Josh Allen was so good, even when he tried to throw a pass away, it wound up a touchdown
ORCHARD PARK - Breathtaking might be the best way to describe what it was like watching the Buffalo Bills offense in action Saturday night at the igloo known as Highmark Stadium.
Seven possessions, seven touchdowns, and the only reason we can’t call it a perfect game – though we will anyway – is because the Bills' eighth possession consisted of three Mitchell Trubisky kneel downs to run out the clock on Buffalo’s 47-17 dismantling of the New England Patriots.
“That sounds like some Pop Warner stuff,” defensive tackle Harrison Phillips said of watching Josh Allen and company embarrass a strong New England defense by piling up 482 yards, 29 first downs, a 6-for-7 rate on third downs (Trubisky’s last kneel was technically a failed third down), 8.9 yards per play and, yeah, seven touchdowns.
“I mean, I probably watched my kid do it (on the Madden football game),” said defensive end Jerry Hughes. “My kid does it all the time with Josh, man.”
The real Josh has now had three Madden-like games in his last four against Bill Belichick -- the 38-9 victory in 2020, the 33-21 victory in 2021, and this ringing in of 2022, which ranked as the second-most lopsided defeat of the Belichick Era in New England.
Oh, in case you were wondering. The Bills, improbably, now occupy the top three spots on that list as they beat him 31-0 in 2003 in addition to the 38-9 and 47-17 victories. This was also the worst postseason loss of Belichick’s career.
“We just couldn’t keep up,” Belichick said. “They certainly deserved to win. We just couldn’t do much of anything. So we’ll just pick up the pieces, go back to work here and find a way to be more competitive.”
This was a game Bills fans will remember the rest of their lives because of the sheer dominance Buffalo showed, and the opponent it conquered. Seriously, is there any other team Bills fans would have wanted to annihilate more than the Patriots?
Here are some takeaways I had from a fascinating night:
You know it’s your night when this happens
Allen was so unbelievably good that on the first of his team playoff record five touchdown passes, he was actually trying to throw the ball away. Instead, Dawson Knox made one of the best catches of his career in the back of the end zone and just like that, the rout was underway.
“Honestly, I thought I threw the ball away,” said Allen, who was flushed out of the pocket to the right and couldn’t find anyone open before launching the ball where he thought it wouldn’t be caught by anyone, most importantly, a Patriot. He kept the play alive for nearly 10 seconds, unheard of in the NFL.
“I got hit, and I got up. I was going back to the huddle,” Allen continued. “I think it was third down, so as I was going back to the huddle. Everybody is celebrating and I had no idea what was going on. I hadn’t seen the video on the screen yet. It took about three and a half, four minutes for them to finally put it up on the screen after we kicked the PAT. It was like, ‘Holy crap, I did not mean for that to happen.’ But Dawson was in the right place at the right time and made an unbelievable play.”
On the CBS broadcast, play-by-play man Ian Eagle aptly called it “an excuse me touchdown.”
That TD was only the beginning for Josh Allen
Allen had a passer rating of 157.6. For context, 158.3 is considered perfect. He completed 21 of 25 attempts for 308 yards and did not have a turnover or take a sack. He had more TD passes than he did incompletions. He became the first player in NFL history with five passing TDs, an 80% completion percentage and at least 50 yards rushing.
The Bills never faced a fourth down. Think about that for a second. They had 54 offensive plays and not one came on a fourth down as they never had to gamble for a first down, never had to punt, and never had to settle for a field goal.
No team in NFL history has ever done that according to CBS, and no team at least in the Super Bowl era, has ever scored TDs on its first seven possessions of a game.
“It seems like we could have done anything we wanted to out there,” said Knox. Yeah, that’s because they did.
Brian Daboll may have just bought his ticket out of town
The offensive coordinator has a Zoom interview with the Dolphins Sunday (as does defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier). After Saturday’s performance, both of them will be strong candidates for the Dolphins, the Bears or whatever other team may request an interview.
