MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Josh Allen stood red-faced behind a podium in a tiny room in the bowels of Hard Rock Stadium, minutes after his final throw and the Buffalo Bills’ bid for a third consecutive victory fell excruciatingly short.
And his impressive performance continued.
“This one hurts. This one hurts a lot. It hurts for our team. A lot of missed opportunities on my end that … ” Allen paused and shook his head. “It’d be a different story.”
That final pass, a crossbody fourth-down heave after scrambling and twisting away from pressure, the one that arced toward the wide-open tight end Charles Clay in the end zone, the one that would have delivered a victory against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, had it not bounced off Clay’s fingertips and onto the turf, sealing a 21-17 defeat?
To hear Allen tell it, that was his fault.
“It was obviously a real chaotic situation,” Allen said. “Spin around a couple times, it doesn't help. He was there in the back of the end zone. The ball came out of my hand real bad. I’ve got to give him a chance … I was running around. I was pretty doggone tired. Like I said, it just didn't feel great coming out of the hand. I put this one on me.”
The missed touchdown pass to an open Zay Jones in the third quarter, the one Allen rifled behind his wide receiver on third down, forcing the Bills to settle for three points in a game they lost by four?
“I missed an opportunity with him on that third down, in the (third quarter). He made a football play, an instinctive play to keep going there,” Allen said. “It was Cover Zero, and I didn't see that. I was trying to throw it to where I thought he was going to spot up, and like I said, he made an instinctual play. He saw (Cover) Zero, he saw green grass. I've got to put that one on him. That's on me, 100 percent.”
A missed connection on a deep pass to Robert Foster, one Allen sailed nearly 70 yards through the air on a drive that ended in a missed field goal?
“Robert ran an outstanding, outstanding post route,” Allen said. “Missed him.”
Allen dazzled at times throughout his second game back from an elbow injury that sidelined him for a month, becoming just the fourth player in NFL history to throw multiple touchdowns and rush for at least 125 yards in a game.
And he continued to impress with the way he handled the loss, shouldering full responsibility for the Bills’ offensive shortcomings on a day when plenty of their fans’ fingers were pointing elsewhere.
The Bills’ special teams were horrific. Stephen Hauschka missed a field goal and extra point and Isaiah McKenzie muffed a punt leading to a Miami touchdown three plays later. Game management was questionable.
The officiating, well, Jerry Hughes was caught on camera sharing some thoughts about the crew.
The defense, stout for much of the afternoon, surrendered a long touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, immediately after the Bills had captured their first lead of the game.
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, in his 12th NFL season on an active roster and among the most respected players in the Bills’ locker room, said he was impressed with Allen’s performance both during and after the game.
“That’s a leader,” Alexander said. “He’s not out here pointing fingers. He knows Chuck was trying to make a play for him, and he understands that as a leader, you have to take responsibility when you win and lose. That’s a sign of the great ones. The ones that you don’t want in the locker rooms are the ones that are like, ‘Well, he shoulda, they shoulda.’
“It’s all on him. And that’s what I like.
“You respect it,” Alexander said. “You appreciate it. When a guy bears the mantle for the team and the responsibility when things don’t turn out right, because obviously quarterbacks get all the glory, as well, but it’s good that he’s also taking the onus when things aren’t quite working out, even when it may not be his fault. And that’s the sign of great leadership.”
Allen nearly led the Bills to a third consecutive victory.
He tossed two touchdowns, both to Jones, the first time he has thrown multiple scores in a game in his short career.
He rushed for a game- and career-high 135 yards on nine carries, setting the Bills' single-game franchise rushing record for a quarterback for the second consecutive week, after putting up 99 rushing yards in a victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
And Allen’s incomplete pass to Clay, on fourth-and-11 from the Miami 30 with 65 seconds to play, would have given him a single-game career-high for passing yardage and likely delivered a victory on a day the Bills outgained the Dolphins 415 yards to 175.
“I thought he played a heck of a game,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “He really did. An emotional game. He played hard. He led us on a 2-minute drive at the end there. The guy's a competitor, man. He's a competitive sucker and I'll take him on my team any day. That was a great performance. Came up short.
"We had opportunities, opportunities where we shot ourselves in the foot at times with some penalties. We've got to learn from it. This is a young football team. You learn from it and move forward.”
To be sure, Allen has plenty of room for improvement.
He tossed two interceptions and fumbled, though one of the picks came on a bomb into the end zone to close the first half and the fourth-quarter fumble was recovered by guard Wyatt Teller.
The defense bailed him out on the second pick – Xavien Howard stepped in front of Kelvin Benjamin – when Micah Hyde intercepted Ryan Tannehill on the very next play.
Allen has to work on his accuracy. His 54.5 completion percentage for the game (18 of 33 for 231 yards) was right in line with his pro career to date and the big knock against him coming out of Wyoming.
He has to work on his ability to read a defense and go through his progressions, and his on-field rapport with his teammates, and knowing when to allow a play to develop and when to take off and run.
That should come in time.
But Allen has already proved he’s the leader this franchise needs.