In the end, Josh Allen did more right than wrong.
He led another fourth-quarter comeback, the fifth of his 17 career NFL starts. He led a pivotal 98-yard drive after Tre'Davious White's game-altering interception at the 2-yard line. He had two touchdown throws and a passer rating of 111.4.
Nevertheless, as Allen stood behind the lectern in the interview room after the Buffalo Bills' 31-21 victory against the Miami Dolphins Sunday, he had some misgivings about his performance.
"There were a lot of things to learn from this game," the quarterback said. "But overall, at the end of the day, we got the job done and now we're on to next week."
The Bills are 5-1. They're standing tall as a postseason contender in the AFC, where mediocrity abounds.
Yet, questions linger about Allen's ability to consistently perform at a high level from start to finish. There's reason to wonder whether he can be called upon to lead the offense to 30 or more points when needed. For his career, the only time he has reached those heights were when he threw three touchdown passes and ran for two TDs against the Dolphins in a meaningless, 42-17 win at the end of last season.
Through the first half Sunday, Allen led the Bills to three field goals while 36-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick and the allegedly tanking and winless Dolphins (0-6) had a pair of touchdowns. The Bills' offensive line was called for three holding penalties, but a larger concern was Allen looking mostly flustered by a scheme that concentrated to protecting the deep end of the field and utilized a "spy" to curtail his running. He had two terrible-looking overthrows to two of his fastest targets: John Brown in the first half and Andre Roberts in the second.
More than once in the first half, there was significant booing from the New Era Field crowd of 68,340, with many fans recognizing the Bills' offense had no business struggling so much against an opponent that had been allowing 440 yards per game.
"Hey, listen, we knew we weren't playing up to our standard," Allen said. "Coach (Sean McDermott) preaches the type of standard we play to. We knew, in the first half, that wasn't it, that wasn't us. Our fans, they deserve better. They deserve us to come out and play how we're supposed to play.
"I can't credit Miami's defense enough and their team for what they did today, but when we play to our standard, we trust each other, we play complementary football, and that's usually going to produce good results. We weren't doing that the first half."
Even after the Bills awoke from their slumber, the Bills' total yards were still a relatively paltry 305 – giving them more than 300 in seven consecutive games for the first time since 2001 and '12. Their defense saved them from embarrassment with a pair of turnovers, beginning with White's diving sideline pick of a wobbly Fitzpatrick throw after the Dolphins had skunked the Bills with a fake field goal that produced a first down. The Bills cashed in each with Allen touchdown throws to Brown and Cole Beasley.
The reality, however, is that expecting the Bills' offense to pile up points on a regular basis might be expecting too much, given where Allen is in his development and the team's defense-first mentality.
"The whole goal of what we try to do is to score more than them," Allen said. "When a game dictates that we have to score a lot, that's when we're going to try to put the ball in the end zone more and maybe take some more risks. But how well our defense is playing and how well we're coached, just honestly, taking care of the football is the main priority for us on offense and making sure we have good field position. And then, when the opportunity arises, if we get a turnover, then we have to convert in the red zone."
"They played a lot of two-high, taking away deep passes," backup quarterback Matt Barkley said. "That's why we had to rely on the run game a little more on some of those shorter passes. They were trying to protect, I think, some of their younger corners and guys that were out there. But we had different ways to attack that.
"In regards to Josh, he's doing the right things. He missed a throw here and there, but read-wise and commanding-the-offense-wise, he's doing a good job."
After running for a two-point conversion following the Brown score, Allen released a bit of pent-up frustration by firing the ball as far as he could into the end-zone stands. The throw traveled a good 50 or so yards and landed about five rows from the top, near section 224.
"It was just one of those moments where I got up and there was a lot of stuff going through me," Allen said. "Those fans in the top row were yelling pretty loud, so I just wanted to ... throw them a souvenir."
Allen merits major props for responding to adversity in the second half, as he has done in three previous victories this season. After completing six of 15 attempts for 90 yards through the first two quarters, Allen went 10-of-11 for 112 yards and two TDs in the second half.
However, the Bills figure to face a much greater challenge next Sunday when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles. It has the makings of the sort of game in which Allen might not get away with a slow start in which the offense is scoring points in threes rather than sixes.
"Josh is growing and Josh understands that it's football, it's never going to go as planned," offensive tackle Dion Dawkins said. "And as long as we consistently take steps forward, that's all we can do to give ourselves a chance to win. (Sunday) guys just said, 'Let's tone it down and just keep doing what we've been doing and stop shooting ourselves in the foot.' And that's what happened in the second half."