Against zone coverage, Bills' Cole Beasley, Josh Allen find ways to thrive

Opposing defenses seemingly figured out Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen the past two weeks, so you can more or less consider his Week 7 performance against the New York Jets his official rebuttal.

Allen ranked second in the NFL in passing yards through the first four weeks, averaging 331.5 passing yards per game as the Bills raced to a 4-0 start. In his next two games, however, Allen averaged 192.5 yards per game, completing 58.5% of his passes. The difference? The Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Bills in Week 5 and Week 6, respectively, played more zone coverage than Buffalo had seen this season. Those teams effectively took away the explosive downfield passes the Bills thrived on during their four-game win streak.

Allen, in turn, struggled to make a positive impact without stretching the field. But self-awareness is one of his better traits, and Allen recognized his problems in that two-game stretch and what he needed to do to fix them.

"Myself, I've got to do a better job of staying patient and taking what they give me early on -- force them to come up and try to take our outlets away. And that's when we get our chunk plays," Allen said after the Chiefs game.

Allen stayed true to his word in Buffalo's 18-10 win Sunday over the Jets, completing 30 of 43 passes for 307 yards. The Bills quarterback did most of his work within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, completing 28 of 33 passes in that range.

Allen said the Jets executed a "very similar" soft zone to what Tennessee and Kansas City played the past two weeks. He wasn't completely satisfied Sunday at New York, given that the Bills failed to score a touchdown, but he thought he had a better grasp of the game. Just as he predicted, his willingness to take the open, underneath routes forced the Jets' defense to come down.

The primary beneficiary of the Bills' offensive game plan Sunday was wide receiver Cole Beasley, who set a career high with 11 catches and tied another with 112 yards. Buffalo's primary slot receiver got open at will against New York's secondary, averaging 4.35 yards of separation at the time of the catch, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

"He was great for us today. That's the benefit of having a guy like Cole," Allen said. "Super smart. He sees zone defense very well. He knows when to find zones and sit down and give me good body language. We worked him there for the better part of the game, so he stepped up for us.

"When teams want to drop back and put seven or eight in coverage, we've got to find ways to continue to move the ball. He's been awesome for us."

Now in his second season with the Bills, Beasley has recorded more 100-yard receiving games in 22 games with Buffalo than he did in 103 games with the Dallas Cowboys.

With 470 receiving yards this season, Beasley is on pace for what would be a career-high 1,074 yards -- his first 1,000-yard season. The nine-year veteran credited Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for putting players in positions that play to their strengths and said Daboll has "made it a lot of fun" for him to play.

If opposing defenses continue to force the Bills to play underneath, Beasley has a good shot to hit the 1,000-yard milestone.

"With them taking the deep stuff away, that gives me a lot of room to work inside and underneath," Beasley said.

"When we play teams like that, I've got to have my best games, and I've got to be on point for [Allen]. They give me a lot of freedom, so I can't really do anything that he's not ready for. I've got to be very quarterback-friendly."