For the longest time, the Bills were a drab and dysfunctional offense, literally the least productive passing attack in a passing league.
From 2003, the year after Drew Bledsoe set the franchise passing record, through the 2019 season, they never finished in the top 15 of the NFL in passing yards. They ranked in the bottom quarter of the league (25th or worse) in 13 of those years.
Not surprisingly, they attempted the fewest passer in the league during that stretch. At times, it seemed like they were playing a different sport, or football as it had been played half a century earlier.
Well, that’s all changed now. Three weeks into the 2020 season, it appears the Bills have finally become a dynamic offensive team, a modern, high-scoring NFL attack with a formidable passing game and a true franchise quarterback.
Through three weeks, the Bills are 3-0, leading the AFC East. They’re averaging 31 points a game, third in the league pending the Monday night game between the Ravens and Chiefs. They haven’t finished higher than 10th in points since 2004.
Josh Allen has been sensational. In his third NFL season, he isn’t simply making throws, but making history and justifying those hopeful comparisons to Bills legend and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.
Allen has achieved some milestones that have been reached by very few QBs, and in at least one case, by no one else in NFL history.
With that game-winning pass in Sunday’s 35-32 win over the Rams, Allen became the first player in NFL history with at least 1,000 passing yards, 10 touchdown passes and two rushing TDs in the first three weeks of a season. Yeah, he’s the only one.
A week earlier, he became the fourth player in NFL history to throw for 700 yards, six TDs and no interceptions in the first two games of a season. The others? Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. Pretty good company, you must say.
Overall, Allen has completed 81 of 114 passes (72 percent) for 1,038 yards, with 10 touchdowns and one rather dubious interception. He has also rushed for two touchdowns.
Allen threw for 415 yards at Miami, the fourth-highest in team history and second-most in regulation. Drew Bledsoe threw for a team record 463 yards in an overtime win at Minnesota in 2002. Joe Ferguson had 419 yards at Miami in 1983. Kelly’s had one 400-yard game — a 403-yard day in the famous No Punt game at San Francisco in ’92.
After three weeks, Allen ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (to Dak Prescott) and third in TD passes behind Russell Wilson, who has 14 and is riding an incredible streak of two straight games of FIVE touchdown passes.
Yes, the standard for quarterbacks is higher than ever in the NFL, and at last the Bills appear to have a real franchise guy, a passer who belongs in the conversation for Pro Bowl and even league MVP.
It’ll be very hard for Allen to maintain his current pace (the year Kelly had over 1,000 through three weeks, he didn’t even reach 4,000). But he certainly has a chance to put up some numbers that would rank at or near the top in Bills history.
Allen is on pace for 5,536 passing yards and 53 touchdowns, which would smash the team records. Bledsoe has the single-season record of 4,359, which is the only 4,000-yard passing season in Bills history. Kelly set the record with 33 touchdown passes in 1991.
This puts into perspective how amazing a season Peyton Manning had for the Broncos in 2013. Manning set the league records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55) that year.
Bills fans aren’t crazy enough to think that Allen is capable of that kind of season. But after a generation of weak passing offenses, who would have thought we would be putting Allen in the same conversation with some of the game’s greatest throwers?
One thing those legends had in common is they all won big. In today’s pass-crazy NFL, if you have the quarterback right, all things become possible.