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Bills observations: Why Josh Allen isn’t automatic at the goal line anymore


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When the Buffalo Bills reach the 1-yard line, there has been no more effective play than having their 6-foot-5, 235-pound quarterback taking a direct snap and bowling his way into the end zone.

He has been successful 80 percent of the time, and even better when the Bills need one yard for a mere first down.

Yet on all four occasions, they reached the Las Vegas Raiders’ 1-yard line Sunday, they had Allen do something else.

“The biggest thing is we want to be able to do different things,” Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said Monday. “We want to be able to make sure a defense can’t just key in on Josh (Allen) right there.

“Whether it’s play-action, whether it’s a drop back, whether it’s a run to one of the backs, whether it’s a Josh run, the more you can run concepts that you as an offense feel very comfortable about and feel you can execute at a high level — at the same time giving a defense different things they have to honor — that’s going to help.”

The Bills scored touchdowns on two of the three possessions that reached the Raiders’ 1-yard line.

Damien Harris was tackled for a 1-yard loss early in the second quarter (Allen found Dawson Knox on the next play for the 2-yard score). In the fourth quarter, Harris broke through for his touchdown on third-and-1.

But a sequence late in the second quarter reminded everyone why the Bills now prefer others doing the dirty work. Allen, on second-and-goal from the 4, tried to hurdle Raiders safety Marcus Epps and was dumped at the 1.

“Obviously, it’s something we’ll continue to preach with him and talk with him about ‘a time and a place,’” Dorsey said.

So on the next two plays, out of a shotgun formation, Allen handed off to Latavius Murray for no gain and threw an incompletion to Knox on fourth down.

An even more specific do-or-die stat: Allen has attempted three runs on fourth-and-goal from the 1. He has scored each time.

But Dorsey spread out the offense there because he liked the strain it put on Las Vegas’ defensive setup.

“We were trying to give Josh some options on some routes when we’re anticipating a certain coverage,” Dorsey said. “We got a look that we felt comfortable with on the play, had a lot of guys running away on some crossing routes and things like that to give him options to work through the reads.”

Allen this year has converted all three runs when the Bills have needed a yard to move the chains. He converted two fourth-and-1 situations deep in Raiders territory.

Over the course of his career, with end-of-game kneeldowns subtracted, Allen has attempted 87 runs when the Bills needed a yard for a first down or touchdown. He has converted 75 of them (86.2 percent). He has lost two fumbles, though.

When a yard away from the end zone, Allen has turned 12 of 15 plunges (80 percent) into touchdowns. One such situation was removed because Allen kneeled to drain the clock and set up Tyler Bass’ winning field goal last year against the Baltimore Ravens.

Can the Bills keep running like this?

All three Buffalo tailbacks left Highmark Stadium with smiles. With the NFL’s reigning rush king on the other sideline, James Cook gained 123 rushing yards and 159 scrimmage yards, both game-highs. Murray and Harris each scored a touchdown.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said of Murray: “You could feel him when he went into the game.”

Allen, meanwhile, ran only three times. That was among the main objectives for signing Murray and Harris to begin with — reducing Allen’s rushing workload.

“When we got the room that we have, we can really work a number of different combinations,” Dorsey said. “All three of those guys complement each other so well.

“It’s a great room to be able to rotate guys in and get touches. When you have first- and second-down production, you’re able to stay in those rhythms and do those types of things.”

The Bills still have more meat on the bone here, too. They averaged 4.4 yards per rush with either two or three tight ends on the field. If that number goes up, that personnel grouping could be even more advantageous for Buffalo.

Oliver is off to a hot start

Ed Oliver put together a dominant performance. On Las Vegas’ first snap, Oliver muscled his way into the backfield and brought NFL rushing king Josh Jacobs down for a loss, setting the tone for Buffalo’s run defense.

“When he comes off the ball, in particular like he did on the first play of the game yesterday, he really put the offensive lineman in the lap of the running back,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “That’s when he’s at his best. When he does that, we’re in good shape.”

