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Jim Kubiak

Josh Allen's defining performance against Cowboys shows his skills and fire

Jim Kubiak

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 19 of 24 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown and he ran for 41 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown Thursday in the Bills' 25-16 victory against the Dallas Cowboys.

On the national stage, in Dallas, on Thanksgiving, fighting for the postseason, Allen played the best game of his professional life, completing 79.2% of his passes and leading the Bills with passion and fire. Allen's completion percentage was a career high as was his passer rating of 120.7. He had his eighth consecutive game with two touchdowns or more to set a franchise record.

His overall QB Performance Grade was 97.5%.

Most importantly, Allen is 11-4 in his last 15 starts.

First quarter

Play selection: 13 plays – six passes, six runs, one sack.

Allen: 4 for 6 passing for 34 yards; one carry for nine yards.

QB Performance Grade: 96%

Score: Cowboys, 7-0.

Allen led two offensive drives that totaled 13 plays in the first quarter that both resulted in punts.

On the second drive, the Bills took over on their own 2-yard line. Buffalo was able to flip the field position, eventually punting from their own 48 yard line. No points were scored on an eight-play drive on the Bills' second possession, but the three first downs the offense were able to generate made a difference in field position, an important factor on the road while trailing 7-0.

On the third play of this drive, on third-and-10 from the 2-yard line, Allen stepped up into the pocket, slid to his right and completed a dart to Cole Beasley.

This was one of many exceptional throws by Allen on the day. Beasley was working across the field from Allen’s left to right. His anticipation, velocity and ability to get the ball to Beasley on the upfield shoulder made all the difference.  There are not many quarterbacks in the NFL who can make this throw.

Second quarter

Play selection: 16 plays -- nine run, seven pass, one sack.

Allen: 4 for 6 for 67 yards and a touchdown; five carries for 13 yards.

QB Performance Grade: 94%.

Score: Bills, 13-7.

Allen’s touchdown pass to Beasley on the first drive of the quarter demonstrated his evolving patience in potential running situations.

On first-and-10 from the 25-yard line, Allen stepped up into the pocket. He had an opportunity to take off, but maintained his composure, knowing and anticipating Beasley will carry his route into the next hole in the defense to the inside of linebacker Jalon Smith. As Allen looked to potentially run, Beasley worked behind Smith and into an opening for Allen to make the connection. This was choreographed anticipation and defensive manipulation.

The Bills took over after a Dak Prescott fumble with 3:20 remaining in the half, and assembled what might be a season-defining type drive.

On first-and-20 from the Cowboys' 49-yard line, Allen delivered a perfectly thrown back shoulder pass to tight end Dawson Knox. The pass was broken up on a tremendous defensive play, but again Allen’s anticipation, recognition and accuracy were nearly perfect.

On the next play, on second-and-20, Allen completed a 19-yard pass over the middle to Beasley, putting Buffalo into third-and-1.

 

Following a failed third-and-1 quarterback sneak, Allen makes his most heroic play as a member of the Bills. On fourth-and-1 from the 29, he fumbled the snap. Video review confirmed the ball never reached his hands. He reached down into a pile of bodies, picked the ball up and forced himself through defenders to get the first down.

It was this amazingly athletic and fierce play by Allen, single-handedly using his might and will to gain this critical first down.

Allen decided he was not going to let anyone or anything stop him, and this set the tone for the remainder of the game.

On the next play, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll used trickery and fooled the Cowboys on a double reverse pass. John Brown, rolling to his right, completed a perfectly thrown ball to a wide-open Devin Singletary streaking down the right sideline. It was the first touchdown pass by a wide receiver in Bills history and the ninth TD pass by a non-quarterback.

Allen’s incredible play allowed the Bills to take a 13-7 lead into halftime.

Third quarter

Play selection: 15 plays -- eight runs, seven passes, one sack.

Allen: 8 for 8 passing for 90 yards; one carry for 15 and a touchdown.

QB Performance Grade: 100%.

Score: Bills, 23-7.

Allen had only five incompletions in the game. His perfect third quarter included going 7 for 7 on two drives that resulted in a field goal and his rushing for a touchdown respectively.

