Jim Kubiak will be analyzing the play of the Bills quarterbacks throughout the season for BNblitz.com. Kubiak is the all-time leading passer at Navy, has played in the NFL, NFL Europe and the Arena Football League, and been a coach and executive in the AFL. He spent eight years as the radio analyst for the University at Buffalo and runs the Western New York Quarterback Academy to help develop the next generation of quarterbacks.
Quarterbacks are graded each quarter using a “Doing Your Job” grading system for every play.
The Buffalo Bills had much to prove heading to Cleveland Friday night. The matchup with former quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, excited many who had been lobbying for his trade.
The smoke from this hype quickly dissipated as rookie Josh Allen emerged, leading the Bills franchise like an experienced veteran. Nathan Peterman proved his value, finishing strong with an 8 for 8 fourth quarter in Buffalo’s first win of the preseason. The Bills overall QB grade was 94 percent, collectively going 20-for-29 or 172 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Here is the quarterly breakdown:
Coach Tom Moore used to say that third-down conversions are directly proportional to your success on first and second down. Certainly that rang true for AJ McCarron and the Bills during the first four series.
A combination of Gregg Williams’ aggressive “press” coverage and three negative plays stalled each of McCarron’s drives. Buffalo found themselves in third-and-11, third-and-9, third-and-11, and third-and 12 situations respectively, making it all but impossible to convert. The Buffalo wide receivers struggled to get off the suffocating “press” coverage, giving McCarron little room for error. Accurate throws were contested by tight and physical Cleveland defenders. McCarron was hit in the pocket upon delivery on his other incompletion.
McCarron completed two quick hitch routes as well as a screen to LeSean McCoy. The three negative plays – the sack, false start, and holding penalty were not McCarron’s fault as he struggled to find comfort in the collapsing pocket.
Buffalo got off to a slow start under McCarron but he did a solid job of protecting the ball in long yardage situations on the road. This is the mark of a smart, seasoned and well-coached player, being situationally sound under Brian Daboll.
McCarron left the game 3 of 6 passing for 12 yards, with an injury to his throwing shoulder. This injury changes the dynamics for the Bills organization in terms of how they approach practice, upcoming preseason games, and whether another quarterback gets signed in the coming days.
Josh Allen was impressive as he demonstrated his ability to execute at a very high level with the first unit. Allen marched the Bills on a 15-play, eight-minute drive that took its toll on the Browns defensive. The patience, consistency, athletic ability and command presence by Allen answered many questions for eager fans.
He was able to see and recognize coverage, as well as “kill” several plays, which enabled the Bills to adjust their scheme at the line of scrimmage. This is high level activity for a first-round pick in his second preseason game.
Several plays illustrate growth for Allen. The first was a 5-yard speed out versus press, man-to-man
coverage. Allen was on time and on target without hesitation on an important third-down play.
Following a sack in which he had no chance, he broke the pocket again scrambling up the middle,
drawing an important penalty on Cleveland, which kept the long drive alive. The 2-yard touchdown pass to Rod Streater was the highlight of the day for Allen, sidestepping penetrating defenders and shuffling up into the pocket with eyes down the field. He was waiting for his crossing route to break at the end line. An amazingly quick flick of his wrist fires the football on the mark for seven of his 10 points in the quarter.
Allen’s poise and leadership were very evident and undeniable as the rookie put himself in position to
lead the Bills into Week 1 of the regular season.
Allen started the third quarter going 3-for-3 on a six-play drive that resulted in another field goal. Up to this point in the game Allen’s production yielded all of the Bills' 13 points.
Nathan Peterman took over with two incompletions on two stalled drives. Peterman looked decisive on
his throws, being careful not to turn the ball over Critically, with Buffalo leading 13-10, Peterman
executed without making a catastrophic mistake or hurting the team. He does this very well in the third quarter, running the backup unit efficiently and carrying the load for many of the younger players that were on the field. Excellent leadership and command presence by Peterman.
Following a scoring drive by Cleveland, Peterman found himself behind 17-13 and proceeded to lead a
seven-play drive, capped with a touchdown to tight end Nick O’Leary.
The most important developmental aspect of this touchdown throw was Peterman’s awareness of the blitz from the defender covering the tight end. Peterman saw it and attacked the voided area with a perfectly timed “hot” throw into the seam. O’Leary did a tremendous job finishing the play and taking it into the end zone.
Quarterbacks spent vast amounts of time preparing for situations like that, where an unaccounted-for
defender blitzes. The quarterback must see it and react, which Peterman did to perfection. A huge play
putting the Bills back in the lead for good.
Peterman had eight completions in eight attempts in the quarter and finished 8-for-10 for 113 yards. He was patient, with quick strikes to receivers underneath the soft zone coverage. He played smart, efficient, and consistent football from the quarterback’s perspective. Taking less risk, moving the team, and taking what the defense gave him.
High marks for Peterman’s strong finish as he too has put himself into a position to lead the Bills into the regular season.
Winning football games in the NFL starts with taking care of the football. Teams that win the turnover
ratio win the game statistically speaking between 80-90 percent of the time. Peterman, Allen, and McCarron did a terrific job of protecting the football and collectively executing a great game plan.