The Bills beat the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, 24-21. It was a big day for the Bills.
The big story, as he’s been all season, is Josh Allen, but this was a team win in a team game, and I’ll get to Allen in a minute. First, a few reactions to the game.
This game was an old-fashioned slug fest, with big hits, big plays and highs and lows. The Bills took control early, the Jags fought back to tie the game at the half. Then both teams slugged it out through the third quarter until the Jags finally put together a big punt return and a nice drive to take the lead, 20-14. The Jags had made a statement, the question was whether the Bills had the heart to respond.
Respond? It was an epic response.
Bortles’ 30-yard touchdown throw was reviewed and ruled a completion at the one-yard line. The close play on the completion (was it an interception by Wallace?), the players gathering around the receiver and defender wrestling for the ball at the goal line and the fight that broke out between Fournette and Lawson all electrified the crowd and the Bills.
Most of the fans missed the next play, because they were watching Lawson and Fournette being escorted down their respective sidelines to the shared tunnel to the locker rooms. It was raw instinct on display, and everything about Lawson screamed “you don’t want to mess with me!”
Back on the field, the Bills stuffed Hyde for a one-yard loss, the Jags took a false start penalty, a touchdown pass was negated by holding, Bortles gained a yard on a near sack and lost 8 on a sack. Fourth and goal from the 24, the Jags missed the field goal. Allen to McKenzie, penalty on the Jags, Allen to Foster, penalty on the Jags, Allen up the middle for the touchdown!
It was a classic momentum shift – the Jags took control of a close game, came within a video review of scoring a touchdown, then came away with no points AND gave up a 68-yard touchdown drive on three plays. The Bills made plays and the Jags melted down. There was more football to play, and the Jags certainly didn’t quit, but the Bills had taken over the game.
It was the kind of sequence that keeps me going to the games. Sitting in the stands with fellow Bills fans, watching things slipping away and then watching our team rise up as if yelling in unison “NOT IN OUR HOUSE!!!” It’s a thrill you can’t get anywhere else, unless you’re out drinking champagne with Shady McCoy at 3 a.m.
Cheap shot at Shady, I know, and he doesn’t deserve cheap shots. The guy is a gamer. His heart is on display every game. If only he had the daylight the Jags gave Fournette and the others in the first half on Sunday. The Bills run blocking was weak again, and the Bills defense had no answer to the Jags running game; no answer, that is, until halftime, when they regrouped and forced Bortles to start making plays. It was the kind of adjustment good teams make.
The Bills killed themselves with penalties. It’s been a recurring theme this season, and it’s worrisome that McDermott has been unable to get more disciplined play out of his team.
The Bills clearly wanted speed on the field against the Jags. McKenzie and Thompson were out there a lot, and Benjamin was a role player.
Edmunds is still a project. He doesn’t look anything like the old-fashioned middle linebacker who stuffs the running back in the hole. He’s usually in the wrong hole (which might be his assignment), or he’s chasing after the play watching someone else make the tackle.
Still, Edmunds is making plays, in the run game and the passing game. It was hard to see on the Stadium screen, and they showed the replay only once, but it looked like Edmunds got a finger on the pass that came off O’Shaughnessy’s hands into Poyer’s for what turned out to be the points that won the game. Give Edmunds an off-season to decompress, put on a little muscle and digest all he’s learned, and he’s going to be special.
Okay. There was a lot to talk about in the game, but if we’re talking special, it’s time to talk about Josh Allen.
I’ve been waiting for Allen’s return. As McDermott continues with his process, the whole team (not just the quarterback) has to grow and improve, but no one is more important than Allen. He’s the key to the future, and I wanted to see more of him. Sunday, I saw everything I needed. Allen IS the future. And if the future isn’t now, it’s coming soon.
I’m not not talking Allen’s running. The guy showed again that he’s a serious threat as a running quarterback. His cutback behind Bodine’s block on the touchdown run was running-back-intelligence on display. His acceleration out of a potential tackle on the long scramble was breathtaking, for a quarterback. But I’m not talking about his running, because running isn’t his future; throwing is.
