Josh Allen's late-game heroics a reminder of what Bills offense can be

TAMPA, Fla. -- Down 17 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen seemingly willed his team back into the game.

With 9:51 remaining, Allen took off on first down for a 23-yard gain. But as Buccaneers linebacker Devin White went in for the tackle, Allen's left foot got stuck under White. The quarterback got up a little slower and gimpier than usual but took the next snap, throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox.

The Bills offense has had more than its fair share of frustrating moments this season. Take the first half of the 33-27 overtime loss to the Bucs, when no running back had a single carry -- the first time a team has done that this century.

In contrast, there’s the 24-point second-half performance Allen led on Sunday. Where has that been hiding lately?

At times, Allen seemed unstoppable, both on the ground and through the air. It was one of those games that reminds us what makes him so special.

And he did it playing most of the fourth quarter and all of overtime on the injured foot. Allen said he doesn’t “think [the injury is] going to be a big deal.” The quarterback added that “there was no way I was going out.”

Coach Sean McDermott gave a bit of a laugh when he heard what his quarterback said.

“Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me,” McDermott said. "It didn’t surprise you, I’m sure. That’s why the guys love him, that’s why he’s our quarterback.”

Despite the loss, which drops Buffalo to 7-6, the Bills offense got back to doing what it does best by putting the ball in the hands of its best player. Despite the injury risks that come from asking so much of Allen -- as seen Sunday -- this team will need that from him to make the postseason.

“I think this loss can really pull a team together,” Allen said. “The feeling in the locker room after the game, we’re pissed off we didn’t win. But the unity and how we brought [it] together in that second half, I think it’s going to pay dividends moving forward.”

Buffalo has four games left and currently holds the AFC's No. 7 seed. Of the AFC's five 7-6 teams (Bills, Bengals, Broncos, Browns and Colts), the Bills have the best shot at making the playoffs per ESPN’s Football Power Index (76.9%). Winning out, however, will not automatically put the team in the postseason because a poor conference record (5-5). Both the Colts (6-3) and Bengals (5-3) have better conference records.

Allen finished the game 36-of-54 passing (a career-high in passing attempts) for 308 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 109 yards and a score on 12 carries, becoming the first player in franchise history to have at least 250 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a game.

One problem area for the Bills offensively is third down. Allen finished with 11 passes on third down, none of which were converted for a first down -- the most pass attempts without a conversion on third down this season. The Bills were 2-of-2 on third down when rushing the ball (both designed runs, one by Allen).

At 25, Allen is also the youngest player to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in a regular-season game, per ESPN Stats & Information. The only other quarterbacks to do it are Russell Wilson (2014) and Cam Newton (2015).

“He’s more like Cam Newton, but with a bigger and stronger arm,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “We talked about the designed quarterback runs are tough. I wouldn’t put my quarterback in that much of harm’s way because he did get nicked up a little bit, but they did a heck of a job with it.”

The possibility of getting banged up comes with mobile quarterbacks. Look at Baltimore's Lamar Jackson, Arizona's Kyler Murray and the history of Newton. That’s why the Bills invested in No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky as a backup. How much, if any, time Allen may miss is unclear.

Allen's 12 rushing attempts were his most since Week 1 of 2020, and markedly more than he got in a game with tough weather conditions the week prior against the New England Patriots, when Allen had just six carries for 39 yards despite being the team’s best rusher. To have a chance to win the next four games, they’ll need him to command all facets of the offense but also have help along the way from his offensive line and skill-position players.

Getting wide receiver Gabriel Davis more involved wouldn’t hurt. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders went out with a knee injury, and Davis stepped up, catching five passes for 43 yards and a score, playing a season-high 83% of the offensive snaps.

“I got to the sideline after we kicked the field goal [to tie the game], and [Davis] just looked over and said, ‘Thanks for trusting me,’” Allen said. “That’s a guy that obviously has been limited in his opportunities this year. But he just shows up when he has to, and we are going to need more of him going forward. ... [Davis is] one of the guys in the locker room that everybody loves and gravitates towards. Typically, when you do that, and you have that type of mindset and work ethic, typically plays are going to work out in your favor more often than not.”

The quarterback could have been talking about himself.

"Josh is one of the toughest competitors, one of the most resilient football players and people I’ve been around," center Mitch Morse said. "You saw the pain he was in and was still asking for quarterback runs, and still asking to put it on his back. When you have a guy like that step into a huddle, you know, you’re so prideful in having a quarterback like that. You want to do everything in your power to help lead our team down the field."