Once upon a time I worried about quarterback Josh Allen. I don’t worry anymore.
It’s not that he and the Buffalo Bills are undefeated and on top of the AFC East. Nor is it that he’s had three straight games where he’s thrown for over 300 yards when he had none the two previous seasons. It’s not even that he’s put up three consecutive passer ratings of 100 or more. Or that he became the first NFL player in history to produce 10 passing TDs and two rushing scores in the first three games of a year.
Nope it’s none of that. It’s all about the last time he touched the football Sunday.
That would be on the Bills’ final drive, when Allen and his teammates took over on their 25 with 4:30 remaining. They trailed the L.A. Rams at the time – the undefeated L.A. Rams – after the Rams somehow turned a 28-3 second-half deficit into a 32-28 lead. Yeah, I know, but that’s a story for another day.
The story here is what happened in those last four-and-a-half minutes. Allen led the Bills on an 11-play drive that covered the length of the field, consumed all but the last 15 seconds and was punctuated by his fourth TD pass of the afternoon – a 3-yarder to tight end Tyler Kroft.
It wasn’t the biggest or best play of the drive. Allen hitting Cole Beasley to convert a third-and-22 from the Buffalo 31 was. He also delivered a 17-yard strike to Stefon Diggs on a subsequent third-and-25. Nor was it the most dramatic play of the series. A controversial pass-interference call vs. the Rams on fourth-and-7 with 21 seconds left was.
But that’s not the point. What mattered is that when it mattered most, Josh Allen delivered.
A smart GM once told me he measured greatness in quarterbacks by how they operate under pressure – emphasizing how they perform in the last two minutes with the game on the line. Well, we just saw how Josh Allen performed. He saved the Bills from a crushing collapse.
A week ago, he rallied them to a come-from-behind win in Miami. Now this. Connect the dots. Josh Allen is no longer a question mark. He’s the reason you begin to believe in the Buffalo Bills.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
Don’t fall asleep on Pittsburgh. They’re 3-0 for the first time since 2010, and, granted, their three wins came at the expense of opponents (N.Y. Giants, Denver and Houston) that are a combined 0-9. But as long as Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy the Steelers make the playoffs for the first time in three years. They have an abundance of receiving threats, James Conner just completed his second straight 100-yard rushing game and their defense just stuffed Houston on 260 yards, sacked Deshaun Watson five times, intercepted him once and allowed no points and just 51 yards in the second half. In short, they touch all the bases, which makes them a threat to Baltimore in the AFC North and Kansas City in the AFC, period.
Dan Quinn just jumped Adam Gase as the coach on the hottest seat. Let’s be honest: Nobody snatches defeat from the jaws of victory like Quinn. Forget 28-3 in Super Bowl LI. He just eclipsed himself, blowing huge second-half leads in consecutive weeks. The Falcons had a 99.9 percent win probability vs. Dallas last week and lost. Then they had a 99.6 percent win probability Sunday vs. Chicago and lost. Since the start of 2016, the Falcons have five defeats (including the playoffs) where they held leads of 16 or more points. No other team during that time has more than two. The Falcons should be 2-1. Instead, they’re 0-3. Enough is enough.
The Mitch Trubisky era is over. It was on life support once the Bears acquired Nick Foles and put him in Trubisky’s rear-view mirror, but it just went DOA with his benching. I know, after Foles pulled off the improbable comeback coach Matt Nagy said he’s uncertain who starts next week. Yeah, sure. This isn’t April 1. This one’s a no-brainer. All you need to know about the Bears’ allegiance to Trubisky is that he was benched in the third game after winning his first two. He’s not going to leave there. Not now. Maybe not ever.
It’s never been harder to be a New York sports fan. The Jets and Giants are winless and lost Sunday by a combined score of 72-16. The Mets lost, too, and missed the expanded MLB playoffs. And the Yankees? They lost six of their last eight, including a shutout Sunday, and limp into the playoffs with no momentum. No wonder Gotham fans are in a New York state of mime.
Anything … and nothing … goes in the NFC East. There’s a reason it’s called the NFC Least. Its four teams are a combined 2-9-1, with nobody winning Sunday. Dallas lost. Washington lost. The Giants lost. And the Eagles? They went to the head of the class with a tie. Pathetic. Nine wins won the division a year ago. Eight might do it this season.
THIRD AND 20
1. I can’t wait for Philly sports radio Monday.
2. Can’t wait for Atlanta sports radio, either.
3. Don’t start loading the Raiders’ bandwagon yet. They had a chance to make a statement in Foxborough, and they did. They screwed the pooch, with three lost fumbles and a missed field goal. I don’t trust ‘em … especially when Jon Gruden’s telling us that Derek Carr is “a great quarterback.”
4. The Giants’ Leonard Williams said “I never see any quit in this team.” Funny, but I just did. The Giants got thumped by the 49ers’ jayvees.