On the Raiders’ third drive of the game, Oliver pressured on a play that A.J. Epenesa finished with a batted pass at the line of scrimmage. On the next series, Oliver was again in the backfield to bring down Jacobs for a loss and on the next play almost brought Jimmy Garoppolo down for a safety.

Through two games, Oliver has eight pressures, 17th in the NFL, according to TruMedia. He also has a pressure on 24.2 percent of his pass-rush opportunities, seventh best in the league. He leads the Bills with a tackle on 25 percent of his snaps in rush defense.

“Ed has tremendous quickness when the ball is snapped,” Bills defensive line coach Eric Washington said. “He has a chance to really get into his gap responsibility or the person who’s assigned to him. He’s doing a really good job with that, just attacking and also understanding how to apply that get-off to a key stimulant. He’s really feeling that.”

Davis’ big day

The Bills are 12-1 when Gabriel Davis has at least 60 receiving yards. The only loss was the crazy Vikings game last season. Maybe that stat is a reflection of how often the Bills have won since 2020, but when Davis has fewer than 60 yards, they are 24-12. Either way, the Bills are in better shape when Davis and other secondary targets are involved in the passing game.

Allen loves to throw to Stefon Diggs — and for good reason. But we’ve seen Allen get into trouble when he’s too fixated on Diggs and doesn’t use the rest of the field while working within the structure of the offense. That wasn’t the case against the Raiders; Davis had six catches for 91 yards, including multiple clutch grabs for first downs and a touchdown.

“Some games, you’re going to have production, and sometimes it’s just not going to fall that way,” McDermott said of Davis. “I love how he stayed after it and made some big plays for us.”

Where are Sherfield and Harty?

Trent Sherfield does not have a single target through two games. Deonte Harty has five catches for only 13 yards. To this point, the Bills haven’t found a way to get their free-agent receivers involved in the offense.

Sherfield played 16 percent of the snaps in Week 1 and 41 percent of the snaps Sunday. Harty, meanwhile, took 22 and 19 percent of the snaps. So they’ve been on the field but not major factors in the passing game.

This could be due to a combination of factors. One is the fact that the Bills are running a lot of plays with two and three tight ends on the field. They have had at least two tight ends on the field for 57 percent of their snaps through two weeks. Only the Atlanta Falcons have a higher percentage across the league. Dalton Kincaid (who had a few nice blocks on Sunday) has run 61 routes through two weeks and has nine catches on 10 targets. He’s a big part of the passing game, and Knox still has a role with six catches through two weeks.

Add in that Diggs is commanding his usual target share, Davis’ emergence this week, and the Bills having a commitment to running more and that leaves fewer opportunities to go around. Even Khalil Shakir ended up with one target and scored a touchdown against the Raiders. Competition for those leftover targets is tight.

Pride or shame?

Harris only had to get past the kicker.

The first kickoff return of his NFL career ended by being tackled by Daniel Carlson. To reach Carlson, however, the fifth-year running back traveled 41 yards.

“I’ll be pretty hard on myself, but I feel like getting to the kicker is hard to do,” Harris said. “To be able to do that on my first return, I’ll take it. Now I’ll know what to do. I’ll have a plan next time I get to the kicker.”

To be fair, Carlson is 6 feet 5 and 215 pounds. The reigning All-Pro had made three previous tackles.

Harris’ last kickoff return happened in 2015 as an Alabama freshman, the longest going 30 yards. He returned his only punt for 9 yards as a junior.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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This is my biggest fear. Wimpy McDumbass will punt or kick field goals when games mattered in the post season. 4th and short near mid field or on the opponent's territory and this fucking retarded wimpy, dumbass coach will get a brain fart and not let a huge unicorn like Josh Allen just fall forward for a 1st down.  It's been happening for 3 fucking post seasons now that this asshole is coaching scared 

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