Josh Allen stayed on brand Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills’ rookie quarterback dazzled at times against the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field. He also sprinkled in a few head-scratching moments.
First, the good. Allen broke the Bills’ single-season franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback with a 35-yard gain in the third quarter. He finished with nine carries for 95 yards and two rushing touchdowns. For the season, Allen had 89 carries for 631 yards, breaking the franchise record of 580 by a quarterback set by Tyrod Taylor in 2016. He led the Bills in rushing for the season by more than 100 yards, becoming the fourth quarterback since 2000 to lead a team in passing and rushing (Russell Wilson in 2017, Cam Newton in 2012 and 2017, Donovan McNabb in 2000).
Allen put the cherry on top of his rushing season by making a 30-yard touchdown run look easy in the fourth quarter. The touchdown was the eighth of the year on the ground for Allen, tying the franchise record set by Jack Kemp in 1963.
“It just kind of unfolded,” Allen said of the scoring run. “Kind of got forced out of the pocket, had a decision to throw it or run it, and decided to keep it and got some blocks down field, made the guy miss and ended up in the end zone.”
Allen also finished 17 for 26 passing for 224 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The touchdowns came on a short completion to Zay Jones in the first quarter that the receiver turned into an 18-yard score; a nice, 5-yard connection with rookie Robert Foster in the third quarter; and then a 26-yard connection to a wide-open Jones with 7:51 remaining.
“It’s part of his development,” coach Sean McDermott said. “Thought he had a good day overall, there’s some throws that I know Josh is going to want back. He’s got an offseason now to evaluate, get some rest, and get back at it.”
The bad that McDermott alluded to came when Allen missed an open Jason Croom in the third quarter. Additionally, the quarterback was called for intentional grounding when he couldn’t advance the ball past the line of scrimmage in the second quarter, making a dangerous throwaway toward the sideline.
The ugly came near the end of the first half, when Allen threw his first career pick-six, staring down Croom and letting Dolphins safety Reshad Jones step in front of it for an interception that went 29 yards the other way for a touchdown.
Overall, though, a five-touchdown performance is a heck of a way for Allen to head into the offseason.
2. Shaq Lawson gave the Bills something to think about. The third-year defensive end had his first career multisack game. Lawson’s second sack, with came midway through the third quarter, forced a fumble that was recovered by former Dolphin Jordan Phillips, giving Buffalo possession at the Miami 23-yard short line.
“I ain’t had a two-sack game in about three years, since college, so it felt good,” Lawson said. “Like coach McDermott said, 'This was a job interview for a lot of people.' ”
Lawson doubled his season sack total to four. The Bills have until May to decide whether they’re going to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. The cost of doing so would be more than $9 million. Coming into Week 17, that seemed unlikely. That’s probably still the case, but Lawson strengthened his case Sunday.
“Affect the quarterback. That’s our goal,” he said. “It was just a great team win – all three phases.”
3. It’s a mystery what’s going on with Stephen Hauschka. The Bills’ kicker came up short on a 42-yard field-goal attempt early in the second quarter. That comes a week after he hit the crossbar against the Patriots on a 43-yard attempt.
Both of those kicks should be well within the range for an NFL player. The easy explanation is that Hauschka is hurt. He suffered a hip contusion against the New York Jets in Week 14, but was not listed on the injury report leading up to Sunday.
“It’s a kick I’ve got to make,” Hauschka said, followed by this exchange with a reporter.
Question: Is your health a reason that you’re not?
“It’s a kick I’ve got to make,” he said.
Question: So why isn’t that happening?
“It’s just a kick I’ve got to make.”
4. There were two scary-looking hits in the first half, resulting in injuries on both sides. In the first quarter, Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer was on the receiving end of a devastating block by Bills tight end Logan Thomas that came at the end of a 46-yard reception by running back Chris Ivory. McTyer went to the locker room for evaluation of a head injury, and was ruled out for the game in the third quarter.
“I was just wanted to give good effort, try to get him into the end zone,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to hurt anybody. I was just trying to make a block. I’ll be praying for him tonight to make a quick recovery.”
Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White did the same with just over a minute to go in the second quarter when he attempted to make a tackle on Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake on a pass to the flat. White was taken to the locker room for evaluation of a head injury. It was announced early in the third quarter that he would not return because of a concussion. Before getting hurt, White made his second interception of the season.
5. Kiko Alonso’s day against his old team ended early. The Dolphins’ linebacker was ejected with 7:50 left in the third quarter after a late hit against Allen. Alonso’s right leg hit Allen in the helmet after the Bills’ quarterback slid at the end of a 9-yard run.
“He tries his hardest. I’m not going to say anything bad about Kiko,” said Phillips, who played in Miami with Alonso last season and at the start of this year. “He’s a great guy.”
Alonso’s hit set off a brawl between the two teams, which led to the ejections of Bills right tackle Jordan Mills and Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn.
“Speaks a lot about who we got and the toughness of the guys in this locker room,” Allen said. “I want to play with guys like that – guys that have my back – and we have a bunch of guys like that.”
Mills, who will be an unrestricted free agent, could have played his final game with the Bills. He left the field to a large ovation following his ejection. Alonso, meanwhile, was greeted with a healthy chorus of boos a short time later as he left the field.
6. Rookie middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds made his second interception and second sack of the season.
“Tremaine balled today,” Jones said. “Today was one of the first times that I really got to sit back and just watch him. … He did such an amazing job. … I can’t say enough about Tremaine being one of our young leaders on the defense.”
His sack, which came in the fourth quarter, was his first one since the season opener. The interception came in the first quarter, ending Miami’s first drive and setting up a short field that the Bills turned into a touchdown on the following play.
“It felt good. I’ve got a lot of things that I’ve got to continue to work on,” Edmunds said.
7. It was a costly Sunday for Kyle Williams in one way. The Bills’ retiring defensive tackle had a $150,000 bonus waiting for him if he could get to six sacks on the season, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Williams entered the game with five, but wasn’t able to bring down Ryan Tannehill.
8. Hey, did you know that Miami’s Nick O’Leary is the grandson of golfer Jack Nicklaus and doesn’t wear receiver gloves? Neither of those facts helped the former Bills tight end against his old team Sunday. O’Leary finished without a catch, which was bad enough, but his blocking was much, much worse. He had no chance against Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, who blew by the tight end and drilled Tannehill for a sack in the first half. O’Leary also had blocking responsibilities against Lawson on the play that ended with Tannehill fumbling.
9. Outside of third quarterback Derek Anderson, the Bills had three healthy inactive players Sunday: Rookie running back Keith Ford, defensive end Eddie Yarbrough and guard Vlad Ducasse. That’s not a good sign for all three. Yarbrough was a healthy inactive for the first time in two years with the Bills. In 15 games this season, he has 29 tackles and no sacks. That comes after he finished last season with 34 tackles, one sack and two passes defensed. Yarbrough will be an exclusive-rights free agent after the season, meaning the Bills can bring him back with a minimum-contract offer. Ducasse has one year left on his contract, but the Bills could save $2 million against the cap by cutting him. You can bet on that.
Ford, meanwhile, rushed for 79 yards on 21 carries in two games after being promoted from the practice squad. He’ll likely be back to compete for a roster spot next year, but it’s not a great sign the Bills elected to use veteran Chris Ivory, who missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, over Ford.
10. The Bills’ other inactives Sunday: Wide receiver Deonte Thompson (toe), cornerback Ryan Lewis (concussion) and linebacker Julian Stanford (ankle).