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Bills quarterback Josh Allen turns into a different player when blitzed

Related: Film room: Josh Allen’s mental growth

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Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T. Ludwig/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills are entering their Week 4 matchup against the visiting New England Patriots with a perfect 3-0 record — the first time since 2011 that the team is undefeated this deep into the season. A big reason for that is the play of quarterback Josh Allen, who is in the process of making the famous second-year jump: as colleague Mark Schofield analyzed yesterday, the 23-year-old’s mental growth is visible and cannot be underestimated.

That being said, Allen has been far from perfect so far. He has been inconsistent when it comes to ball security — he has thrown three interceptions and fumbled the football a league-high four times — and has been running hot and cold during the first three games of the season. This becomes especially evident when comparing two areas of his game: Allen when being blitzed by the defense against Allen when not being blitzed.

Being able to recognize and anticipate additional rushers from sometimes unexpected spots in the defensive lineup, and making sound decisions as the play develops, is a key ability for every quarterback. Just think about the Patriots’ Tom Brady, who is consistently among the NFL’s best players when facing the blitz. Expecting Allen to play on Brady’s level at this stage in his career is of course unrealistic, but the drop-off is still notable.

Just take a look at the following numbers, courtesy of advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus:

Josh Allen against the blitz

Blitz Snaps Pass attempts Completions Completion % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Sacks
Blitz Snaps Pass attempts Completions Completion % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Sacks
No 81 68 49 72.1 561 2 1 100.2 2.0
Yes 40 35 17 48.6 189 1 2 50.8 3.0
Pro Football Focus

As can be seen, Allen’s stats get significantly worse across the board when he is blitzed — and teams have taken advantage of this so far: no quarterback in the NFL saw additional rushers come his way as often as the former first-round draft pick. Such a plan would get defenses torn apart against a quarterback of Brady’s caliber and experience, but actually works quite well against a young Bills passer that will start his only 15th career game on Sunday.

Allen does not just turn into a different player when blitzed because of his passing numbers: he also becomes much less willing and capable of advancing the ball with his feet — an integral part of his game. While he chose to scramble on eleven occasions when not blitzed, the number goes down to just two such attempts when facing the blitz. Bringing additional rushers therefore moves Allen out of his comfort zone.

Does this mean that the Patriots will use a similar approach on Sunday? It certainly seems possible considering that a) Allen has struggled against the blitz so far this season, and b) New England has some of the best blitzing linebackers in all of football. Don’t be surprised if Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr. see considerable action as downhill pass rushers against the Bills — and if they find plenty of success.