The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the 2019 Buffalo Bills — other than fans smashing through tables, of course — is defense, and for good reason: the Bills are among the best defensive teams in all of football and will pose a challenge to the Patriots’ potent but at times somewhat inconsistent offense on Sunday. To leave Orchard Park victoriously, however, the Bills offense cannot be underestimated either.
While not posting any flashy numbers — the unit ranks 14th in the NFL with 22.0 points scored per game — Buffalo’s offense did help the team jump to a 3-0 record. In order to learn more about the unit, Pats Pulpit spoke with Corey Giacovelli, who works as a staff writer over at our sister blog Buffalo Rumblings. And one name stood out, obviously: Josh Allen, the second-year quarterback who is leading the Bills’ offense.
“Allen is definitely taking strides in making the jump but he still has a ways to go,” said Corey when asked about the seventh overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft and the famous second-year jump. “On the plus side he is getting more accurate with the football and making quick and crisp decisions controlling the offense. He is the unquestioned leader on this team and everyone responds to his intensity during the game.”
“On the flip side however, Allen is still struggling with taking care of the football,” he continued. “Against the Cincinnati Bengals, he threw a really bad interception after the defense forced one of their own a couple plays earlier. This lead to the Bengals first touchdown in the game to get them back into it. Allen also had another fumble that ended up staying with the Bills but it still could have changed the momentum.”
At this point in his career — he has started just 14 games so far — it is obvious that Allen can be a hit-or-miss quarterback. His statistics this season also show this: he has completed 64.1% of his pass attempts (66 of 103), which is a clear improvement from last year. He has also thrown three interceptions to go along with his three touchdown passes, however, and has fumbled the football four times in three games.
Needless to say that ball security will be high up on the Bills’ list of priorities entering the game against New England’s stingy defense. Corey sees it the same way: “If Allen can take care of the football then he can be as dangerous as anyone in the league. [...] If Buffalo wants a chance in this game they have to get out of their own way first and then focus on each and every play until that final whistle blows.”
“The team has to play sound, fundamental football,” he added when speaking about one of Buffalo’s keys to the game. “There can be no silly turnovers that give this Patriot offense a short field. There can be no bad punts or kickoff coverage that gives them a short field also. To beat the Patriots you have to play the perfect game for 60 minutes because even if you have a bad one minute stretch, it will be the difference in the game.”
New England’s defense, of course, has made a habit out of making life miserable for opposing offenses this season. The unit has surrendered just three points through Week 3, and leads the league in most meaningful statistical categories. The Bills will need contributions from everybody in order to penetrate this fortress on Sunday, which means that Allen’s supporting cast will also need to bring its A-game.
“Do not sleep on rookie tight end Dawson Knox,” said Corey when speaking about one of the Bills’ under-the-radar skill position players. “A lot of people know who he is now after that mean stiff arm and hit stick towards the end of the Bengals game but he can prove to be a difference. He has shown the ability to run crisp routes and be a factor in the run blocking game. As a tight end that is how you stick around for a long time.”
Knox has just five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown on his season résumé so far, but that is enough to make him his team’s third most prolific pass catcher at the moment. New England will certainly pay special attention to keeping him in check, with Patrick Chung and the linebackers probably tasked to limit his impact — all while Stephon Gilmore will probably be on John Brown and Jonathan Jones on Cole Beasley.
The coverage matchups favor the Patriots, and one aspect does too: the Bills have had a hard time adapting to pressure. Allen is a different player when blitzed, for example, but the offense as a whole has not been able to properly adapt to an aggressive push from the defensive front seven — something that New England’s opponents so far this season all had to experience. Blindly attacking is not the way to go, however, as Corey pointed out.
“Keep in mind that if you bring the pressure and Allen is able to escape the pocket he can be even more dangerous with his arms and legs,” he said. “This is why Bill Belichick will probably have a linebacker spying Allen, much like he did when Tyrod Taylor was the Bills’ quarterback, to prevent any big scrambles that could change the game.”