In 2021, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was about as deadly in the red zone — from the opposing 20-yard line and in — as any quarterback in the NFL. In those situations, including the playoffs, Allen completed 79 of 136 passes for 522 yards, 341 air yards, 35 touchdowns, 35 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 99.9. Only Matthew Stafford of the Los Angeles Rams had more red zone touchdowns with 40, and Stafford had two more games than Allen — a conference championship game and a Super Bowl — in which to make that happen.
The point is, you didn’t worry about Josh Allen in the red zone. Like, at all. Add in Allen’s 34 red zone rushing attempts for 153 yards and six touchdowns, and it could credibly be argued that there was no more terrifying weapon in the NFL when it came to scoring when scoring most needed to happen.
And this is why Allen’s red zone woes in 2022 are such a mystery. We certainly saw them in the Bills’ insane 33-30 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Allen matched his entire 2021 total with two red zone picks, both to future Hall of Fame cornerback Patrick Peterson.
There was… well, whatever this was with 10:42 left in regulation…
Patrick Peterson picks off Josh Allen in the red-zone!!! 🔥🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/YwfqaKfQRQ
— OutOfSightSports🚀™️ (@OOSSports) November 13, 2022
…and the game-ending interception with 1:19 left in overtime.
— Dee Black (@deeblackmma2) November 13, 2022
Allen’s postgame reaction was certainly understandable.
— 준 Jun (@Royals_Jun) November 13, 2022
Overall in the red zone this season, Allen has been the NFL’s most generous quarterback. Not a great trend.
Last season, Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Tannehill, and Taylor Heinicke tied for the league lead in interceptions from the opposing 20-yard line and in with four.
Josh Allen already has four this season. Barely missed five throwing a pick to Levi Wallace from the 21.
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) November 13, 2022
Let’s start with that Wallace pick against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5. It was just outside the red zone, but it works for our purposes, because it displays a worrisome trend. Allen tried to hit Gabe Davis in the right corner of the end zone, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Wallace, Allen’s former teammate, had position on Davis. This was simply an ill-advised throw.
Let’s now move to the interception Allen threw to Jaire Alexander of the Green Bay Packers in Week 8 from the Green Bay three-yard line. This turned into a scramble drill, and while Davis is open at a certain point in the progression, he throws it late, when Alexander is in prime position to take the ball away.
Now. the pick Allen threw in Week 9 against the New York Jets. This was a counter boot, and Allen’s job was simply to cut the field in half and find the open guy. This was second-and-10 from the New York 13-yard line with 43 seconds elapsed in the game, so it wasn’t as if Allen was in desperation mode. It just looked that way as Allen ran out of rope and threw a weird half=pass in the general direction of tight end Dawson Knox. Safety Jordan Whitehead was happy for the gift.
After Sunday’s game, Allen quickly broke down the two red zone picks he threw against the Vikings.
“The first one — it’s fourth down. No sense in taking a sack or throwing the ball away, giving somebody a chance. Those are gonna happen. The second one… just a bad ball. Bad decision.”
There have been too many bad balls and bad decisions of late for Allen, and they don’t seem tied to any sort of injury issue. This seems more about Allen believing in his own ability to make impossible hero throws in a part of the field where space is compressed, and any fraction of a mistake can explode into Really Bad Things.
The Bills, seen by many (inclosing yours truly) as a lead-pipe Super Bowl contender, are now 6-3, looking up at the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets in the AFC East, with the New England Patriots right on their heels. Allen has relatively easy get-well defenses coming up in the Lions and Browns, before he has to deal with the Patriots, who may have the NFL’s best pass defense right now.
Allen has a long way to go, and a short time to once again become the quarterback we have all expected him to be. As long as the red zone disasters continue, the Bills will be in trouble on their way to the top.
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