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Josh Allen, Sean McDermott speak on QB’s heroic third-down conversion from Week 18

Against the Dolphins, Josh Allen wouldn’t be denied

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills were trying to salt away the game late in the fourth quarter of their division-clinching win against the Miami Dolphins in Week 18. Earlier on the drive, head coach Sean McDermott allowed (called for?) a QB sneak on 4th & 1 from the team’s own 35. Quarterback Josh Allen converted and after a pair of plays on the next two downs resulted in 3rd & 8, the Bills were called for a delay of game, setting up a critical 3rd & 13 back on their own 34-yard line.

The stage was set for another monumental decision. Would the Bills be conservative, run the ball, and force Miami to use their final timeout with three minutes left and down a touchdown? The other option would be to unleash a Josh Allen pass past the sticks to try and convert and run the clock even further.

The Bills opted to once again let their best player determine the outcome of the game. Allen dropped back to pass. As soon as he hit his back foot, he took off running after seeing the coverage. Three yards past the line of scrimmage, he ran away from the spying linebacker, dead-legging a broken tackle. Nine yards down the field, he was hit and wrapped up by former first-round pick defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, but Allen kept running through his arms. He dove forward after the hit, looking at the sideline to make sure he stretched past the first-down marker before he landed, and Superman’d his way past the sticks. First down.

Even NBC’s Mike Tirico was warning Allen from the booth: “Long way to go.”

McDermott and Allen both spoke with Tirico’s colleague Peter King after the game about the play and their trust in the moment:

“That,” Allen told me on the field afterward, “is a situation where coach is screaming, ‘Get down!’ and ‘Slide!’”

“No I wasn’t,” McDermott told me. “There’s no stopping him when he’s of that mindset. He knew what was on the line—everything. He was going to run through a brick wall for the first down right there.”

Allen continued. “Understanding how the game was going, I had to put the shoulders down. Had to find a way to get the first. I love to get that first down.”

I said to Allen, “You’re the type of guy, not that you don’t trust your teammates. But you trust yourself to make that play, to get those 13 yards.”

“Absolutely,” Allen said. “I want the ball in my hands at the end of the game. That’s how it’s been for my entire career. That’ll never change.”

Cover 1’s Greg Tompsett accurately described it as heroic, using a popular song from the 1990s:

We’ve said it over and over again that you don’t want to coach the specialness out of Josh Allen. This is why. In big moments, Allen steps up.

The Bills weren’t able to completely eliminate the clock nor take a two-possession lead, but the drive ate up more than four of the final six minutes and used all the Dolphins’ timeouts. Giving the ball to Miami with a timeout and three minutes left would have been a much different Dolphins drive.