Josh Allen, Bills win, 'bounce back from the adversity'

ByAlaina Getzenberg ESPN logo
Monday, November 20, 2023

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As Buffalo Bills wide receiver Khalil Shakir crossed the goal line and ran into the end zone, Josh Allen was already past the Jets' 40-yard line as he sprinted downfield. The quarterback quickly made it to the back of the end zone along with other Bills teammates, giving Shakir a big hug and shaking him by the helmet.

The celebration came just past the midway point of the third quarter in the Bills' 32-6 win over the New York Jets after an 81-yard touchdown from Allen to Shakir, the longest play from scrimmage in the league this year.

A big-time celebration following a significant touchdown might not ordinarily seem like a big deal. It happens all the time. But for the Bills' offense, having energy and fun out on the field was emphasized leading up to the game against the Jets. "An overall energy about our offense and confidence" is what coach Sean McDermott said he was looking for after firing offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey on Tuesday morning.

After what Allen said "wasn't an easy week," the entire Bills team stepped up with the energy that McDermott alluded to in the days leading up to the game.

"I think our team was energetic as we needed to be and, you know, a lot of that, for better or worse, can come from the quarterback, so just making that a point of emphasis throughout the week," Allen said. "Like, let's have fun playing this game. It's football at the end of the day. We get to do, in my opinion, the most amazing job on the planet and that's coming out here and playing football."

With interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady in the booth and calling plays for the first time for the Bills, the emphasis on energy showed, as the team scored its most points since Week 4 and the most points the Jets have allowed since Dec. 5, 2021.

"Every season, man, has its ups and downs," Allen said. "You're going to have adversity. It's how you bounce back from the adversity. And sometimes it takes a spark like this to ignite your team."

While the Bills still sit outside the playoff picture as of now, with a game at the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday and then a game at the Kansas City Chiefs following a bye week, improving the team's AFC record (3-5) and AFC East record (2-2) was important for any path to the postseason.

"We needed it to get back on the train, to start the train up," left tackle Dion Dawkins said. "So, we were off of the train and now we're on the train and the train is moving."

Despite kicking three field goals within the Jets' 30-yard line on the first three drives of the game, the 16 first-half points scored by the Bills were their second most since Week 4 (17 vs. the Buccaneers). Buffalo then came out of halftime and put together back-to-back touchdown drives, including the score by Shakir.

That was all led by Allen, who finished the game completing 20 of 32 passes for 275 yards, three passing touchdowns and one interception (a deep throw downfield at the end of the first half). With the Jets turning the ball over four times, the Bills ended their six-game streak of losing the turnover battle.

"I saw a little bit more of [Allen's] personality and our offense's personality," McDermott said. "And this is nothing about what had happened before with Coach Dorsey. It's more of just us getting back to just an energy on offense and guys having some fun, and I thought the offensive staff did a real good job of shaping a game plan that the guys felt good about and could execute, and fundamentally I thought we did a good job with the line of scrimmage as well."

With Brady calling plays, the Bills got a variety of players involved, from second-year running back James Cook tying his season high of 17 carries (73 rushing yards in addition to three receptions with a receiving touchdown) to running back Ty Johnson catching a 28-yard touchdown. Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid continues to be a key cog in the offense and now has five straight games with five or more receptions (six receptions for 46 yards), one of four Bills since 1970 to do so.

In the slot, the Bills have found success with Shakir, with all three of his receptions coming when he lined up in the slot. He has 288 receiving yards over his past four games after totaling 236 receiving yards in his first 21 career games combined.

The offensive performance came despite Stefon Diggs catching four passes on eight targets for 27 yards and wide receiver Gabe Davis finishing without a target despite playing the most snaps of any receiver (87.3% of offensive plays).

"I thought I didn't try to force anything," Allen said. "Trusting the guys around me to make plays and that's what we did tonight."

The task for Brady and the Bills' offense moving forward is to keep the mistakes to a minimum and the energy and confidence high.

The Bills tend to win in dramatic fashion and have been helped by strong defensive performances despite a variety of injuries. They are the 166th team to have a plus-100-point margin through 11 games of a season, but their six wins are tied for the fewest of any of those teams (1967 Chiefs).

The win against the Jets was the Bills' fourth this season by 25 or more points, tied for their most in a season in franchise history (1992, 2021).

Building off this energy will be key as they face the toughest remaining strength of schedule, per ESPN Analytics, and a number of higher-scoring offenses.

"Josh has always been that guy who will get us going, who will say something before whether it's him or Diggs or somebody, but I mean tonight it was just nonstop," Shakir said. "It was fun. It felt fun to operate the way we were playing tonight and 17 was the head honcho of all that, so appreciate him."

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