The Buffalo Bills are in a holding pattern while an extremely volatile weather system makes its way across much of the greater Buffalo, NY area. With an extra day to wait and prepare for the game that matters most this weekend to all of Bills Mafia, we thought it was a good chance to revisit a few key plays from Buffalo’s Week 18 victory in the regular-season finale.
While all that matters of course is that the Bills won, once again claimed the AFC East title, and the AFC two seed for the playoffs — most would agree at this point that it was by no means an easy feat. Once again, Buffalo was plagued by first-half miscues that put them in a hole early, and saw them chasing a lead well into the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Josh Allen had a productive stat line to end the night, but those two early interceptions were perhaps the most costly of any during the 2023 NFL season. Turnovers in the red zone directly took away no fewer than a total of six points, and perhaps even more.
What can we learn from Allen’s turnovers in Miami as it relates to their Super Wild Card Weekend opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers? Let’s have another look back at the tape and see what role pressure played in the outcome of two key downs.
Josh Allen’s first INT
Pressure right up the middle forced Allen’s errant interception on this down. The play began with Allen operating out of shotgun. At the snap left tackle Dion Dawkins and right tackle Spencer Brown were badly beaten off the edge, removing Allen’s ability to escape the rush to the outside. Then, safety Jevon Holland rushed free up the middle as a blitzer, which meant Allen could no longer step up into the pocket. A well-designed and well-executed defensive play forced Allen to throw while fading back and while facing pressure in his face.
Instead of six or even three, The Bills gave the ball back to the Miami Dolphins — failing to do any damage. This turnover was one of the most-discussed plays from last weekend’s game. Was it Allen or Davis? With pressure working so well, it’s possible Allen wasn’t able to throw where he intended. In other words, bad things appeared set in stone no matter who you want to blame.
Josh Allen’s second INT
You can blame Allen’s second interception on chaos. Before the snap, Allen was again in shotgun, with wide receiver Stefon Diggs to his right. At the snap, Dawkins was pushed back, resulting in Allen being flushed out of the pocket. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins then chased Allen to the right, which forced Allen to make a throw running right with a defensive lineman hitting him right in the chest. Interception.
You’ll note that this was the play were it appears wide receiver Gabe Davis injured his knee, after stumbling to the ground. What happened with Davis very likely affected a bit of what Allen intended, but Allen’s role in this miscue is equal given the pressure that forced his hand into another mistake.
Everyone understands there’s much to improve upon as the Buffalo Bills enter the playoffs. It’s a poorly hidden secret that Josh Allen dislikes pressure up the middle, in his face — no quarterback enjoys it. It’s clear that such pressure affected Allen’s ability to play his brand of football on two very important downs.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a known defensive aggressor — especially so when edge rusher T.J. Watt is on the field. Watt won’t be on the field when the Bills and Steelers face off, sidelined due to a knee injury he suffered in Week 18. That’s not to say that Pittsburgh’s other defenders can’t pick up some of the slack, but Watt accounted for just over 40% of the team’s sack total (claiming 19), and 23% of the defense’s tackle for loss total (also with 19). That’s a massive amount of production to lose on defense, and to have it come from one player.
To give you some context, Bills edge rusher Leonard Floyd accounted for 20% of the team’s sack total during the regular season, notching 10.5.
It’s likely the Steelers are familiar with the sort of plays that give Josh Allen fits, and there’s reason for concern about what they may unleash against Buffalo. But without Watt, the task is likely to be more of a challenge for the Steelers — and hopefully less so for Allen and the offensive line.