The first few times Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen squared off against the New England Patriots, he struggled. In his premiere against the Patriots, the then-rookie completed fewer than 50 percent of his pass attempts, while also turning the ball over twice. The Bills fell 24-12 to the eventual world champions that day.
The young quarterback, continued to have a hard time against New England the following season. Allen again had a completion rate under 50 percent while tossing three interceptions in a 16-10 loss early in 2019. He did look improved later that year — going 13-for-26 for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns — but he was still unable to guide his team to victory. Buffalo was swept by losing 24-17.
Then came 2020, and a perfect storm of sorts. The Patriots struggling due to various reasons ranging from Tom Brady’s departure to a league-high eight Covid-19 opt-outs coincided with Allen taken a massive leap and starting to blossom in the Bills’ offense.
As a result, he earned his first two wins over New England. He was okay in the first meeting by completing 11 of 18 throws for 154 yards and an interception, but left the Patriots’ shorthanded defense no chance in the rematch: with Allen going 27-for-36 for 320 yards and four touchdowns the Bills beat the Patriots 38-9 at Gillette Stadium.
That day, New England witnessed first-hand how far Allen had come as a passer. One year later, the two are set to meet again: the Patriots are traveling to Buffalo with the AFC East lead on the line.
Defensively, all eyes will naturally be once again be on the Bills’ QB — a player who drew considerable praise from Bill Belichick this week.
“His improvement has just been tremendous,” the Patriots’ head coach said about Allen. “Where it was three years ago — completion percentage, passer rating, decision making, production, it has just gone [up]. It’s risen at a really remarkable rate. It’s just remarkable how good he has become.”
While not on the same impressive pace he was on last year, Allen is still among the best quarterbacks in football and a frontrunner to earn MVP honors.
The 25-year-old has completed 66.8 percent of his passes so far for 3,071 yards as well as 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also has carried the ball 64 times in non-kneel down situations, gaining 388 yards and scoring three touchdowns. Most importantly, though, Allen has helped guide the Bills to 29.6 points per game — second most in the league.
“Last year, this year, he’s built on that, what it was when he came into the league, but he’s really made tremendous improvement and has a lot of command of the offense,” Belichick said about him.
“They audible a lot. They change things. They, obviously, have a lot of confidence in him. He handles them well on the line. Every other play they’ll run a bad play where they run into a bad look or a blitz or something like that. He doesn’t get fooled much by anything. It’s really, really impressive to watch how he’s developed there.”
Monday’s game between the Patriots and Bills will therefore be a big test for both of sides. While the Allen-led offense is one of the most explosive in the game, the New England defense has given up only 26 points over its last four games combined and leads the NFL in scoring.
Talk about an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
Allen’s development under offensive coordinator and former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll has allowed the Buffalo offense to develop into one of the league’s best. Considering how far he has come since entering the league, Belichick’s assessment certainly is accurate.