How Bills QB Josh Allen has come crashing back to earth in recent weeks

Phil Perry
·4 min read

Perry: Which Josh Allen will the Patriots see on Sunday? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Remember when Josh Allen was considered a real candidate for this year's MVP award? Seems like a long time ago.

It was only three weeks.

But, boy, what a three weeks it has been for those who considered Allen a bigger, badder version of Brett Favre. (Favre, laughably, actually compared Allen to Tom Brady.)

When the Patriots head to Buffalo, they'll face a quarterback who is undoubtedly one of the most physically gifted in football. But, as a quarterback, is Allen someone deserving of apologies from those who dared wonder if his four-week performance was a bit of an anomaly? After years, going back to his days at Wyoming, of rollercoaster stretches?

Of course not. 

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Let's take a look at how Allen is trending by first looking at the heights he reached through the season's first month. He was remarkable, statistically. He completed over 70 percent of his passes for 9.0 yards per attempt and had a 12-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His quarterback rating (122.7) was third in the league behind only Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, and the Bills were undefeated. 

He was a changed man. After not eclipsing 60 percent completions or a rating of 85.5 in his first two seasons, he was looking like a legitimate face-of-the-franchise talent.

"I think he does a better job of going to his second or third reads," Bill Belichick said of Allen this week. "Not as quick to pull the ball down and run, although he will do that. He has a good feel of when to stay in the pocket and go to a second or third read, and if things open up, when to take off and take advantage of it. 

"I think he's less apt to just start running around and more patient, more confident to stay in the pocket and go to the second guy, go to the third guy, come back to the check down, like any quarterback who's gained two or three years of experience. That's just a common progression. He's done a good job of that. I’d say that's probably the biggest thing is just his overall execution of the passing game and seeing the field, using all the players that are involved in the pattern. If the guy he’s looking at is open based on the coverage, then he gives it to him, but sometimes a defense takes that away, and then he's been able to get the ball to other players and still have positive yards on the play. So, that's a good thing for a quarterback to do."

Allen did good things often enough to put the Bills in first place in the division. But his last three games could be described in one word: regression.

After being Pro Football Focus' fifth-highest graded quarterback through four weeks, he's been their 18th highest-graded player at that spot since then. He's completing 63.1 percent of his passes (20th in the NFL) at a 6.2 yards-per-attempt clip (25th). His touchdown-to-interception ratio is closer to 1-to-1 (4-to-3), and his rating is 81.4 during this stretch (25th).

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The question is, has Allen's play really regressed? Or is it just that his more recent stats now tell a more accurate story of who he's been? 

The answer is probably a little of both. PFF's grades take into account inaccurate throws that are saved by great catches as well as "turnover-worthy" plays that would lead to downgrades. Still, through a month, despite having some would-be interceptions dropped, he graded out as one of the best in football. 

So he was playing well. Really. Just not at an MVP level. 

PFF's Neil Hornsby lists Allen as one of the luckiest quarterbacks in football through seven weeks in part because of the percentage of his turnover-worthy throws that have actually resulted in turnovers.

There is little doubt Allen has improved from being one of the most inefficient passers in football to a much more competent quarterback.

He just isn't ready to be considered one of the best in football, as the last three weeks would tell you.