Bills, Josh Allen might return to 'Air Allen' to keep up with Seahawks

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It was relatively obvious, following their trade for wide receiver Stefon Diggs this offseason, but Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane made it perfectly clear his team's offense needed to improve its passing game.

When he spoke to reporters in April, Beane said the Bills, who owned the league's 26th-ranked passing offense in 2019, had to be able to throw the ball when opponents knew a pass was coming -- specifically on third-and-long situations. He also noted that although the Bills want to play "rough and tough" and establish the run, there would be games when that won't be an option.

"If it's a game that we have to throw it 40 times, we're playing against one of these high-powered offenses that we've got to keep up, then that's what we want to be able to do," Beane said.

Buffalo's passing offense now ranks 10th in the NFL behind quarterback Josh Allen, who has taken a big step forward in Year 3. And with the league's top-three offenses next up on the schedule -- the Seattle Seahawks (6-1), the Arizona Cardinals (5-2) and the Los Angeles Chargers (2-5) -- the Bills (6-2) might get an opportunity or two to test Beane's theory, starting with Sunday's game at Bills Stadium against the Seahawks (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

Allen has tapered off a bit since a scorching start to the season, throwing for 846 yards and four touchdowns in his past four games after throwing for 1,326 and 12 scores in his first four. But when asked whether he felt like the Bills could win with him throwing 40-plus times, he said, "absolutely."

"I always feel like whenever we're on the field, we can compete with anybody," Allen said Wednesday. "That's been my attitude since Day 1, but we understand how well the Seahawks are playing and how well [QB] Russell Wilson is playing. We've got no small task this coming week, they're top in a lot of statistical categories on the offensive side of the ball -- we've got to make sure that we're doing our part and keeping them off the field as much as possible."

Led by Wilson, arguably the NFL's front-runner for MVP, Seattle is the third-best passing offense in the league (289 yards per game) and leads the league in points per game (34.3) and passer rating (120.8). The Seahawks are at their best pushing the ball downfield; wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are tied for the most receiving touchdowns with seven, and Metcalf (36 catches) ranks fourth in receiving yards (680) and second in yards per catch (18.9).

However, there's a reason four of the Seahawks' six wins were by one score; they are giving up 28.4 points per game. Seattle ranks 32nd in defense, allowing 460.9 yards per game, including an astounding 358.7 passing yards per game. No team since at least 1999 has allowed even 300 passing yards per game over a full season.

Though the game looks like a shootout on paper, the thought didn't seem to bother Bills coach Sean McDermott, a former defensive coordinator.

"We can't upset the football gods, I would say let's start there," he said, adding, "You do what you feel like you need to do to win."

Allen and McDermott referenced the need to keep Seattle's offense off the field. Doing so would require the Bills' 19th-ranked run game, which has run for 316 yards over the past two games, to push around a Seahawks defense that's held four opponents to under 100 rushing yards this season.

If that doesn't happen, the Bills are better equipped to hang with Seattle now than in McDermott's first three seasons. From 2017 to 2019, the Bills attempted 40 passes seven times -- all losses. While their margin of defeat in such games improved (to -16) in 2019 (from -92 in 2018), it didn't translate to wins.

Until this season.

Buffalo has attempted 40 or more passes three times this season, winning twice. Allen is averaging career highs in attempts (34.6) and yards (271.5 per game), has produced the first four 300-yard passing games of his career and is on pace to throw 32 TD passes after totaling 30 in his first two seasons. Diggs has been a big reason for the improvement, with 54 catches for 695 yards and three TDs.

Unless Buffalo's 16th-ranked defense can slow the Seahawks, the "Air Allen" offense from Weeks 1-4 will need to reappear if Buffalo is to capture its seventh win.