If Josh Allen had given up on as many plays and thrown away as many passes as Tom Brady did Sunday, the Bills might have beaten the New England Patriots.
Brady was terrible under pressure in the Patriots’ 16-10 victory at New Era Field.
The six-time Super Bowl winner had eight throwaways among his 18 incomplete passes. He was just 1 of 11 for 14 yards under pressure. However, he took no sacks and threw just one interception.
Allen, of course, made far more mistakes.
The Bills’ quarterback threw three interceptions, two of which came under pressure. And he took four sacks, two of which arguably cost the Bills two field goals.
The Patriots attacked Allen far more than is common for their defense.
New England blitzed Allen on 17 of his 35 dropbacks (48.5%), according to Buffalo News charts. That’s the most blitzing Allen has seen in his young career. Overall, the Pats blitzed – meaning they rushed five or more men – on 22 of 52 dropbacks, or 42.3%.
“He didn’t know what we were doing,” Pats edge rusher Kyle Van Noy told reporters in the locker room. “He was shook back there.”
Allen faced the Patriots once last season and he was blitzed on nine of 27 dropbacks (33%).
Allen looked flustered from the start Sunday. On his second pass, his feet weren’t set and he threw an incompletion too high for Frank Gore. He didn’t step into a throw to the left flat for Cole Beasley to start the second series.
The bigger issue, however, was not taking underneath completions against a Pats defense that was sound on the back end.
“It always takes 11 of us,” Van Noy said. “Today was another testament to the guys that we have. Just playing elite football right now."
On the first interception, thrown deep down the middle into double coverage, Allen had a clean pocket and had tight end Dawson Knox wide open on the right sideline.
On his second interception, thrown deep to the right sideline for Zay Jones, Gore was even more wide open underneath on a crossing route because linebacker Elandon Roberts had slipped and fallen on the painted Bills logo at midfield.
The Pats historically are not a big blitzing team under coach Bill Belichick. They blitzed at about an average rate – 22% – through the first three games, according to Pro Football Focus.
However, the Pats’ ability to play man coverage with their standout defensive backs group has allowed them to send more pressure. New England ranked ninth in blitzing last year (28%), according to Football Outsiders, their highest ranking this decade.
So it wasn’t as if Allen was missing open receivers all day long. The Patriots played good coverage. On the sack Allen took just before halftime – which forced Stephen Hauschka to try a 49-yard field goal instead of a 44-yarder – Allen had 5.75 seconds to throw before he was taken down by John Simon.
What would Brady have done on that play? Thrown it away.
"Smart quarterbacks don’t want to take sacks just to force their defense to play with short field position," said Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, answering a question on the difficulty of sacking Brady. "So he made some smart calls throwing the ball away. It was close to intentional grounding but the zebras make the call, we work with it."
Bills quarterbacks were under pressure 18 times, according to The News’ review, and managed just 3 of 11 passing on those plays for 53 yards and five sacks.