Beasley was virtually unstoppable working on the inside defenders of the Cowboys. On third-and-4, during the Bills’ first drive of the quarter, he lined up in trips and facing man to man. Both Allen and Beasley recognized the mismatch and Allen threw a strike onto the body of Beasley.

Dallas defender Xavier Woods ripped Beasley’s helmet off at the end of the play, adding additional penalty yardage on to the third-down conversion. In essence, a third-and-4 play turned into a 30-yard gain, advancing the Bills from their own 35 to the Cowboys' 35.

On the next play, on first-and-10, Allen dropped back and patiently surveyed the field. As he progressed through his reads, he realized that everyone was covered down the field and checked the ball down to Frank Gore. This was a smart play, protecting the football and it put significant pressure on the underneath coverage linebackers who dropped into zone coverage and then had to rally to the football and make the tackle. Gore picked up another 14 yards on the gashing check down and set up the Bills on the 20-yard line.

This mature mindset of Allen was seen throughout the second half.  Allen patiently took what the defense was giving him. As a result, he had his highest efficiency rating thus far, completing 91% of his passes in the second half.

Even after Allen was sacked, he did not panic or press to get a loss back. On the same drive, on third-and-23, following a sack and a loss of 11 yards, Allen came right back to Beasley and threw a short slant, knowing he was not going to pick up the first down. The short completion put the Bills closer for a field goal attempt and the additional three points would up the Bills' lead to two scores, 16-7.

This mindset and understanding underscores a mentality that Allen is developing. He was thinking about what he had to do to win, rather than simply reacting to plays indiscriminately.

Allen completed all four pass attempts on the next drive. He hit Isaiah McKenzie on a shallow route in man coverage.

Rather than attack down the field versus the Cowboy blitz and subsequent man-to-man coverage, Allen understood that McKenzie’s shallow route screaming across the formation horizontally was his blitz control and outlet versus pressure. This type of pass has a high completion percentage and is difficult, if not impossible, to stop. The Allen to McKenzie shallow pass was completed again two plays later. Following a wide receiver screen to Beasley, the Bills had first-and-10 on the Cowboys' 15-yard line.

The high-efficiency passing took a toll on the Dallas Cowboys as they were not able to rattle or disrupt Allen’s rhythm. Dallas did a fair amount of blitzing as well as mixing zone and man coverage. Allen was not fooled, and on the final play of the second drive, he recognized the man coverage as he escaped from the pocket.

The daunting combination of Allen’s poise, recognition and physical ability proved to be too much as he broke the pocket. All the defenders in the secondary were covering their man-to-man players, leaving Allen alone on the perimeter. He made the escape to the end zone crossing inside of the front pylon behind a beautiful block by John Brown. This play increased the Buffalo lead to 23-7, and effectively put the game out of reach.

Fourth quarter

Play selection: 18 plays -- 14 runs, four pass, one sack.

Allen: 3 for 4 for 40 yards; three carries for 6 yards.

QB Performance Grade: 100%.

Score: Bills, 26-15.

The Bills' scoring drive came on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Allen was flawless, completing all three attempts. He hit his 11th completion in a row on third-and-4 from the Cowboys' 46 yard line.

Allen’s ability to move in the pocket creates problems for opposing defenses. The additional spread and empty formations in addition to Allen’s dangerous movement make a lethal combination. Here, Allen’s movement bought time, affected the defense, and allowed a completion to Robert Foster that otherwise would not have occurred, for a quarterback with a “normal” or “conventional” skill set.

Conclusion

Most people wondered how Allen and the Bills would handle a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving against a 6-5 Cowboys team that had been put on notice by owner Jerry Jones.

Many doubted that a young Bills team could overcome being on the road on a big stage. Many doubted that Allen could or would be capable of leading the Bills in that environment.

Not only did Allen do his job in this game, he did it with exceptional leadership, execution and fire. Not only did he compete with flawless progressions and coverage recognition, but he decidedly competed with his burning desire to win. His focus, unrelenting drive, and athletic abilities proved to be too much for the veteran Cowboys.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has given much responsibility to his second-year quarterback. Daboll realizes that he has a unique player in Allen who can simply do things many quarterbacks cannot.  He can run, he can throw, he can be patient, he can be accurate, and as he proved in this game, he can physically get almost any first down that he wants, if he really wants it.

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