Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins was raving about the team’s rookies and the offense after Sunday’s win when someone asked if he had been aware Josh Allen was chasing a team passing record against the Steelers.
“Josh is close to a record every game,” Dawkins said after the Bills thrashed Pittsburgh, 38-3, at Highmark Stadium. “And I say that humbly, not with any cockiness. We have a great quarterback. That’s why they paid him. That’s why he’s our franchise. That’s why he’s Josh.
“No cockiness,” Dawkins added with a smile. “Josh is able to do amazing things every time he touches the football and every time he touches the field.”
Yes, it does seem as if Allen performs extraordinary feats every time he steps on a football field. On Sunday, he completed 20 of 31 passes for 424 yards, establishing a new franchise record for passing yards in a game in regulation.
Drew Bledsoe had held the record for 20 years, since throwing for 417 yards in a home win over the Raiders in 2002. Bledsoe has the overall record for passing yards in a game with 463 in an overtime win at Minnesota just three weeks earlier in ’02. He had a remarkable 141 yards passing in overtime that day.
Allen had 348 yards passing and four touchdown throws (tying Jim Kelly’s team record) in the first half. It was his career high for passing yards in a half, and the second-most passing yards in a half since the NFL began tracking the stat in 1991. Patrick Mahomes had 359 yards in the first half against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 12 of the 2020 season.
As if we needed another reason to hype the showdown between the Bills and Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium at 4:25 Sunday.
Allen had threatened the single-game record before. His previous high had been 415 yards. He did that twice in the 2020 season, in September at Miami and two months later at home against Seattle. Allen also threw for an even 400 yards in a 21-19 loss at the Dolphins two weeks ago.
We’ve come to take Allen’s big passing numbers for granted. But there was a stretch where it was unheard of for the Bills to have a 300-yard passer. From the last game of the 2014 season through the 2020 opener, they went 81 straight games without a quarterback passing for 300 yards in regulation.
Tyrod Taylor passed for 329 yards in a home loss to the Dolphins on the day before Christmas in 2016, but he reached the 300-yard mark in overtime. Taylor’s performance was somewhat overshadowed when the Bills fired Rex Ryan three days after that loss.
Yes, amazing things happen when Allen steps on a football field. The Bills had 552 yards of total offense, the most they’ve put up in regulation since they amassed 579 yards in the finale in 2000 — in Doug Flutie’s last game as a Bill.
The team record for yards in regulation is 582, set in a 35-31 win over Miami in the 1991 opener in Rich Stadium. They set the overall record of 589 yards in that overtime loss to the Dolphins in Ryan’s swan song as the head coach.
Allen now leads the NFL with 1,651 yards passing and 14 TD passes. That’s a pace for 5,613 yards over 17 games, which would shatter his own team record of 4,544 yards passing in the 2020 season. He passed for 4,407 yards a year ago in 17 games. At his current rate, he’d go over 5,000 early in his 16th game.
Oh, the league record for passing yards in a season is 5,477 by Peyton Manning for the Broncos in 2013. Manning also set the NFL record for passing touchdowns that season with 55.
The Bills lead the league in scoring (30.4 ppg), yards per game (440.4) and yards per play (6.7). They had 11 plays of 20 or more yards against the Steelers.
“We had a one-play drive, two two-play drives and a three-play drive that ended in touchdowns,” Allen said afterwards. “That’s crazy.”
He wasn’t exaggerating. The Bills had four touchdown drives that consumed just eight plays and 2:44 of clock, covering 263 yards in all. To put that in perspective, their first four opponents this season averaged 234.5 yards a game.
But as Dawkins suggested, there’s no cockiness. Not from Allen, who is never content and in constant pursuit of perfection.
“Honestly, I felt like I missed a few throws,” Allen said. “I want to complete every ball. I know it’s not typically possible, but there’s some things I could have done better early on in that game. But our defense played outstanding today.”
Oh yeah, the defense. You tend to take them for granted after a while. They’re tied for first in the NFL in scoring defense with the Niners at 12.2 points a game. They have not allowed a point in the third quarter this season, and have given up only seven points in the second half, over 10 quarters of play.
The Bills are second to the Niners in total defense at 260.4 yards a game. They’re first in adjusted yards per pass attempt (4.3), opposing quarterback rating (67.8) and interceptions (8). They’re leading in scoring differential at plus-91.
Since the start of the 2021 season, the Bills have far and away the largest scoring differential in the league. They’re plus-285 over 22 games, an average margin of 13 points a game. The next-best team during that time is the Dallas Cowboys at plus-193. The Patriots are plus-164 and the Chiefs plus-151.
Again, there’s no cause for gloating, not in a league where fortunes can turn around in a hurry. Allen said Sunday wasn’t any sort of statement.
“No,” he said. “It’s 1-0 each week. That’s our mindset. It’s a week-to-week league. It’s hard to win in this league. We’re going to celebrate this one tonight, have a good time, move on tomorrow and watch this film, and then we’ll get on to Kansas City.”
