Josh Allen took off without warning, gracefully galloping through wide-open space, determined to collect extra yardage. Within seconds, however, the Buffalo Bills’ rookie quarterback was forced to make a choice: protect himself or keep going. And with one split-second decision, Allen showcased to all of “Bills Mafia” — and more important, his teammates — what he’s truly made of.
Allen’s feet left the ground without warning as his 6-foot-5, 237-pound frame hurdled the unsuspecting Minnesota Vikings defender lunging toward him. He tumbled forward, securing the first down with his quick thinking, and then jumped to his feet, fist-pumping in unbridled celebration.
“I was getting ready to go out there on [a] punt, so I had a great view of it,” Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander told Yahoo Sports by phone after Buffalo’s impressive 27-6 road-win over Minnesota. “It was just a great play by him; trying to make a play, extend the series. It was a great play for us at the time, but you’re like, ‘Ooh! Alright, now you did it. Next time, slide.’”
Playfully pressed on his need to be such a wet blanket, Alexander replied with glee: “He juiced us up now! Don’t get me wrong. I was excited. It was a great play and it definitely brought a lot of juice to the sideline.”
Weeks of turmoil for Buffalo reached a tipping point last week when veteran cornerback Vontae Davis stunningly retired at halftime of its 31-20 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. And in the days to come, an embarrassed franchise in search of stability, leadership and its first win of the season put its faith in Allen once more. The odds were undoubtedly stacked against him: Davis’ departure was a distraction that dominated the news cycle in Western New York. Worse, Allen and the offense would have to face a dominant Vikings defense on the road without its most trusted asset, running back LeSean McCoy, who was ruled out due to fractured rib cartilage.
But the rookie did not falter. Instead, he flourished.
Allen showed poise in the pocket, completing 15 of 22 passes for 196 yards and one passing touchdown. But it is the grit and passion he has shown on the field that has endeared him most in the locker room.
His third-down hurdle over linebacker Anthony Barr will be shown on highlight shows all week. So, too, will Allen’s first career rushing touchdown, which he capped with an outstretched arm while diving toward the left pylon. His 10-yard score gave the Bills an early 7-0 lead, en route to a rout.
A track star he is not. But Allen — who began the season as the backup, but was named the starter after a disastrous Week 1 performance by Nathan Peterman — showed all of the intangibles that made him the seventh overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.
“I was just trying to ignite a spark in our team,” Allen told reporters after the game. “I just want to win football games. That’s it.”
“I was trusting my feet, trusting my gut,” he later added, referring to the hurdle. “ … I knew we needed a first down there. … I feel like I’m an instinctual player. When I see a lane, I’m going to take it.”
Sunday’s victory — which also featured four sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception by the Bills defense — provided a confidence boost for Allen, but also settled the nerves of a franchise that seemed on the verge of imploding after only a couple of games. After jettisoning Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland this offseason, head coach Sean McDermott put the offense in Peterman’s hands instead of trusting that Allen was ready to lead. But Davis’ abrupt retirement raised even more questions about the state of the Bills’ locker room.
Alexander, Davis’ most vocal detractor last week, insisted the Bills weren’t “motivated by that incident,” adding: “I think it was more about how we played collectively the last two weeks [against Baltimore and Los Angeles].”
The 12-year NFL veteran then laughed when asked if Davis had reached out to him in the aftermath of his abrupt retirement. “No,” Alexander said, chuckling. “I know he talked to a couple guys who went over to his house to see how he was doing. But he made the decision that he was done with the game. He did it his way, and you know, you’ve got to respect it and now we just move on.
“Good luck to him and what he’s going to do and we’re just going to try to continue to build off this win today.”
For the first time this season, the Bills were in control for four quarters — not only on defense, but on offense too. Thanks, in large part to Allen, who also rushed for 39 yards and two TDs on 10 carries.
If there is anything to criticize the young signal-caller for it would be his three sacks and his three fumbles, but even those were recovered by the Bills. Alexander, the sage elder statesman of the group, also harped on the inherent danger of Allen’s most-exciting play of the afternoon.
“I saw it firsthand in Washington with RG3 and some other guys I’ve been around who have been scrambling guys. The guys that know how to get down and get out of the way, like a Russell Wilson-type, that’s what you want to see him develop into. That was a great play, but I just know over time what that can lead to. And we can’t afford to lose a guy like Josh Allen.”
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