FLOWERY BRANCH – Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is a load.
Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is not shy about letting Allen, who’s 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, run between the tackles.
He’s the latest running-quarterback challenge for the Falcons this season. Opposing quarterbacks have rushed for at least 29 yards in seven games against the Falcons this season.
If the Falcons (7-8) are going to have a shot at upsetting the Buffalo Bills (9-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, they’ll have to stop Allen’s running on read-pass-option plays.
“I think he’s twitchy,” Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun said. “He’s pretty fast.”
Allen has rushed 120 times for 619 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s a great athlete,” Oluokun said. “He likes to get out of the pocket and throw it. But if you let him run around he can definitely do that on you. Over the years, you see how he likes to run the ball. He likes lowering his shoulder and all of that. He can make people miss in the open field. Just because he’s a little bigger, I think he’s a great athlete.”
In a 33-27 loss to Tampa Bay on Dec. 12, Allen rushed for 109 yards on 12 carries.
“Really, we are going to treat him when he has the ball in his hands, like he’s a ball carrier,” Oluokun said. “That’s the way to do it. Definitely don’t take his athleticism for granted.”
Allen, who’s in his fourth season in the NFL, is not a finished project.
“Josh has a lot to work on,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said.
Cleveland selected Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick in 2018. Sam Darnold went to the Jets with the third overall pick. Allen, who played at Wyoming, went to the Bills with the seventh pick. Falcons backup Josh Rosen was selected 10th overall by Arizona, and Baltimore took Lamar Jackson with the last pick in the first round (32nd).
“You could see the talent on the film,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “... When quarterbacks are successful, people have a lot of revisionist history. Sure, we go back and pull up the freezing cold takes from a lot of people. I think he’s a good player. They’ve done a terrific job with him.”
Here’s the rundown of the quarterbacks who have rushed well against the Falcons this season: the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts (62 yards), the Giants’ Daniel Jones (39), Washington’s Taylor Heinicke (43), Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa (29), Carolina’s Darnold (66), Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence (39) and Carolina’s Cam Newton (47).
Smith has watched Allen develop. The Titans, when Smith was their offensive coordinator, lost to the Bills 14-7 on Oct. 6, 2019 and beat them 42-16 on Oct. 12, 2020.
He’s knows what the Falcons’ defense is facing.
“He’s a completely different player,” Smith said. “Josh is a guy that can make every throw on the field. I mean, damn near can throw the ball out of the stadium, like those guys you see in those YouTube trick videos.”
Allen has connected on 65% of his passes and has 34 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 96.6.
“I mean, he can make every throw,” Smith said. “He’s big, he’s tough. You could tell his teammates love him. I can see why they drafted him and why they built around him.”
Allen will scramble to pass, too.
“He can extend plays,” Smith said. “He’s hard to tackle. So, you know, as long as he’s back there, I’d imagine they feel pretty good about their chances week after week. But yeah, he’ll be a challenge.”
The Falcons consider Allen different than the other running quarterbacks that they’ve faced.
“He can run, and he’s showed it on tape,” Smith said. “He’s one of the few guys that actually will go in there and they run some kind of quarterback gap schemes with him. He’ll go in between the tackles. That’s different than other running quarterbacks.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has marveled at Allen’s fearlessness.
“I’ve always just been impressed,” Ryan said. “He’s tough. There’s no question about it. But his ability to extend plays and use his legs to make plays have been critical for their team for a couple of years.”
Allen’s fleet of receivers include Stefon Diggs, Isaiah McKenzie and Cole Beasley, who was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, and tight end Dawson Knox.
“They are a very talented team,” Oluokun said. “Anybody can take it for explosive plays.”
The Falcons want to keep down Allen’s big plays, whether he’s running or passing.
“Really keeping that ball in front of us,” Oluokun said. “Identifying what play they are running or whatever (run-pass option) they are doing and learn how to keep the ball in front of us and making the tackles. That’s the key.”
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