New York’s team(s)
The NFL’s two New York City franchises — or as Josh Allen would remind us, the two teams who play in New Jersey — have gone from being the joke of the league to the talk of the town.
Both teams scored upset victories on Sunday. The Giants rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Packers in London, 27-22. The Jets, an underdog to Miami at MetLife Stadium, crushed the Dolphins, 40-17, scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
The Giants are 4-1, tied with Dallas behind the unbeaten Eagles in the NFC East. The Jets are 3-2 and a game behind the Bills in the AFC East, tied with Miami. Bills fans will be pleased to know the Patriots (who shut out the Lions) are 2-3 and alone in last place this late in the year for the first time since 2000.
This is the first time the two New York teams have been over .500 in any week since Week 9 of 2015, when the Jets were 5-3 and the Giants 5-4. They haven’t both finished the season over .500 since 2010.
Over the five-year stretch from 2017-21, they were cousins in incompetence. Both the Giants and Jets were 22-59 over those five years. That’s a winning percentage of .272, tying for the worst record in the league.
But things are finally looking up in the Big Apple, or Jersey, depending on your perspective. Brian Daboll, the former Bills offensive coordinator, is an early favorite for Coach of the Year. Like his old team, the Giants are battling a siege of injuries and getting solid contributions from the back of the roster.
Marcus Johnson came off the practice squad and caught three passes for 35 yards in Green Bay. Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger has been solid. Gary Brightwell, normally a special teamer, scored his first career TD in place of star Saquon Barkley in the fourth quarter. Backups are holding down a battered secondary.
Sounds a lot like what the Bills have been doing with a slew of key players down with injuries.
Meanwhile, like Buffalo, the Jets are getting key contributions from rookies. Breece Hall, the first running back off the board at 36th overall, had a breakout game against the Dolphins with 97 yards and a touchdown rushing and another 100 yards on two catches, including a 79-yard catch-and-run to the 1-yard line.
Rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner had a safety, interception and five tackles against the Dolphins. He blitzed and knocked QB Teddy Bridgewater out of the game with head and elbow injuries on Miami’s first play, forcing the Dolphins to turn to third-stringer Skylar Thompson, who had never played an NFL down.
Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson was 14-of-21 passing for 210 yards in his second game back from a knee injury. He also rushed for a touchdown.
There was talk of head coach Robert Saleh being on the hot seat last week. Now there’s hope that the Jets will finish above .500 for the first time since 2015, the year the Bills knocked them out of the playoffs in the final week. The Bills play the first of their annual home-and-home set at MetLife on Nov. 6.
Is He Owned?
What fantasy owner couldn’t find room for the Saints’ versatile Taysom Hill, who leads his team in rushing yards and touchdowns, plays backup quarterback, and qualifies as a fantasy tight end?
Hill had an epic fantasy game in New Orleans’ 39-32 win over the Seahawks on Sunday. He carried nine times for 112 yards and three touchdowns, including a 60-yard score with the Saints trailing, 32-31, with 5:22 left. He completed his only pass for a 22-yard TD to Adam Troutman.
Talk about an all-purpose stud. Hill even recovered a fumble on special teams. He leads the Saints with 228 yards rushing and five TDs. You can play him at tight end, a position in fantasy that doesn’t produce a lot unless you have the likes of Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews.
As of Monday, Hill was rostered in only 11.8 percent of ESPN leagues. I imagine he’ll be a popular pickup this week. I normally don’t carry a backup tight end, but he warrants having depth at the position.
- Bills wideout Gabe Davis had three catches for 171 yards against the Steelers, including TDs of 98 and 62 yards. He became the first Bill with multiple 50-yard TD grabs in a game since Lee Evans hauled in two 83-yard bombs from J.P. Losman at Houston in 2006. He became the fifth NFL player since 2000 to have at least two TD catches of 60-plus yards in a game.
- Ravens kicker Justin Tucker nailed a 43-yard field goal as time expired to give Baltimore a 19-17 win over the Bengals on Sunday night. Tucker, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, is now 22-for-22 on game-winning field goals in the final minute of regulation or overtime, including playoffs. The last time he missed two field goals in a game was in the Raven’s 17-3 loss in Buffalo in the division round of the 2021 playoffs.
- Kirk Cousins completed his first 17 passes in a 29-22 win over the Bears. Cousins finished 32-for-41 for 296 yards. He scored on a 1-yard TD run with Minnesota trailing, 22-21, with 2:26 to play. The Vikes have won three in a row — by four, three and seven points — and lead the NFC Central at 4-1. Their only loss is to the unbeaten Eagles.
- The Texans have nine wins since the start of 2020, five of them against Jacksonville … Jags tight end Chris Manhertz, who was a star power forward for the Canisius basketball team, had two receptions on Sunday, the first multi-catch game of his seven-year NFL career … Bills center Mitch Morse was awarded a game ball from McDermott after Sunday’s win to honor his 100th career start. The offense is a lot better with him snapping the ball.
Jerry Sullivan is an award-winning journalist who joined the News 4 team in 2020 after three decades as a sports columnist at The Buffalo News. See more of his work here.