I wrote a thing about how the Buffalo Bills losing to the New England Patriots would have me pretty much writing off the team’s Super Bowl chances this year. Well the Bills won, but it wasn’t the most convincing victory we’ve seen from them. So where does that leave me? I’m very hopeful but they’ll need to find the team that showed up against the Dallas Cowboys. How far removed from that team were they?
Let’s dive into quarterback Josh Allen’s incompletions against New England, and see if there’s any insight into which Buffalo Bills team to expect moving forward.
Play 1 — Overthrow to Dalton Kincaid
The offensive line picked up the four-man rush New England started with for this play. Josh Uche (55) came in after a delay and walked back right tackle Spencer Brown. Josh Allen’s timing looked off as the threw to a “plenty open” tight end in Dalton Kincaid. Interestingly, while the throw was likely impacted by the pressure, Allen’s miscalculation was an overthrow.
Play 2 — Overthrow to Stefon Diggs
Once again, pressure was coming, but Allen was able to complete his throwing motion. The GIF focuses on Stefon Diggs, as his route may have taken him to the pylon for a touchdown but it sure didn’t look like it from his break. This looks like it was impacted by the pressure again.
Play 3 — Schrödinger’s Drop
The play design here looks like it may have been successful, with move blockers and wide receivers creating a possible lane for running back James Cook. The pass was dropped and Cook couldn’t accelerate, so we’ll never know if he would have hit the right spot at the right speed. A lot of things have to go flawlessly to pull it off. I think this play choice may have worked, but there’s too many “ifs” after the catch point to make me sure.
Play 4 — Thrown away
I debated on whether I should make a GIF of every play and decided — “Screw your browser, let’s see if I can make it crash.” So here’s a clip of the Patriots playing defense at a high level and forcing a throwaway.
Play 5 — Quick pressure
A miscommunication allowed linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley an open lane to Josh Allen. Allen fleed the pocket and rolled to the right. The throwing mechanics were far from ideal and honestly this pass had no business even being in the vicinity of Stefon Diggs. It’s kind of funny that it “doinks” off the defender at least.
Play 6 — Drop by Sherfield
This is why defenses love to bring pressure on 3rd & Long. It takes time to run a route past the sticks and that extra time is great for pass rushers. Allen was once again pressured on this play. He had time to get a throw out to wide receiver Trent Sherfield who dropped it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer not to see a drop, but I don’t think Sherfield is getting the first down even if he did hang on to it.
Play 7 — Can’t hate the decision
A lot is said about quarterback decision making. If you’re solely looking at the receivers, Allen seemed to have three viable options here. Let’s talk reality though. This was third down with no capability of a first down. It’s TD or settle for a field goal. Stefon Diggs’ route had him wide open but just short of the goal line. He was well-covered, too. I think he had a great chance of forcing it in, but it looked like he would have to fight.
On the right side of the field we had one option blanketed and one wide open. Look at Allen’s head. His reads were left to right, and that’s assuming he was supposed to look right at all.
The throw ended up to Dalton Kincaid, and I can’t hate the decision. There’s a narrow lane but Allen’s timing was perfect. Kincaid, unlike Diggs, was already in the end zone. If Allen takes his eyes off Kincaid to look to his right for options, Kincaid would have no longer been open. Allen saw a touchdown, he just didn’t throw it.
Play 8 — Out of sync with Cook
This is a pass I think everyone wants back. Allen had a perfect pocket to throw from. James Cook had a step on the defender. A big step. Maybe three of them. If he caught it, he was off to the races. Was the ball overthrown? Was Cook a step slow? A combination of the two? If the Bills are lucky enough to get a do-over on this play, I hope whatever led to this incompletion doesn’t rear its head another time.
Play 9 — Timing thrown off
This is another one I’d chalk up to good defense. The Patriots schemed up some edge pressure, with linebacker Mack Wilson getting a bit tricky. Ja’Whaun Bentley also disrupted wide receiver Gabe Davis’ route. Neither were good for a timing throw. With both occurring, it was a near disaster.
Play 10 — Pass first
It’s probably a good sign overall that the Patriots gave up a huge running lane and Josh Allen was still looking to pass. Trent Sherfield’s route should bring him open and Allen pulled the trigger on the throw. This one sailed wide.
Play 11 — Magic
Yes, the interception. Cornerback Alex Austin looked pristine on this play. I highlight Austin while Allen was starting his throwing motion. Even as late as this, Austin was breaking toward the middle of the field. He started turning while Allen was mid-throw and undercut Dalton Kincaid for the interception. Is Austin prescient? Or was this a happy accident with Austin handing off his first man to another zone at just the right time? The truth is likely a bit of both. I would also add that the ball was a bit underthrown, making it easier for Austin. Kincaid likely had no shot at this.
Play 12 — Another throw away
The Patriots pass rush benefited from a quick victory by defensive end Keion White that resulted in a QB hit. Allen was able to get the ball in the vicinity of an eligible receiver, but that’s about it. Now let’s talk play call. I don’t mind a kill shot like this on 2nd & 2 as Buffalo still had another down to convert short yardage. Additionally, if White was slowed down even a tiny bit, the safety-valve throw to the middle of the field would have been wide open for an easy first down.
Play 13 — Drop by Latavius Murray
Sometimes the broadcast angle is the best one. The drop by running back Latavius Murray is very clear from this camera. This was an easy first down that Murray knows he should have had.
Play 14 — Low-percentage throw
They’re called “low percentage throws” for a reason. This would have been a touchdown if it hit. We’ve seen it happen too. But just a reminder that Allen was trying to hit a sprinting, very fast human being from over 55 yards away.
Play 15 — Pass breakup
Another kudos to the defensive play. While I think there’s some evidence of defensive pass interference, I was fine with the no-call live and replays haven’t changed that for me. Let’s call it a gray area flag where either way is fine. Sherfield wasn’t a bad option. The throw was where you want it, as well — it was just broken up.
The Final Straw
Ultimately, the 50% completion rate that Josh Allen landed at against the Patriots was the result of a variety of factors coming together. Credit to head coach Bill Belichick — his team was up for it and they had some good plays drawn up and talent to back it. Pressure, passes defended, routes disrupted. Allen’s receivers didn’t always help him out with drops, sinking at least a couple plays. The offensive line was beaten a few times. Allen himself didn’t look as crisp as he could, either.
Is this good news or bad news then? Buffalo’s up-and-down season suggests it could be either. A lot of these issues have snuck in here and there this season. In losses it seems like many show up at once. The Buffalo Bills are talented enough to survive a few issues. In truth, no team ever plays perfectly so a few miscues should be expected. A focused Bills team likely shakes off some of these concerns and we’ll have nothing to worry about.