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Bills vs. Raiders film analysis: Buffalo’s short passing game

Is quarterback Josh Allen on the way to his best season yet?

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, you read the subheading correctly. Keep reading to find out if I think this is indeed the start of the best season yet for Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

Statistically Speaking

Here are Josh Allen’s passing charts from the first two weeks.

Week 1

Week 2

When I look at the charts, I see a whole lot of green dots in the short passing game. Josh Allen through two weeks is 49/54 on passes that travel 10 yards and under. I’d say that’s pretty dang solid.

Beyond that, what if I told you that Allen leads the league in completion percentage at 76.9%? It seems to me that Allen and Co. are on to something here. Here’s another chart to look at:

The Bills lead the league in passing plays to the “short left” with 33 plays and an 81.82 completion percentage. They also rank seventh in passing plays to the “short right” with 28 plays and a 92.86 completion percentage. For comparison, in 2022 the Bills ranked 16th in short left passes, 21st in short middle passes, and 21st in short right passes.

Furthermore, according to Fantasypros, Josh Allen is tied for fourth among starting QBs for PKT Time (time from snap to throw) at 2.2 seconds. Allen’s air yards per attempt is at just 3.5 yards, which is the 24th fewest in the league. This means Allen is getting the ball out quickly and throwing it fairly short. Some of these throws are by design, and others are Allen’s decision to take the easy throw. For comparison, in 2022 Allen had a PKT time of 2.5 seconds and his air yards per attempt was 5.0 yards.

Simply put, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and Josh Allen are making a concerted effort to get easy throws and attack underneath. Could this be the start of Josh Allen’s best season in the NFL? My answer is: Yes, indeed it is. Look, I’m not going to say Allen played well in Week 1 because he didn’t. He was terrible. He said it, McDermott said it, and every analysis ever said it. But brush those four turnovers aside, he actually was playing well and taking what the defense gave him. He just got greedy and forced the big play when he didn’t need to in Week 1. In all honesty, it probably humbled him a bit and made him better for it. If Ken Dorsey can keep scheming up plays to get receivers open underneath, and Allen and the rest of the Bills’ offense can execute, watch out! Allen doesn’t need to make the “superhero” play every game. Buffalo’s roster is better than most teams. Most of the time Allen just needs to take what the defense gives him. Taking these easy throws will eventually get teams out of the “prevent the deep ball” defense that tends to be played against Allen, and actually provide more home runs for Buffalo’s offense.

Video Analysis

Let’s break down some short passing-game plays from Buffalo’s Week 2 victory against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Play 1

A simple slant route was executed perfectly and went for over 10 yards. The motion at the beginning of the play drew the attention of the linebackers and made them shift slightly away from Diggs. Knox ran a vertical route to take out the safety. Diggs brought it all together by getting the defensive back’s hips turned with an outside release and then crossed back inside on the slant, finding himself wide open for a nice gain. Well done.

Play 2

This is a 3rd & 6 play where the Bills picked up six yards. The Raiders were in Cover 1 (man-to-man) on this play. They bracketed Diggs with double coverage and had a LB spy on Josh Allen. The Bills chipped Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby with the running back. The wide receivers at the top of the screen ran vertical routes that took three defenders out of the play. This left Knox wide open on a short crossing route over the middle.

Play 3

This play is pretty simple. The defender was playing seven yards off of Gabe Davis, so Davis ran a five-yard stop route. Easy throw and catch.

Play 4

This is great pre-snap play recognition by Allen. He anticipated the blitz and saw that the defenders over Diggs and Cook were playing deep. Allen immediately looked to the short side, ignoring the deep routes on the wide side, and slung it to Diggs for a quick completion.

Play 5

This play-action pass had deep-ball options available but Allen settled for the wide-open dump off to Cook. This easy decision resulted in a 26-yard gain.

Play 6

Again, the Raiders’ defenders were playing off. A simple quick screen to Harty gained the Bills eight yards. Davis did a nice job of blocking the closest threat so Harty could pick up extra yardage.

Play 7

If anyone was wondering whether Allen got the message of “don’t force it” last week, this play should leave you no doubt. Allen loaded up to unleash a deep ball but quickly came off it to throw the release route to Kincaid. Kincaid chipped Crosby then released to the flat. Nothing amazing happened here, but it was very effective.

Play 8

Interesting formation alignment from Dorsey on this play. Running back James Cook was lined up at wide receiver, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs was lined up at running back. The motion across the line of scrimmage by Harty confirmed that the Raiders were in zone coverage because no one follows him. Allen wanted to go left first but once he realized nothing was there he came across to the right knowing Diggs was in the flat. The pump fake could have been part of the play design to help get Diggs open but, either way, a simple pass to the flat gained positive yardage for a first down.

In summary

It seems that the Buffalo Bills’ offense has had a significant shift in philosophy to start the season. Taking what the defense gives them and giving Allen the opportunity to get the ball out quickly with easy throws has proven effective. We’ll see if this trend continues throughout the season. The more defenses get frustrated with an array of short completions, the more quality opportunities Allen will have to throw the ball deep.