Bills' offense continues to rise as Josh Allen unlocks big-play passing game

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It took Josh Allen less than 30 minutes into the Buffalo Bills' Week 5 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to make history.

Allen’s 348 passing yards in the first half in the 38-3 win were the most in a single half by a Bills player, per Elias Sports Bureau data.

“Josh is close to a record every game, and I say that humbly ...” left tackle Dion Dawkins said. “We have a great quarterback. That's why they paid him. That's why he's our franchise. That's why he's Josh. No cockiness. Josh is able to do amazing things every time he touches the football and touches the football field.”

Allen isn’t just playing well in a good offense. Of the 17 touchdowns the Bills have scored, he’s accounted for 16 of them, and he is responsible for 83% of the team’s net yards, the highest of any player through five games in the past three seasons.

And while Allen is making an early case for MVP, the offense under first-year coordinator Ken Dorsey continues to improve. The Bills got another component of their offense going Sunday that they had previously been unable to -- the big-play passing game, giving opposing defenses another dimension to defend.

“Honestly, I felt like I missed a few throws,” Allen said after his record-setting first half. “I was a little ticked off for a couple of the passes I had early on in the game. I want to complete every ball. Obviously, I know it’s not typically possible. But there are some things I could have done better early on in that game.”

Through the first four games of the season, the Bills completed 12 passes of 20-plus yards, but against an injury-ravaged Steelers defense, especially in the secondary, Allen completed eight such passes, including three for touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns went to wide receiver Gabe Davis, who had been dealing with an ankle injury the past couple of weeks. Against the Steelers, he looked healthy once again -- finishing with three receptions for 171 yards and two scores.

“You just feel like, you know, no one can stop you,” Davis said. “You feel like you're the best man on the field, and every time the ball comes your way, you're gonna make a play on it.”

It hasn't been a secret the Bills have struggled to get their running backs going consistently; Allen has led the team in rushing for four games. But with four touchdown drives taking three plays or fewer against the Steelers, the run game wasn’t needed.

Part of the reason for Buffalo’s success deep against Pittsburgh was Allen’s ability to beat the Steelers’ man coverage. Allen saw man coverage on a season-high 56% of dropbacks and threw three touchdown passes on 12.5 yards per attempt on those plays. He finished with 424 passing yards.

“Every team is going to play you different,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. “Some guys are going to call it and play, man, some guys have confidence in their guys, some guys want to play zone. Schematically, we’ve seen everything. We’ve seen the guys who crawl up and we get a lot of big plays. And then we see the guys who play it, we’re going to play zone, make ‘em move down the field one play at a time.”

Allen has 1,876 combined passing/rushing and 16 combined passing/rushing touchdowns already this season, the third player in NFL history to do so through five games and the first since Peyton Manning’s record season in 2013. Stopping this offense, even without a traditional run game, is difficult because there’s so much Allen and his receivers can do. With Davis healthy and Diggs also a deep-play threat, the Bills will be able to take advantage of one-on-one matchups downfield.

The Bills had that success without starting slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who remains in the concussion protocol, and tight end Dawson Knox (foot/ankle). Next up for the Bills is a team that they are plenty familiar with in the Kansas City Chiefs (CBS, 4:25 p.m. ET) after consecutive playoff losses at Arrowhead Stadium.

Going into Monday Night Football against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chiefs have given up the eighth-fewest passing yards per attempt (6.55), but there will be opportunities, as Kansas City has allowed the second-highest completion percentage (72.9%). In two games last season against the Chiefs, Allen threw for seven touchdowns and had zero interceptions.

“It’s hard to win in this league,” Allen said. “So, we're going to celebrate this one tonight. Have a good time. Move on tomorrow. Watch this film and then we'll get on to Kansas City.”