Josh Allen was never going to sustain the torrid pace he’d set for himself starting in the 2021 NFL playoffs.
Beginning with last season’s Wild Card win over the New England Patriots and stretching through the first half of the Buffalo Bills’ Week 8 win over the Green Bay Packers this season, Allen put up an 8.5-game stat line that justified the rhetoric around his being the best quarterback in the NFL. In that stretch, Allen completed 217-of-313 pass attempts (69.3% completions) for 2,752 yards (8.8 yards per attempt) with 28 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 121.0.
Those were just his passing statistics in that run; he also put in stellar work with his legs, of course, but consistency as a runner has never been Allen’s problem. Allen will always make plays with his legs when needed. The question was how long he’d be able to sustain his pace as a passer, and how far he’d fall once that pace became unsustainable—and having now seen his play in the last game and a half, we have our answers.
In his last six quarters of play, Allen has completed 22-of-47 pass attempts (46.8% completions) for 288 yards (6.1 yards per attempt) with zero touchdowns, four interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 31.2. We had hoped when he fell off pace it’d be more of a dip toward normality; this more closely resembles a cliff dive.
And now he has a potentially-concerning elbow injury to monitor, as well.
Ebbs and flows in production are part of professional football. A 17-game schedule is a marathon, and Allen’s sprinter’s pace wasn’t sustainable. There is little to nothing in Allen’s career arc, or the Bills’ track record under head coach Sean McDermott, that suggest the team won’t find solutions to their current problems offensively and right the proverbial ship. But they do have problems, with Allen’s slump at the forefront of those.
Stretches of moderate to terrible play aren’t new for Allen. Just last season, he endured a four-game stretch (from Weeks 9-12) in which he threw seven interceptions and the Bills were forced to grind out a 2-2 record, with both losses falling into the “terrible” category (9-6 on the road to Urban Meyer’s Jacksonville Jaguars outfit, then 41-15 at home to an Indianapolis Colts team that would eventually miss the playoffs). In a Week 16 game last year, right before he began his MVP-caliber stretch run mentioned above, Allen threw three interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 17.0 in an ugly home win over the Atlanta Falcons.
He also slogged through a similar (though not as ugly) stretch of inconsistent-to-bad play in 2020, his breakout season, when between Weeks 5-12 (a seven-game stretch) he threw seven interceptions, saw his completion percentage dip below his season average four times, and the Bills went 4-3 in that span.
Allen is very much in a slump at the moment. He is not the sole reason that Buffalo has been outscored 30-20 in their last six quarters, but the Bills aren’t playing winning football at the moment, and Allen’s crashing back to Earth is a big reason why.
Given the aforementioned elbow injury, the continued absence of starting right tackle Spencer Brown (who may return in Week 10) leading to some instability in Allen’s pass protection, and some inconsistent play from his receiving corps outside of Stefon Diggs, it would be wildly unfair to expect Allen to quickly re-ascend to his previous pace in short order. Finding a middle ground between the 8.5-game MVP stretch and his current 1.5-game... whatever you want to call it, would go a long way toward helping the Bills get back to their winning ways.