Brian Daboll had quite a night. He finally had a full arsenal at his disposal – everyone was healthy, no one had COVID – and he was like a mad scientist in the coaches’ booth, dialing up personnel groups, formations and play calls.
“That’s a good team we just played, and the way we came out and executed, it was good to see,” Allen said. “We put together a really good game plan and Daboll lit it up, just the play calling. Our guys went out there and made some plays.”
Allen completed passes to nine different players, which is amazing considering he only completed 21. That’s quite a dispersal and it showed just how dialed in the Bills were as everyone got involved, even rookie offensive tackle Tommy Doyle for a big man TD.
“Every drive we couldn’t get a stop was frustrating,” said New England edge rusher Matthew Judon. “It wasn’t only one drive, it wasn’t only one play, it wasn’t one single player. It was everything. It was the whole game. So everything was kind of frustrating, honestly.”
Micah Hyde’s interception was a huge moment
Given the way things played out, the Bills were probably destined to win in a rout. But after the Knox TD, the Patriots came right back and were driving, and then Mac Jones threw what looked to be a perfect 34-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor, who had beaten Levi Wallace clean.
Instead, here came safety Micah Hyde sprinting like Mike Trout in center field, and with one last stride and leap he made one of the best interceptions you’ll ever see to kill the threat.
Who knows where the game goes if it was 7-7 at that point. Instead, it was soon 14-0 as Allen drove to his second TD pass to Knox.
“Yeah, I mean, that was a pivotal moment in the game; it was 7-0 at the time and that could have been 7-7,” said coach Sean McDermott. “And then it just seemed like it went from there. It was such a huge play – by one of our leaders, right? A guy that we all count on. So, he stepped up in a big moment for us.”
“I guess looking back, possibly,” Hyde said when asked if that was a critical reversal of fortune. “That play, if they were able to convert and score a touchdown it would be 7-7, obviously, and then a different ball game. I got a late jump on it, honestly. I didn’t believe it right away. But when I knew he was throwing, I just put my head down and started running. I knew it was going to be at the receiver, and I just looked up at the last second and the ball was there.”
Jordan Poyer was blown away by it. “I told him on the sideline, ‘That might have been the most unbelievable play I’ve ever seen on the field.’”
► Another key moment came on the Patriots first possession of the second half. Down 27-3, they picked up a first down and perhaps were starting to feel like Jones was finding himself. But Matt Milano tipped a pass and the ball floated into the arms of Wallace for a pick at midfield. Soon thereafter, Allen hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 34-yard TD, the first TD of Sanders’ 14-game postseason career. Game over.
► McDermott said of the announced crowd of 69,188 that braved the bitter cold: “There’s a lot of hard-working people in this community that get up every morning, pack their lunch and go to work. Glad to see that they can enjoy something like that. It’s not often in coaching you can enjoy the last six minutes of a game and kind of look up in the stands and see the fans enjoying it. I’m happy for them more than anything.”
► As great as Allen and the offense were, the No. 1 defense in the NFL was spot on, too, limiting the Patriots to 305 yards (much of it in garbage time), and Hyde said with a smile, “We go against each other in practice, they talk a lot of junk to us, and we remind them how we finished the year.”
► This was the Bills first no-punt playoff game in team history. And for Belichick, there have been two games out of 477 in his career where he didn’t force a punt. Saturday, and the loss to the Bills on Dec. 26. That’s a nice trend.
► The Buffalo offensive line has now gone four straight games without allowing a sack and in the last six games, the running attack led by resurgent Devin Singletary is averaging 163.1 yards.
► Isaiah McKenzie is set to be a free agent. Do you think Belichick might want him? In the last two games against the Patriots McKenzie had 14 catches on 15 targets for 170 yards and a TD, and four rushes for 28 yards. I just keep asking myself, why in the world did the Bills keep McKenzie out of the offensive plan for so much of the season? His speed against the Patriots was eye-opening.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.