and decision-making, which was over-aggressive and costly all afternoon.
Take this 3rd-and-6 on the very next drive. Keep an eye on Zay Jones in the slot to Allen’s right.
The Patriots were in man coverage, and Jones’ crossing route was a great man-beating route concept.
Allen again chose to attempt the deep, lower percentage pass. He definitely had room to hit Jones for what could have been a big play. The result, instead, was an incompletion.
Allen’s inability, and seeming lack of desire, to keep the offense on schedule showed itself on two pivotal sacks.
The first came on a 3rd-and-9 from the Patriots’ 35-yard line in the first quarter. The Bills were in field goal range. A first down would be nice. Picking up a few more yards to create a shorter field goal attempt would be priority #2. An incompletion and no yards gained or lossed would be acceptable. Losing yards simply could not happen. Allen, however, waited and waited and waited some more for something to break open downfield.
That ball has to be thrown away. The sack knocked the Bills out of field goal range altogether, and they were forced to punt.
Then, just before the end of the half, the Bills faced a 3rd-and-10 from New England’s 26-yard line. The same rules applied here. Once again, Allen looked for the big play. Once again, he held onto the ball too long. Once again, he took a bad sack instead of throwing the ball away.
This time, it turned a 44-yard field goal attempt into a 49-yarder. Stephen Hauschka just missed.
Mistakes like these simply cannot happen against a team like the Patriots. Both sacks had a significant impact on Buffalo’s decision to go for it on 4th-and-goal from New England’s 3-yard line in the 4th quarter. Buffalo trailed by 6 at the time instead of being in a 3-point game or tied.
The Bills have the the potential to be a playoff team, especially with that defense. They need Allen to grow up in a hurry and start learning how to better manage a game, though.