If there’s one thing football fans love, it’s finger pointing after a loss. And where better to point a finger than the starting quarterback? Let’s cut to the chase, we have lots of GIFs and a special “treat” for any gluttons for punishment at the end of this one. Let’s rip apart Josh Allen’s performance against the Cleveland Browns.
On the first play on offense the Buffalo Bills go for the kill. I’m completely on board with that decision. A few trends that appeared throughout the day started right from the get go. The Browns had good success with pressuring Allen, plays often appeared designed to have relatively few reads to beat the pressure, and Allen was often closer than the broadcast angle made it look. Speaking candidly, well...writing candidly, I think this is an overthrow even without the pass interference. The receiver is held up, though, and who knows if a couple extra steps and dive might have made this an even bigger gain.
Another theme here is that a single play could have put Allen over 300 yards like so many of us would like to see at least once.
Fans who felt that a few plays were “too cute” for the Bills’ own good have a good argument. To be fair to Allen, the play he selected was there to be had and of the options it’s arguably even the best one. A bad throw causes an incompletion, though. With two receivers past the sticks it’s a shame (in hindsight) that Allen only quickly swept to his right then locked into the sideline play.
Again, I have a hard time feeling it was a bad decision because the play was there. Ultimately the point of this GIF is to demonstrate a common All-22 occurrence. All too frequently you can find a BETTER play in hindsight, and it becomes tempting to think of the actual play as a bad one. This was a good play sunk due to execution.
Like above, if Allen had been looking right instead of left there’s a play to be had. Also like above, the path taken wasn’t a bad choice. Brown isn’t wide open but he has a shot. To me it seems he starts tracking a little early and mistimes his jump. Had he kept going full speed and timed his jump a little better we’re celebrating this one. Don’t get me wrong about the finger pointing. Allen isn’t blameless, it’s just not a terrible ball or terrible decision.
Allen had a few too many plays where I didn’t love his response to pressure and here’s a great example of one. On first down that large chunk to Cole Beasley is right in front of his face and would cleanly negate the pressure. Instead he dances around, the play is disrupted and it’s a bad throw. It was credited to Beasley but could have been to Knox. Either way, as the GIF notes, it was off target.
On a side note, I know I defend Patrick DiMarco and Lee Smith more than probably anyone and this game only made me dig my heels in harder. There were several plays for each where they were not only wide open but arguably the best play available. On this play, right as Allen starts to get into trouble, Smith is at the sideline for an easy pitch-and-catch for about seven yards. It’s cut off in this angle, but he reacts quickly and moves upfield in case he needs to block.
To beat the pressure the Bills did appear to rely on predetermined plays a number of times. This one is evident as Allen stares down the receiver immediately. It’s another one where going frame-by-frame allows me to show you how easy it is to nitpick. In reality this is an excellent play. It’s a crisp play that’s possible thanks to Allen’s velocity. It’s a good throw, made with good timing, following a good decision.
Quick pressure completely disrupted several potentially game-changing plays. Allen is hit while he “throws” and he’s lucky his hand was moving forward to register this as an incompletion. There’s maaaaaybe a play to be made at the sideline before the pressure hits, but the route gives me some doubts this was a realistic option. If Allen steps up or has just a little more time the worst case is a chunk play to Devin Singletary on first down. Based on Allen’s eyes, he’s either looking there or for Tyler Kroft. A gentle lob is a touchdown. To rub salt in the wounds, the GIF also shows how easy a touchdown to Brown would have been as well.
This was followed by a play where the receiving options weren’t able to break free as cleanly and a great defensive play broke up a pass to McKenzie. That was followed by a designed roll to the right, which took every play off the table EXCEPT for McKenzie who was covered well. Allen still managed to put a near-perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone considering the circumstances. With the play breaking down, McKenzie’s improvisation didn’t sync up well and it fell incomplete. Then Stephen Hauschka missed a field goal.
Another near miss. For what it’s worth, it’s my opinion that Allen took the absolute best option available and delivered a catchable ball. Andre Roberts dives when he should have just ran through the route. It impacts how he tries to catch the ball and it bounces off his chest.
Sometimes a tiny thing can sink you. Allen again doesn’t handle the pressure well and tries to roll out with his tight end rather than softly lob the ball ahead of him. Cole Beasley is also a viable option.
If there was one thing that caught me completely by surprise it was how close Allen was on deep balls. The only one that was egregiously bad was overthrowing a double-covered Beasley. You’d have a very difficult time convincing me this isn’t completely on McKenzie. Two body position cues associated with deceleration are evident from the available angles. Allen’s ball lands just ahead of McKenzie perfectly in line with where his route was taking him.
Overall, I liked Josh Allen’s game better than I thought I would. There were a few bad passes, but no “WTF” passes. There were a few bad decisions. A few panic moments under pressure. Collectively, though, Allen made good decisions and attempted the best play available. Offsetting the miscues were several “wow” throws, including a few that are only possible with a little extra heat. I was also pleasantly surprised to see how narrow the margins were on those deep balls.
Now for that treat I promised. If you don’t mind misspellings, errors, and idiosyncratic shorthand I’ve attached my notes on Allen for this game below. If they don’t cover every pass it’s very close.