A day later, and “The Hurdle” has started to take on a life of its own.
Josh Allen’s incredible display of athleticism Sunday did more than just give the Buffalo Bills an important first down against the Minnesota Vikings. It also provided a jolt of energy to both the team and Bills Mafia. By Monday, the hashtag #JoshAllenJumpingOverThings was all over Twitter, with photoshopped pictures of the rookie quarterback clearing things like the Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon.
It even brought out the humorous side of no-nonsense offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
“You guys are out there for practice and individual, right? We spend five minutes on hurdling and then the other five minutes on footwork,” he deadpanned. We have (quarterbacks coach) David (Culley) stand out there, and Josh makes the leap.”
Allen’s leap over Anthony Barr is perhaps the signature play from a signature win for the Bills, 27-6, over a team thought to be a Super Bowl contender.
“I think the takeaway for me was it was a critical third down,” coach Sean McDermott said. “They blitzed, and Josh found a seam and took it. The part I like about it was he was decisive. You don’t always see that with young players. I thought overall, our team was decisive and played fast. Whenever you do that, usually good things happen.”
The hurdle wasn’t the only time Allen made plays with his legs Sunday. There was also his 10-yard touchdown run, when he beat Barr to the front-left pylon. He also used his 6-foot-5 frame to stretch the ball over the goal line on a fourth-down play from the Minnesota 1-yard line.
“He’s a competitive athlete,” Daboll said. “He’s big, he’s strong, and obviously, we always want to throw first and run second. He’s competitive. It was a good play. We just want him to be smart with his body.”
The Bills don’t want to take away Allen’s freedom to run, but know he’s got to be smart about when he does it for longevity’s sake.
“Yeah, I mean we’ve around long enough in this league to know that those things tend to build up, and I think that the part is to be calculated, yet aggressive,” McDermott said. “He’s an athlete and you saw that, I think a lot of people saw that, yesterday with the hurdle. I’m not going to take that away from him, but there’s a time and a place for it as well, and that’s all a part of an added dimension to our offense.”
Minnesota is a notoriously difficult place to play, which made Allen’s performance all the more impressive to the coaching staff.
“The environment, let’s just start there, is not an easy one, nor will the environment this week be an easy one,” McDermott said. “To go in an environment like that, against that type of defense, against a team overall that's been to where we're trying to get to. ... I thought he was poised.
“To be able to see the game the way he's seen it to this point, I think, would suggest that he's on schedule. Still a lot of work to do, and I know Josh mentioned the same and will continue to say that, because we as a team have a lot of work to do. I was pleased with the way he handled things yesterday, in particular in the first half.”
McDermott pointed to a play midway through the second quarter as a sign of Allen’s growth. With the Bills facing a third and 20 at the Vikings’ 42-yard line, he fired a quick pass to Kelvin Benjamin for a gain of 11 yards. That got the Bills within range for a 50-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka.
“The thing that goes a little bit unnoticed is the situational football,” McDermott said. “He came back and got us back into field-goal range to get three critical points before halftime.”
Here are five more takeaways from Monday’s press conferences with McDermott, Daboll and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
1. One of the biggest concerns coming out of Sunday’s game was the performance of Benjamin, who had a couple early drops that hurt the offense.
“They're concerning because they're critical plays,” McDermott said. “From a fundamentals standpoint, we need to make those plays. We're leaving points or opportunities on the field. You do that enough, it's going to come back to haunt you. Whether it's pre-snap penalties, fundamentally catching the football, whatever it is, we have to continue to grow and move in the right direction with this football team.”
As for how Benjamin has performed in the first three games this season, the coach added, “I think there's some plays that he's made. There were a couple of third downs yesterday that I thought were big for us. Certainly there was some balls that I know he would like to have back. ... I think he continues to make progress, and he'll continue to get better. That's what we're looking forward to. Just like our entire football team. He's a guy that Josh counts on and will continue to count on going forward.”
2. Frazier, the former head coach of the Vikings, got the game ball Sunday from McDermott. Given that the veteran defensive coordinator had been stripped of play-calling duties the week before, there was some added significance to that.
“I knew that game meant a lot to Leslie,” McDermott said. “He'll probably say otherwise, but I think it's human nature to want to go out and put your best foot forward against your old team. I'm extremely proud of Leslie and happy for him at the same time.”
Frazier resumed play-calling duties against Minnesota.
“I’m always concerned about our players,” he said. “What’s most important is that we give them the best chance to win. That’s all that really matters. … Those guys on our defense, those guys on our offense, they deserve that game ball far more than I do. They went out and played and they played well. They deserved the win.”
3. It would be easy to say the Bills took their foot off the gas in the second half with a 27-0 lead, but that’s not exactly the case. Daboll said the team was actually aggressive early in the third quarter. Allen fumbled the snap on the first offensive play after halftime, then was sacked on second down before he could get off a called deep ball. On Buffalo’s next possession, the rookie quarterback made probably his biggest mistake of the game when he was careless with the football when being gang tackled, causing him to fumble. The Bills caught a break when tight end Jason Croom was able to recover it and maintain possession.
“The next time we got the ball back … we were going to be smart in what we did, still try to gain first downs and score, but really be smart,” Daboll said. It was a four-score game at that time.
“You have to be smart in terms of the situation. I’ve been in games where we’ve been down a bunch and came back. I think it depends on the situation.
4. The first two games of this season were ugly, but that doesn’t mean Frazier didn’t see some positives.
“Although we were struggling statistically, in my own mind, I felt like there were some remedies,” he said. “As long as you can identify what you think the problems are, and you feel like there are some solutions, you don’t have to press the panic button.”
The Bills went through a three-game stretch last season that was every bit as ugly as this year’s first two weeks.
“As long as you can figure out how to solve those issues, you have a chance to right the ship,” Frazier said. “What you don’t want to do is send out an alarm signal and panic as if we can’t get it around or get it fixed. Our players believe in what we’re doing, they trust, and that’s a big part of what we do for a living. To see them come out and play the way they did, they blocked out whatever happened in those first two weeks. That’s what you have to be able to do in the National Football League.”
5. The team came out of Monday’s game in pretty good shape injury wise. Defensive end Trent Murphy is day to day with an ankle injury, while two players who missed Sunday’s game – running back LeSean McCoy (ribs) and defensive end Shaq Lawson (hamstring) – are “progressing well,” according to McDermott.