Examining how Brandon Allen's Limitations as a QB Hurt the Broncos in Buffalo
Breaking down the Denver Broncos' loss to the Buffalo Bills last week, Brandon Allen’s arm strength (or lack thereof) and decision-making really stood out in a negative way. The high winds didn’t help, which only highlighted the quarterback's arm strength issues.
There were missed chances from the Broncos offense because of these issues with Allen.
There were a few plays that saw the QB trying to force something when there were other options available.
Allen locked in on receivers, which just helped the Bills defense stifle the Broncos offense even more. In this game, there were many plays to choose from, but four really stood out that highlight the arm and decision-making issues of the quarterback.
Winds picked up later in the game, which is why there are first and second-half examples of plays the Broncos had to leave out on the field due to Allen's shortcomings. Switching directions each quarter saw Denver alternate between going against and with the wind in the lighter and heavier blusterings.
Play 1: 10:13 | First Quarter | Staring Down Receivers
On 3rd-&-19, you sort of have to take a shot if you're going to try and get the first down. With Denver's field position and the wind, picking up any yardage here would have helped them get into field goal range. However, this was a very dangerous throw from Allen, who lands quickly on WR Tim Patrick and stares him down.
As a result, the flat coverage defender reads Allen and reacts, which typically results in an interception. Denver is lucky that didn’t happen here. Allen was so quick to get to Patrick, that he didn’t get a look at two open receivers.
Time wouldn’t allow him to pull it down and readjust because of pressure, but he still locked in on Patrick early. RB Royce Freeman ended up open in the middle of the field, with space to run, which could’ve potentially gotten Denver into field goal position at least. WR DaeSean Hamilton was also open on the left, with space to run to get into field goal range.
Either of those options at least would have given Denver a chance at making it into field goal range, if not picking up the first down. Even so, locking onto Patrick, giving the defense the easy read, and making the ill-advised throw was a recipe for disaster that the Bills failed to capitalize on.
Play 2: 1:07 | Second Quarter | Poor Decision-Making
Allen made a huge mistake here and just threw the wrong route, thinking Courtland Sutton was running a go route. There were no other options for him to go to, but he has to make the right read and throw the right route, obviously.
It was a bad throw, a bad decision, and an overall atrocious play that Allen definitely wants back. Allen even admitted afterward he made a big mistake, and this kept potential points off the board for the Broncos.
Play 3: 4:13 | Fourth Quarter | Poor Design + Arm Limitations = Disaster
This play isn’t so much an issue with Allen as it is with the play call. Denver has three yards to go. Quick slants, outs, ins, curls are what the down-and-distance demand. Smart play-calling would have given a limited quarterback and the offense the best chance of picking up the first down, instead of taking a shot, especially considering the field position.
Instead, the Broncos have one receiver run a go route, and another a deep corner, and to the same side of the field no less. Not only are these deep, long-developing plays, but it is also very poor spacing from the Broncos from a design perspective. For a longer-developing play, thankfully the Broncos offensive line was able to protect. Something they failed to do on two other 3rd-&-3 situations.
Now, there are two receivers running quicker routes. Patrick runs a quick out route, then cuts it back inside, which takes a little more time to develop. The receiver at the top of the screen runs a quick curl. That is good spacing between those two receivers, but both were tightly covered.
Sutton is excellent on slant routes, so the decision to have him run a go route on 3rd-&-3 is very questionable. One deep route makes sense to draw the safeties up, but two to the same area of the field?
Allen tried to make the most of it, and his lack of arm strength allowed the wind to affect the pass. The end result was a bad play-call from upstairs where the quarterback didn’t have the natural arm talent to make the most of it.
Play 4: 11:02 | Second Quarter | Lack of Velocity
This final throw we'll analyze was a terrible decision, with a missed read from the quarterback, but also a terrible play-call. The design is to get the ball quickly to Sutton, so no-fault there. The issue is on the opposite side of the field, Denver is faking a screen. Why do the Bills need to fear a screen when Denver can’t execute them?
Also, if you are going to fake a screen, actually fake the screen. Don’t have one receiver turn for the ball with the other blocking and not even have the QB look that way. Instead, Allen locks onto Sutton because, again, the design is to get him the ball quickly, and this allows the safety to break on the ball. The Broncos do have the play-fake, but the Bills don't buy that either.
This is where Allen’s shortcomings come into play. He lacks velocity to get the ball to Sutton quicker, through the play-fake, and he is staring down the receiver. It makes it all too easy for the safety to break on the ball. Allen is lucky that the safety didn’t intercept this pass because it would’ve been returned for a touchdown.
Just another example of play-calling that is limiting the Broncos' options on offense. Fake screen. Play-action. But really, it is all a very-easy-to-read quick throw to the only receiver teams fear on the roster. It was the epitome of predictable, and the Bills' near interception shows that.
Brandon Allen isn’t the guy. That we know. Maybe he could be a solid backup, but he still needs work before even that can be assured. Allen's reads are poor, and he is missing open receivers.
His tendency to lock onto receivers kills the offense because it is so easy for defenders to read the play. It doesn’t help that play-calling has hung this offense out to dry quite a bit, but thankfully, it's not happening as much as it was to start the season.
Denver needs better from the play-caller in the booth and better from its quarterback. Simply put, Allen's ceiling was reached in Week 9 and teams have the tape, meaning that was as good as it's likely ever going to get with him under center.