After two underwhelming performances to kick off the 2021 NFL Season, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen admitted that his inconsistent play had flustered him. But in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team, Allen found his rhythm early and looked like the MVP-caliber passer that signed a $258 million contract during training camp.
From the 28-yard touchdown strike to Emmanuel Sanders on the offense’s first possession of the game, to the two-yard touchdown run that ended his afternoon, Allen was nothing short of dominant in the victory that moved the Bills to 2-1 for the season.
“He wasn’t playing around,” running back Zack Moss said via The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia of Allen’s dominant showing.
After completing just 55-percent of his passes to start the year, Allen took advantage of Washington’s spotty back seven, connecting on 74-percent of his 43 pass attempts for 358 yards and four touchdowns through the air, adding nine yards and a touchdown on four carries.
Entering the game, there was some concern about how Allen would fare under pressure against Washington’s highly-touted defensive line. But the Bills’ offensive line showed up to play and kept Allen clean for most of the afternoon. Despite taking six hits, Allen wasn’t sacked a single time. The protection up front, coupled with Allen’s poise and sharp decision-making made for one of the more impressive performances of his career.
“He’s our MVP [Josh Allen], we all have confidence in him and when he says he can play better, we all know that. The first game wasn’t Josh Allen and we try to build him up like he would do to me or anyone else,” safety Micah Hyde said after the game.
Allen was sharp all game long – taking what Washington’s defense gave him on any given down. Whether it was the deeper passes to Sanders or Gabriel Davis, or the quick short-to-intermediate passes, Allen made Washington’s defense pay nearly every time he dropped back to pass.
He broke Jim Kelly’s record for games with 300 passing yards and four touchdowns (4), and became the first quarterback since Norm Van Brocklin in 1950-1951 to have multiple games with four-plus passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in multiple games through his 25-year old season.
“It felt pretty good, In terms of just getting the ball out and seeing what they were doing early on,” Allen said. “But it takes 11 guys out there and we were all on the same page out there today.”
After some whacky play-calling decisions in their Week 1 loss to the Steelers and an emphasis on the run game in Week 2, the Bills were aggressive with their passing game against Washington. This aggressiveness was most notable on the drive to end the first half. Allen and the Bills held a 24-14 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Instead of kneeling the ball, Buffalo trusted Allen and ultimately, they gained 51 yards on five plays to set up a 48-yard field goal by Tyler Bass.
“Three timeouts, we got word we were going to be aggressive there. I love those types of situations. We got two down the sideline to Diggs and one to Dawson out of bounds. T-Bass came in and kicked a good field goal. That type of trust you have in your offense, we feel that. When coach is allowing us to go out here and be us, it’s a good feeling.”
The next time Allen got the ball, he orchestrated a surgical 17-play, 93-yard drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders on their first possession of the third quarter. The drive ate eight minutes and 17 seconds of clock. Allen was 9-of-10 of the drive and gave Buffalo a 33-14 lead, putting the game out of reach.
“A long drive, it takes the wind out of them, for sure,” Allen said after the game. “It instills a lot of confidence in our team, knowing that our guys can play loose. And puts the other team in a tough position where they’re going to have to pass the ball. At that point, you can switch it up and do some different game-planning things on defense, show different looks and not be afraid to fail. Coach McDermott gives us the green light. He says as long as you’re going 100 miles per hour, don’t be afraid to fail.”
This was the type of performance Allen needed to get out of his head and get into a groove. His own worst critic at times, Allen once again proved that he could deal with adversity and come back as a better version of himself. He’ll look to carry this trend over to Buffalo’s Week 4 matchup against the Houston Texans.