Jim Kubiak has been analyzing the play of the Buffalo Bills quarterbacks for BNBlitz.com. He is the all-time leading passer at Navy, has played in the NFL, NFL Europe and the Arena Football League, and has been a coach and executive in the AFL. He spent eight years as the radio analyst for the University at Buffalo and runs the Western New York Quarterback Academy to help develop the next generation of quarterbacks.
Josh Allen completed 16 of 26 passes for 202 yards, and threw two second-half touchdowns to lift the Buffalo Bills over the Miami Dolphins, 31-21, in a game that was too close for comfort for three quarters. Allen’s quarterback performance grade was a season-high 94.5% in our "Do Your Job" evaluation as he played the best football of his career in the second half.
Allen took another developmental step forward Sunday. He was calm and decisive, making solid decisions and careful, accurate throws. It would have been easy for an immature quarterback to begin to press as the Bills headed into the fourth quarter trailing the Dolphins 14-9. Allen could have thrown the ball up into the middle of the field when he was being sacked, but he didn’t. He could have forced the football down the field and into coverage, but instead threw it away on a crucial third-and-10, which resulted in a successful field goal.
Allen had his best, most consistent, most attentive and most mature moments as a Bill in the second half. His mind, his arm and his legs were utilized to perfection as his only incompletion of the half came on a 65-yard bomb down the middle of the field that was well overthrown.
Play selection: 15 plays – four run, nine pass
Allen: 4 for 9 passing, 57 yards; 3 carries for 22 yards
QB performance grade: 93%
Score: Bills, 6-0
Allen has perhaps the strongest arm in the National Football League. He can make every throw on the field. His biggest challenge is harnessing his powerful arm and developing touch and trajectory, and an understanding on how certain throws need to be made against man-to-man coverage.
Allen at times throws the ball too hard. For example, on the second play from scrimmage, he attempted to hit Beasley on an RPO slant.
This was an instance of an excited quarterback seeing an open receiver flash in front of him. This throw was so hard that it went by a surprised Beasley before he knew it was coming. Allen has to take something off a throw like that to make it possible to catch, and Beasley has to get his head around sooner for his own safety.
Two plays later, Allen checks the ball down to fullback Patrick DiMarco in the left flat on second-and-20 following a holding penalty. He realized that on this play, his job was to try to put the Bills in a third-and-manageable situation. He also read the deep coverage played by the Dolphins and had the patience and awareness to find his checkdown. DiMarco caught the ball and shot down the sideline for a 27-yard gain on a drive that ultimately resulted in the Bills’ first field goal.
The lesson for all young quarterbacks is that hitting the checkdown can result in huge gains, in spite of the fact that the actual throw is only three yards.
Allen’s best play of the first quarter was his decision on third-and-10, from the Miami 21-yard line to throw the ball away. The Dolphins utilized their version of the “amoeba” defensive line strategy, and confused the Bills’ offensive line and Allen. Miami had immediate pressure on Allen and he made a quick decision to give up on the play and throw it out of bounds. This mature and veteran-like thought process demonstrates growth in a much-needed area, and resulted in points for Buffalo.
Play selection: 14 plays – six run, six pass, two sacks
Allen: 2 for 6 passing, 33 yards; one run for 10 yards
QB performance grade: 85%
Scores: Dolphins, 14-9
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll made good use of Allen’s athletic ability on several quarterback sweeps. On third-and-1 from the Bills’ 33-yard line Allen followed his blockers for a 10-yard gain.
This is a significant play call because of the benefit this “wildcat” strategy brings to the offense. The running back becomes an extra blocker at the point of attack, giving the Bills an additional lead blocker on any Allen run. Allen is not a running back, and the Bills don't want him to be, but his four rushes for 32 yards were important in the victory as defenses continue to struggle to defend the quarterback sweep.
Allen’s low point of the game came on a second-and-10 play from the Buffalo 21-yard line. The Dolphins showed blitz to Allen’s right, then bailed and rushed three down linemen and cornerback Nick Needham off Allen’s left slot. He appeared to know or feel the rusher as he reversed his escape to the left avoiding the free rusher.
This play illustrates that Allen still prefers to try to make a play with his legs to “avoid" the blitz, rather than use his arm to counter the blitz with quick underneath throws.
In recognizing the blitz by Needham, Allen should have thrown hot to Devin Singletary as he was free released to the area the blitz originated. Additionally, as Allen was avoiding and scrambling to his right, he was unaware or unwilling to take the easy throw into the flat to Isaiah McKenzie. Instead, Allen was fixated down the field for a deeper throw. He made the wise decision to take the sack and not force the football downfield.
Play selection: Nine plays – five run, four pass
Allen: 4 for 4 passing, 45 yards
QB performance grade: 100%
Score: Dolphins, 14-9
Allen played flawlessly in the third quarter completing all his passing attempts. He led an 11-play drive that started at the Buffalo 2-yard line and ended early in the fourth quarter with his first touchdown pass of the game and subsequent 2-point conversion. This drive put the Bills in front of Miami, 17-14.
This high-level throw illustrates Allen’s understanding of touch and trajectory. He identified the coverage, understood the defensive technique and threw the ball over the undercutting defender and into the hands of Duke Williams. This solid throw resulted in a 22 yard completion.
Play selection: 12 plays – five run, seven pass
Allen: 6 for 7 passing for 67 yards, two touchdowns
QB performance grade: 100%
Score: Bills, 31-21
The first of Allen's two touchdowns to John Brown was a perfectly thrown post route to his left in tight coverage. Brown came in motion to the left side of the formation. The motion prevented the Miami defender from jamming Brown at the line of scrimmage. Brown took an inside release, and straightened the stem of his route, giving Allen a place to put the football. This was a double-post concept as the inside receiver ran a post as well, occupying the safety. Allen read it and drilled a strike on the chest of Brown for the touchdown.
Later in the quarter, Allen found Cole Beasley from his left slot alignment on first-and-goal. Beasley ran a quick out versus man-to-man coverage. Beasley outflanked the defender with a perfect outside release. Allen knew instantly Beasley was going to be open and made another flawless throw for a touchdown.
Both touchdown throws were intelligent, decisive decisions. Allen saw and read the coverage. He attacked the weaknesses with the precision of a playoff contender.
Allen’s 61.5% completion percentage and ratio of two touchdowns to zero interceptions were impressive. His four rushes for 32 yards came mostly on called plays when he had blockers in front of him, and where he could safely get to the ground on his own accord. The two sacks could have been avoided, but the plus in these situations was that like a good surgeon, he minimized the hemorrhaging and took the loss without making a catastrophic mistake.
Allen played this game like a 10-year veteran, rather than a second-year player. That kind of maturity, combined with a top-tier defense makes me wonder just how far these Bills are destined to go? Allen was spectacular in his decision-making, his attention to the situations, his timing, his accuracy, his touch and his leadership.
It was not only what he was able to accomplish on the field that was defining, but it was his poise in not making poor decisions or forced throws that ultimately lifted the Bills to 5-1.