Mixed bag for Allen in first start

A mediocre Bills offense once again hurt by a leaky defense

Howard Simon
September 16, 2018 - 6:03 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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He was okay.

That’s my answer to the question I’m guessing all of you would want to ask. The question, of course, being "what did you think of Josh Allen’s game?"

I felt the same about Allen after his regular season debut as I did after his preseason. I don’t think the job is too big for him at this point. I don’t know what kind of bar each one of you had set for Allen in his first start, but for me, I just didn’t want him to look lost. I didn’t want to see the deer in the headlights look followed by off target passes all game long. Basically, I just didn’t want Josh Allen to throw up all over himself, and thankfully he did not.

The Bills defense did that in the first half, but I’ll get to that later.

If you want the stats, Allen went 18-for-33 for 245 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and was sacked five times. He ran eight times for 32 yards. This on a day when the Bills didn’t really have balance in their offense. They tried to run, but couldn’t do enough damage on the ground. LeSean McCoy had 39 yards on nine carries (27 came on one run) before leaving the game with a rib injury. As a team, the Bills ran 22 times but managed just 84 yards.

I thought Allen did a good job of hanging in the pocket, better than he did last week in Baltimore. I felt he became too jumpy against the Ravens, but he looked more comfortable this week even though he was under pressure on numerous drop backs. When he had time in the pocket and he did on a number of throws, he seemed to be going through his reads in an attempt to find an open receiver. There were times he would load up and appear ready to unleash a deep ball, but he didn’t have an open target downfield. He did throw the ball deep a few times and hit on a 57-yard bomb to Zay Jones, who did a good job of coming back for the pass.  

I don’t think he had a signature throw, so to speak, but he did put some mustard on a 21-yard toss to Charles Clay in the second quarter. He also under threw Robert Foster in the end zone in the third quarter, which allowed the Chargers defender to slap the ball away for an incompletion. I’d like to give credit to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, even though the play didn’t work. The Bills were starting their drive at the Los Angeles 42-yard line, down 28-13 with just under four minutes left in the third quarter and on the very first play, Daboll has Allen take a crack at the end zone in an attempt to make it a one score game.

As for his two interceptions, one came on a pass for Jason Croom, but that play was more about a really nice diving pick by the Los Angeles defender. The other interception was a bad throw, but what will stand out is Allen running to his right and dragging the Chargers' best pass rusher, Melvin Ingram, who was trying to bring him down. Instead of throwing it away, Allen tried to hit Marcus Murphy on the sideline. It wasn’t a good idea. We had a perfect view of that play from our angle in the press box and the moment the ball left Allen’s hand, you knew it was going to be picked off.

Allen was sacked five times, but some of those were the result of blitzers or defensive linemen coming in clean.  

If you were angry after the game or depressed, my guess is it had nothing to do with Allen and more to do with the defense. For the second straight game, that unit looked like it had no idea how to play in the first half. Phillip Rivers dissected the Bills' zone coverage and took advantage of favorable matchups versus Bills linebackers. He looked to be picking on rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in the passing game for sure. Rivers was 15-of-16 in that first half for 178 yards and three touchdowns.

The game started well as the Bills forced a three-and-out on the Chargers' initial possession, but Los Angeles registered touchdowns on each of their next four drives. The Bills gave up 28 points, 284 yards and 17 first downs in the first 30 minutes. If you throw in the Ravens game, the Bills have now been outscored 54-6 in the first half.

After the game, head coach Sean McDermott confirmed that he took over the defensive play calling duties from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in the second half. McDermott said he would evaluate that among many other things this week.

McDermott will have to evaluate the starting cornerback spot opposite Tre'Davious White too. Vontae Davis pulled himself from the game in the first half, told the coaches he was done and later announced his retirement. You can then add his 2018 salary to the massive heap of dead cap money the Bills are carrying this season.

The defense looked like a completely different unit in the second half, stopping the run, getting pressure on Rivers and only giving up three points. I’m going to hold off on referring to that as a turning point since the Chargers had a big lead at the half and probably played it safe in the second half. 

All in all, the game went as I expected. I didn’t think the defense would be able to shut down Rivers and the Chargers passing attack and I didn’t think the Bills offense could win a score fest. Allen was a mixed bag on an offense that still looks like it lacks enough talent to help a rookie quarterback succeed as a starter.

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