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Power-Ranking Josh Allen’s Good, Bad, and Bewildering Plays Against the Texans

He did some things no quarterback had ever done before—and some that no QB ever should

Wild Card Round - Buffalo Bills v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

“It’s gonna sound cliché,” Josh Allen told ESPN this week. He had just been asked about the greatest lesson he has learned from former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. “Just taking what [the defense] gives you. That is something I am still trying to grasp.”

Allen tried to take much more than what the defense gave him in Houston’s 22-19 wild-card weekend win on Saturday, which was the most bonkers playoff football game in years. Allen tried to do everything and anything on any given play. Rather than taking what the defense gave him, he took all the trust and goodwill that Bills fans have given him and fumbled it. Allen gave Houston many chances at life on Saturday, and he also gave us many absurd plays, which we have ranked below. We’re just taking what Josh Allen is giving us.

11. Allen logs the longest run of the Bills’ season

On the fourth play of the game, Allen ran right on a designed rush for 42 yards into Houston’s red zone. The over/under for Josh Allen rushing yards in this game was 33.5.

10. Two plays later, he catches a 16-yard touchdown pass

Receiver John Brown took an end-around and tossed a wounded duck to Allen, who caught it at the 6-yard line, braced for a low hit from safety Jahleel Addae, and somersaulted into the end zone.

This is how Allen landed in the end zone.

This was how Bills fans responded after the touchdown gave them a 7-0 lead to start the game.

The play (which Seattle ran a few seasons ago) was the longest postseason receiving touchdown by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era, according to the NFL’s research department. It also made him the first quarterback to have a 40-plus-yard run and a touchdown catch in the same game, regular season or postseason. He did both in one drive, and that drive happened to be his first one in the playoffs. At halftime, Allen had more receiving yards than Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins.

9. Allen fumbles while diving sideways

There are three kinds of Josh Allen plays: plays where Bills fans say no, no, YES!; plays where Bills fans say yes, yes, NO!; and plays where Allen overthrows John Brown. This was the second kind. Facing a first-and-10 on Buffalo’s second drive, Allen scrambled for an easy 9 yards. But unsure of how to get the 10th yard, Allen dove headfirst sideways toward the sideline. This provided neither the protection of sliding feet first nor the yards gained by sliding headfirst. Texans cornerback Bradley Roby, who will be a recurring character in this tale, punched the ball out of Allen’s hands, and Houston recovered.

The punch came milliseconds after Allen’s knee was down, and instant replay review overturned the call. It did not make the play any wiser.

8. Bradley Roby drops an interception, Part 1

On second-and-20 on Buffalo’s second drive, Allen called a timeout to avoid a delay of game. Coming out of the timeout, he took a shotgun snap, looked left, and rifled a pass directly into the chest of Roby, who dropped the ball.

Perhaps Roby was blinded by all of the green grass covering the 15 yards between him and the end zone. Just two weeks ago, Roby caught a similar pick-six when problematic Tampa Bay turnover machine Jameis Winston stared down a receiver. Allen’s staredown was worse, and it also came out of a timeout. It is never good when your decision-making is worse than Jameis Winston’s.

7. On the next play, Allen throws a ball through J.J. Watt’s hands (and completes the pass)

On third-and-20, Allen turned to his right, and, perhaps not seeing the 6-foot-5, 288-pound J.J. Watt, threw the ball directly through Watt’s hands. (Maybe he didn’t notice that Watt was playing in the game. Everyone made a small deal out of Watt’s low-key return.) Amazingly, the pass went clean through Watt’s hands and into the hands of Bills receiver Cole Beasley.

6. Bradley Roby drops an interception, Part 2

Against some nearly insurmountable odds and profound stupidity that we will address in detail later, the Bills had the ball with less than a minute left and the chance to win the game. With 37 seconds left on the Bills’ 39-yard line, Allen made the ludicrously bad decision to spend two full seconds staring and waiting for receiver Isaiah McKenzie to get open. Roby saw this (because he has eyes) and pounced on Allen’s throw, but he dropped his second would-be interception.

The pick would have ended the game 19-16 Houston. Instead, the Bills kicked a field goal and went to overtime.


Josh Allen was not the only one doing too much on Saturday. Here are a couple other examples.

Booger McFarland says spike the ball on fourth down

Thanks to Roby’s second dropped interception, the Bills remained in field goal range and soon faced a third-and-10 with 15 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Here is a verbatim transcript of the ESPN broadcast.

