BALTIMORE – Josh Allen picked up a first down on his fourth snap of the day, which is far more than you can say about the other guy.
The Buffalo Bills’ rookie quarterback, the seventh overall pick in the draft, made his regular season debut with 11:22 remaining in the third quarter of the team’s unprecedented embarrassment of a season opener, a 47-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, by far the ugliest opener in franchise history.
Buffalo trailed 40-0 at the time, and with Nathan Peterman as the starting quarterback, had failed to pick up a first down in the first half.
Factoring in penalties, the Bills’ offense managed minus-7 net yards on his 10 possessions.
That literally is less than nothing.
Peterman’s second interception of the day finally prompted the switch.
After Sunday’s performance by the two quarterbacks, it’s clear Allen should receive his first career start in next week’s home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. It’s tough to justify the alternative.
“It’s a situation where you’re sitting there and watching the team do bad and then having to see your defense go on the field,” Allen said. “It’s situational football. If you can move the sticks one or two times and get the defense off the field, that’s when teams do well.”
Allen didn’t perform much better behind the Bills’ soup strainer of an offensive line, at least at first, going three-and-out and taking a sack on his initial possession.
But soon enough, he had the Bills on the move, and against the Ravens’ starting defense, to boot, driving the team 46 yards in 12 plays and into position for its lone score.
“Really, I thought he made some decisive throws finding some tight windows,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said about Allen. “He used his feet at times, as well. I thought he had pretty good command of the huddle and the offense at the line of scrimmage.”
Allen began his second drive by moving the ball on his own, running for 11 and 14 yards on consecutive plays to cross midfield.
“The good thing is he can run,” running back LeSean McCoy said, “so that adds another dimension to the offense.”
Allen then hit Andre Holmes with a 14-yard pass on third-and-long.
He drove the Bills to the 3-yard line, in fact, but was unable to overcome a continuous comedy of errors.
Penalties, poor protection and dropped passes short-circuited the drive.
After McCoy powered his way to the 3, left tackle Dion Dawkins was flagged for unnecessary roughness, backing the Bills up to the 18. Left guard Vlad Ducasse was then called for a false start, making it second-and-goal from the 23.
The Bills were granted a reprieve when Brandon Carr was whistled for pass interference on Kelvin Benjamin, giving Buffalo first-and-goal from the 3.
But they continued moving in the wrong direction.
Allen made a poor read by choosing to keep the ball, rather than handing off to McCoy, and was sacked.
Benjamin dropped a rifled pass in the back of the end zone. And Allen was sacked again before the Bills settled for a 35-yard field goal from Stephen Hauschka.
It was a disappointing end to the team’s most productive drive of the day.
But that field goal ended up being the only thing keeping this disaster from becoming the worst loss in franchise history, the 44-point margin of defeat surpassed only in the Bills’ 56-10 loss to the New England Patriots in 2007.
“As a defense, you always want the shutout,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “But he came in the game, and he did a good job moving the ball, made some plays with his feet. We’ve just got to do better executing, especially when it’s a change at quarterback.”
Allen finished 6 of 15 for 74 yards and a 56.0 passer rating, but didn’t commit a turnover and led a scoring drive, which is also far more than you can say about Peterman, who was 5 of 18 for 24 yards, two picks and produced a passer rating of 0.0.
“I love Josh,” said Bills receiver Zay Jones, who led the team with three catches for 26 yards, all with Allen in the game. “He plays hard. He did some good things when he came in there in the second half. He came in there and gave us a little bit of a run, but we need to focus more on the entire team – not just the quarterback – offensive line, running backs, wide receivers.”
And that’s true. The Bills’ issues on offense run deep.
Allen even out-rushed McCoy, finishing with 26 yards on four carries.
“I was going in, just trying to make plays, trying to help this offense move the ball,” Allen said. “We didn’t put many points on the board. It’s a tough game to start out with. Fortunate enough, in the NFL, this is one game. It’s one loss. And you’ve got 15 more opportunities to go out there and play well.”
In a roundabout way, McDermott said he’ll consider starting Allen next week, though he wouldn’t commit to anything other than reviewing the tape and all players at every position.
“I’m going to look at everything,” he said. “It’s too early to go one way or another. When I look at everything, I’m going to be objective and make sure we put ourselves in situations to win games.”
There’s undoubtedly plenty of blame to share, and much to fix.
Allen may not lead the Bills to a victory, but he offers the best chance to move the ball.