If you like volume stats, Josh Allen’s 287 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship isn’t too bad at all. It was three yards higher than his 2020 average in fact and more yards than he had in any game his first two years. The problem is that he had 48 attempts, a sub-60 percent completion rate, and under six yards per attempt.
Notes on every pass, scramble, and sack are attached below.
This is the Buffalo Bills’ first play of the game. Josh Allen is locked in on Cole Beasley from start to finish. I note the trust between the two because as Allen starts his windup, Beasley isn’t really clear of the defender. Allen anticipates that Beasley will be and the Bills are off to a good start.
This is two plays later and notice the difference in Allen’s head movement. He’s reading the field and finds Stefon Diggs burning a couple Kansas City defenders. The first two plays are here to highlight one of main things I was looking at for this game. Specifically, how often was the target already determined?
One thing I’ll get out of the way immediately. Josh Allen’s backpedaling into sacks is a valid complaint. Four sacks isn’t great. But losing 53 yards is...yikes. Allen was scanning the field, but credit to Kansas City for good coverage on this one.
You might be detecting an incoming “Josh Allen didn’t play his best” summary coming and you’d be right. However, don’t think for a second I’m putting all the blame on Allen. If Devin Singletary catches this he’s getting a big chunk, and possibly a touchdown if he can create a missed tackle (possibly two).
You might also have caught on to the conclusion that I think Allen had a lot more predetermined reads than normal, and that’d also be correct. I don’t think these are inherently bad. In a lot of cases they’re great counters when you have a solid idea of what the defense is bringing. This play is an example of that. Having this play called as is should be considered a huge positive as it quickly exploits Kansas City’s defense.
And yes. Kansas City should be applauded on a lot of plays. They bring the heat with seven rushers, two of whom have free shots at Allen. There’s a shot Allen can slip around or up and make the throw to Knox for a touchdown but the quick pressure wins (with another Allen backpedal).
I’d also point out that there were plenty of highlights for Allen. He has a good pocket for most of this play, navigates when it starts breaking down, and finds an open man with a tough throw.
Ultimately though, I DO need to conclude that Josh Allen didn’t play his best game. This was not the only throw I think he wants back. There was a defensive holding called on this play, but it didn’t have anything to do with John Brown. The timing is also pretty clear that Brown is moving at a steady pace to the right prior to the throw. Tossing on the move isn’t easy, but we’ve seen Allen hit way harder throws. After the regular season he had, this miss had to be a disappointment.
I attached my notes so you can see everything I’m talking about. Now for my main takeaways. This is not necessarily a negative, but there were a lot of plays where the target looked predetermined. Sometimes this did lead to a quick victory. Other times not so much. There were a number of plays where Allen stared down receivers. This did bite the Bills a couple times.
There were a few uncharacteristic throws from Allen as well—at least 2020 Allen. Some errant passes were reminiscent of his first two years in the league. Kansas City applied consistent pressure, which didn’t help matters. There were definitely plays that broke down as a result of a Buffalo Bill not named “Josh Allen” as well.
This sounds like it should be a gloomy story but, in reality, Bills fans can feel hope from these takeaways. Josh Allen walked into the AFC Championship and had a disappointing game overall. That disappointing game was still light years ahead of his 2018-2019 self.