5. Just a hunch, Russell Wilson gets an MVP vote this year.
6. The Jets stink. We know that. They’re probably the worst team out there. We know that, too. But does anyone know what happens if and when they have the first pick of 2021 draft? Do they take Trevor Lawrence or stick with Sam Darnold?
7. The Denver Post ran a story Sunday basically saying that Tom Brady is no better now than Jeff Driskel. Honest. Somebody get me rewrite.
8. Not sure who’s in more trouble: Houston or Minnesota. At 0-3, each is in deep do-do. What I am certain is that one of them wins next weekend … and not because I see something about them that I like; but because I just looked at the schedule. They play each other.
9. Joe Burrow won’t last long if the Bengals don’t encase him in bubble wrap. The poor guy was sacked eight times Sunday, walloped by Malik Jackson and pressured 21 times on 52 dropbacks. He’s already been sacked 14 times, a rate that would put him at 75 over 16 games – and if that sounds familiar, it should. Houston’s David Carr, the first pick of the 2002 draft, was sacked 76 times his rookie year. Trust me, Bengals’ fans: You don’t want Joe Burrow to become David Carr.
10. I thought the best catch Sunday was Kyle Rudolph’s one-handed TD grab in the back of the end zone. Then I saw Kareem Hunt’s one-handed snag. My goodness.
11. Misery loves company, and winless Houston has it. Meet the Miami Dolphins. The more Houston loses, the better their future looks. Reason: The Dolphins own the Texans’ first-and-second-round draft picks in 2021 to complete the trade for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills.
12. Say this about Dallas coach Mike McCarthy: He kept his promise not to keep Russell Wilson nailed to the bench. So he threw … and threw … and threw some more. Result: Dak Prescott finishes with 57 passes, a career-high 472 yards … and the Cowboys lose the shootout. But that’s what happens when you give up on the run, calling Zeke Elliott’s number just 14 times. McCarthy should know better.
13. Maybe I’m a party of one, but I suddenly find the Cleveland Browns intriguing. It has nothing to do with Baker Mayfield, and everything to do with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
14. Last week we were told Darren Waller might be the best tight end in the game. Apparently, Bill Belichick was told, too. His defense held Waller without a catch for three quarters and two for nine yards the entire game.
15. The last time the Eagles started 0-3 was 1999 … when Doug Pederson was their quarterback.
16. When I heard NBC keep plugging “The Weakest Link” I thought it was pushing Thursday’s Broncos-Jets game.
17. Drew Brees isn’t the issue in New Orleans. Penalties and a defense that hemorrhaged 71 points the past two games are.
18. Tom Brady is 2-1. The rest of the NFC South is 2-7. Just sayin.’
19. I guess those issues that Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur allegedly had have been resolved. They’re 16-3 together, and Rodgers is an early MVP candidate again -- with eight TDs, no picks, no losses and no Davante Adams for two games.
20. Matt Stafford can take a bow, but credit the Detroit defense for ending an 11-game losing streak. The Lions had no takeaways the first two weeks. They had three Sunday, all interceptions of Kyler Murray.
STAT THAT MAY INTEREST ME
Over the past 20 seasons no team has blown multiple 15-point fourth quarter leads in a single season. The Falcons have done it in consecutive weeks.
ONE THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
That’s the first time in 10 years the Browns scored over 30 points in consecutive games. It’s also the first time since 2011 the Browns are 2-1.
AND ONE THAT MAY INTEREST BOTH OF US
Green Bay scored 35 or more points in three straight games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that's the second time in team history that's happened. The first occurred during Weeks 9-11 in 2011 when the Packers were 15-1.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
“Right now we're not a very good football team." -- Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson.
“There’s no panic. We’ve got to get over the hump here.” – Houston coach Bill O’Brien.
“We’re always going to be behind coach Quinn. We didn’t finish for him. We didn’t finish for each other. We didn’t finish for the brotherhood.” – Atlanta running back Todd Gurley on Dan Quinn.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET WINNER
Seattle QB Russell Wilson. I wish I drafted him for my Fantasy team, too. All the guy’s done is throw an NFL-record 14 touchdown passes in his first three games, including five Sunday for the second straight week. Better yet, he’s 3-0 with no interceptions. Impressive? He would’ve had six TDs Sunday if DK Metcalf hadn’t impersonated Leon Lett while crossing the goal line. Russell Wilson is the reason the Seahawks are unbeaten. The defense? Not so much, and it should make Pete Carroll nervous. I know, it made critical last-minute stops the past two weeks, but it just lost Jamal Adams to a groin injury and surrendered 86 points this season, including 61 the past two weeks.
(honorable mention) Joe Montana. OK, so he already has a Gold Jacket. But what he did this weekend deserves a Standing O. Staying at a Malibu address, Joe and wife Jennifer discovered an unknown intruder in the home allegedly attempting to abduct their 9-month-old grandchild. They intervened, got the child back and the intruder was later caught and charged by police. “Scary situation,” Montana later tweeted, “but thankful that everybody is doing well.”