CHARLOTTE – As one of the Buffalo Bills' co-captains for Friday night's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, Josh Allen had one goal: If his team won the coin toss, he was going to take the ball rather than defer to the second half.
Allen had discussed the plan with Sean McDermott. The defensive-minded coach, who usually defers after winning the toss, went along with it. The quarterback wanted to make a statement with the opening possession. And after the Bills won the toss, he did exactly that.
"From that point on, I was just kind of ready to go," Allen told reporters afterward.
After a shaky start to the preseason in last week's 24-16 win against the Indianapolis Colts, Allen made an impressive rebound with his two-series appearance that gave the Bills a 10-0 first-quarter lead on the way to their 27-14 victory at Bank of America Stadium.
In the two possessions he led against the Colts, Allen struggled. He had an ugly overthrow and an uglier underthrow, both intended for Zay Jones. Allen said afterward he was a bit too hyped for his preseason debut in his second year as the Bills' starting quarterback.
No one would have questioned that.
On Friday night, however, Allen looked far more poised and in command. In completing nine of 11 passes for 102 yards, he was sharp on most of his throws. He showed good decision-making and stayed clear of mistakes.
"He did look like the game slowed down this week a little bit for him, and that's good to see," McDermott said."
"We made some first downs," Allen said. "The offensive line held the pocket really well. It was good to see. Going back and looking at the pictures and having a clean pocket, I made sure they knew I appreciated that, too."
For the second game in a row, the Bills came out throwing. Allen hit six of eight attempts for 61 yards on a drive that ended with a 30-yard Stephen Hauschka field goal.
He connected with Cole Beasley -- who finished with five receptions for 44 yards and an average of 8.8 yards per catch -- for a pair of first downs. It was a preview of what will be the foundation of a passing attack that will look to exploit more defenses underneath.
The Panthers were missing one of their best defensive players, inside linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was being given a rest. Still, Allen looked unmistakably more comfortable as he got into the flow of allowing the game to come to him. He showed good patience in taking what the defense gave him rather than forcing the ball downfield.
"That's something that I've been working on, it's no secret," Allen said. "Just making smarter decisions, quicker decisions with the football. Obviously, they're not playing all of their guys on that side, but they're a good defense over there, so just trying to understand where their weak points are, taking what they give us and letting our guys make some plays."
"We've got to take what the defense gives us, in terms of whether it's matchup or scheme, and that continues to show Josh's development," McDermott said. "It comes from his hard work."
Allen also had a 22-yard connection with rookie tight end Tommy Sweeney.
A 37-yard punt return by Andre Roberts put the Bills at the Panthers' 35. Allen got back a big chunk of lost yardage from a holding penalty with a 14-yard throw to Beasley. Allen then found Sweeney for a 25-yard connection that put the Bills at the Panthers' 4-yard line.
Two plays later, LeSean McCoy walked into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Bills a 10-0 advantage.
Allen can see the progress he's making. So can McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and everyone else connected with the Bills.
But four series in two games is hard to handle for someone who would like to be on the field for an entire game. There is one more preseason game in which he'll play, next week at Detroit, and the likelihood is that he and the rest of the starters be on the field for the entire first half.
Nevertheless, Allen is ready for more, ready to get on with the official start of his second season as the Bills' No. 1 QB.
"I want to play some real football, you know?" he said. "As fun as the preseason is, it's just that competitive drive. And I think everybody right now is just like, 'Let's get some some real football.' Playing a quarter and then getting taken out, it's tough."
Of course, it's a bit easier when you have the sort of quarter Allen had Friday night as opposed to a week ago.