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Jason Wolf: Josh Allen flashes athleticism, but needs more help from receivers

Josh Allen says he looked for an open receiver.

It was third down. Nine yards to go. Late first quarter. The Buffalo Bills were on their own side of the field, enjoying an early and surprising 17-point lead against the heavily favored Vikings, having taken advantage of a couple of turnovers deep in Minnesota territory.

There had already been a couple of dropped passes. There will be more. But on this play, the rookie quarterback will rely on himself.

Allen takes the shotgun snap, a three-step drop and matters into his own hands. He races straight down the middle of the field, directly into the path of Anthony Barr, and as the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker closes in, preparing to deliver a crunching hit, Allen launches himself through the air, co-opting a Mother Goose classic.

Allen jumped over the moon.

“We knew going in that he was a mobile quarterback,” said Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly, who had the closest view of any other player on the field, “that he will tuck it and run it and that he’s not afraid to do that.”

Equal parts daring and delightful and reckless, Allen took off just beyond the 40-yard line. He hurdled Barr, fully clearing the would-be tackler who was aiming for Allen’s midsection, not his legs. After pulling the ball to his chest, he landed on his back at the 46, picking up 10 yards and a first down.

His leap was nearly six yards. Over a man.

“I was just trying to ignite a spark in our offense and our team,” Allen said. “It was third down. They brought a little pressure. I escaped. And I probably got my eyes down too low. I should have went through the progression a little longer. But I was trusting my feet, trusting my gut.”

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Bills coach Sean McDermott was able to laugh about the play after his team, a 16 1/2-point dog, trounced the Vikings, 27-6, on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Buffalo scored on its first five possessions to claim its first victory of the season after an embarrassing 0-2 start.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that,” McDermott said. “On a normal – to me, I need to watch the replay – but it looked like a normal type of tackle as opposed to a cut type of tackle.”

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Allen, making his second career start and first on the road, completed 15 of 22 passes for 196 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, throwing one to tight end Jason Croom and running for two more.

The majority of that production came in the first half, when the Bills surged to a 27-0 lead.

Allen attempted and completed just three passes for 24 yards in the second half, none in the fourth quarter, as the Bills tried to grind clock with the running game, minus an injured LeSean McCoy.

But Allen demonstrated considerable accuracy, even on passes that weren’t caught, and situational awareness that affirms his standing as a franchise quarterback. It was great to see him hit Kelvin Benjamin for an 11-yard gain on third-and-long late in the second quarter, moving the Bills into range for Stephen Hauschka’s 50-yard field goal.

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Allen’s longest pass of the day, on a broken play two snaps after he jumped over Barr, was arguably better execution than the hurdle and something McDermott wants to see more often.

Allen bought time by rolling to his right before connecting on a short pass to running back Chris Ivory, who zipped 55 yards to close the first quarter.

“I see him scramble,” Ivory said, “and we’re taught to travel with the ball, with the quarterback, so that if he does see a guy come open, he can toss it to him. On that play, I see him roll out and I broke towards the ball. We connected eyes and he just led me. That was it.”

Fast forward through a Bills fumble, which they recovered, and Allen scrambling for a short gain but picking up a first down via penalty because Barr dragged him down with a horse-collar tackle.

The Bills faced fourth-and-goal from the 1. They went for it, with Allen delivering the dagger by diving over the linemen, stretching the ball into the end zone for a 24-0 lead.

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Of course, none of that happens without his Edwin Moses impersonation.

“I thought it was pretty dope,” wide receiver Zay Jones said. “That was awesome. It was an amazing play by him. Seeing someone play that hard just encourages you to play just as hard, you know what I’m saying?”

Count veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes among those who doesn’t want to see it again.

“Ah, man. My heart skipped a beat,” Hughes said. “I mean, what an athletic move by the guy, but I’m definitely going to tell him, ‘No more. We need no more of that.’ By all means it was a beautiful play, but we want him for the rest of the season healthy, standing upright. So, yeah, he’s going to hear that on the plane. ‘No more. No more.’ ”

McDermott agrees, of course, and told Allen as much once he returned to the sideline with that insurmountable lead.

“He loved the effort,” Allen said. “It’s just trying to find a way to be safe and limit hits. It paid off once, and we’ll keep it at that.”

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