Allen had a GREAT day throwing. Don’t look at his stats, don’t say, “well, his passer rating was only 90, he completed less than 50%, other than the bomb he didn’t do much.” Forget all that. Just go back and look at each called passing play.
Start from the fact that the Jags have one of the best defenses in the league. Football Outsiders has them at number 6, 7th best in pass defense. They’re 8th in points per game, 5th in yards per game. They’re 5th in opponent’s passer rating. They are a good defense.
Then recognize that the pass protection was pretty bad for most of the day. Allen scrambled a lot. In fact, most of his big runs came on scrambles, but stay focused on the plays where he didn’t run. Poor protection, but he never was sacked. Why? Because Allen always escaped the pressure and did something. That alone is a big plus.
So was Allen running scared, bailing out of the pocket at the first sign of pressure? No. First on the nice deep completion to Benjamin and then on the incredibly beautiful deep touchdown to Foster, he stood in the pocket, knowing the pressure was coming and he was going to get hit, and he delivered perfect throws. He knew what he wanted, he knew he had just enough time to get it, he didn’t flinch and he delivered.
But he was 8-of-19. How can he be good if he was 8-of-19? Well, how many bad throws did he make? By my count, three: He missed the first pass of the game, behind Jones coming across the middle, missed Foster in the flat in the third quarter, and mysteriously under-threw McKenzie in the right flat in the fourth quarter. Three bad throws, one of them the first throw he’s made in live action for over a month.
Three bad throws out of 11 incompletions. Not great, and Allen will tell you he should have made each of those. What about the other eight incompletions? One was a hail Mary, at least two were throw-aways, one was a prayer of a deep ball to Benjamin on third and 26, one was an incredible scramble and throw for a first down that went through Croom’s hands on the right sideline, one was a nearly perfect throw to Thompson over the middle that he dropped after a good defensive play, one was a good throw where Thompson failed to settle in the open spot in the zone, one was miscommunication with Thompson on a sideline pattern to the left late in the game, where Allen was under intense pressure. (Thompson and Allen have had only one week to practice together.)
Allen made the right throw on eight of his 11 incompletions.
And then there are the throws that didn’t count. Completion to Logan Thomas for seven yards and a first down, penalty on Miller. Completion to McKenzie for 16 yards and a first down, penalty on Bodine, completion to Ivory for four yards, penalty on Teller. Deep sideline throw to Foster at the end of the half, intercepted by Ramsay but only because his illegal contact took Foster out of the play.
Forget the statistics. Just look at each drop back. Multiple throws under pressure or on the run. No sacks. No interceptions. Three bad throws. A few throw-aways. Everything else was on target and catchable. Multiple completions called back for penalties. Two superb throws that the receivers (Thompson and Croom) didn’t catch.
Did he fail to see some guys open? I didn’t see them, but he probably did. Should he have changed some plays at the line of scrimmage? I didn’t see them, but he probably should have. Those are the things that get better with experience. What was on display yesterday was all we needed to see for now, and more: Poise, accuracy, decision making, ball security, leadership. All of it. Oh, and one of the most beautiful deep balls you ever will see.
Against the Jags, he showed that it’s time to get on board the Allen train.
The Rockpile Review is written to share the passion we have for the Buffalo Bills. That passion was born in the Rockpile; its parents were everyday people of western New York who translated their dedication to a full day’s hard work and simple pleasures into love for a pro football team.
Editor’s babble: The Allen train is picking up Bills bandwagon fans in droves all over Wyoming. My phone did not stop ringing after the game. I’m seeing Bills gear in Wyoming for the first time in almost 30 years. It’s a blessing to watch Josh Allen develop right before our eyes… and while many are surprised and trying to back track on their criticism of him before the draft… I’m just smiling. Intangibles do matter. Thanks to Mark Korber for his contributions to our blog. You can’t find Mark on social media, but he does post on The Stadium Wall, so check him out there!