Booger McFarland: “If I’m Sean McDermott at this point, you almost just run a quick draw play, get a few yards, spike it.”

[Lengthy pause.]

Joe Tessitore: “Third-and-10.”

The referees award the Buffalo Bills a touchdown on a touchback

On the first play of the second half, Texans kick returner DeAndre Carter caught the kick in the end zone, made eye contact with the referee, and tossed him the football. The referee avoided the ball like Jason Garrett avoids being fired. Unlike punts, the ball is live on a kickoff, so the Bills picked up the ball in the end zone and the referee ruled it a touchdown. It all happened so quickly that ESPN’s producers thought the play was over and didn’t even show it on the broadcast.

This is the closest the NFL has come to playoff anarchy since the power went out at the Super Bowl. Eventually the referees conferred, decided they did not want to be fired after the game, and ruled the play was a touchback.

5. Allen fumbles after a defender barely touches the ball

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Allen scrambled forward but was strip-sacked by Houston pass rusher Whitney Mercilus. At least, that’s how it looked at first.

The replay shows that Mercilus was trying to wrap his arms around Allen’s waist when his hands unintnetionally grazed the ball, knocking it out of Allen’s hand.

Allen metaphorically dropped the ball in this game, but literally dropping the ball is next level.

4. He throws a ball 40 yards downfield to his fullback, who is in double coverage

Josh Allen does a lot of dumb stuff, but he usually does those dumb things when he is under pressure or has to make a quick decision. This was not that. On his first pass of overtime, Allen decided the best thing to do would be this.

There is an almost 100 percent chance someone told him to stop being so reckless with the ball within five minutes before he made this throw. He also had plenty of time, both on the play (he had perfect pass protection) and in the rest of the game (this was the first pass of overtime). With all of this in mind—or perhaps not in his mind, it’s unclear which is worse—he threw the ball 50 yards downfield, from the Buffalo 23-yard line to the Houston 23-yard line, into double coverage. The pass was intended for fullback Patrick DiMarco, who averages 6.5 catches for 50.5 yards per year. The only reason the ball did not get intercepted by safety Justin Reid is because it bounced off the shoulder of cornerback Gareon Conley.

3. Allen is called for intentional grounding, taking the Bills out of field goal range

The two-minute warning is when players assess strategy with their coaches. The quarterback is supposed to know the situation, which was as follows: Buffalo was at the Houston 28-yard line, down three points, facing a third-and-13. Allen’s priorities, in order, were:

  1. Do not turn the ball over.
  2. Do not take a sack.
  3. Get a first down.
  4. Gain some yards to make the field goal attempt slightly easier.

Allen was bum-rushed by the Texans and ran backward to little impact. While being tackled to the ground, Allen tossed the ball back, hoping to find a receiver, but all he got was an intentional-grounding penalty from the spot of the foul. This pushed the Bills from a 45-yard field goal at the Houston 28 to a 59-yard field goal at the Houston 42.

2. Allen takes a 19-yard loss on fourth-and-27

Bills head coach Sean McDermott decided to go for it on fourth-and-27. Perhaps his hope was to pick up some field position without completely abandoning the chance of getting a first, via penalty or otherwise, by punting. Allen took the shotgun snap on the edge of the Texans logo, and, fittingly, immediately turned around and ran backward when Texans linebacker Jake Martin blitzed. Allen tried to zig-zag to shake Martin. It did not work.

In the first two plays after the two-minute warning and down three points, Allen lost 41 yards.

1. He ran for 20 yards and then tossed the ball laterally to nobody

By the grace of God and Bill O’Brien, the Bills defense got Josh Allen the ball back. After losing 41 yards and taking the Bills out of field goal range, Allen had a chance at redemption. Was his response to be careful with the football? What do you think? On the first snap he took after taking those two sacks, Allen scrambled to his right for 20 yards. Rather than being happy with this excellent gain, as he was going down Allen flipped the ball over the head of tight end Dawson Knox.

This is football malpractice. The only way this play possibly could have been worse was if on the previous play he had made an egregious, game-changing mistake that should have instilled in him the importance of not trying to be a hero. Oh wait, that is exactly what happened. Josh Allen says he wants to take what defenses give him, but taking what they give you seems to be the best way to beat Josh Allen.