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Matt Barkley Seemed Destined to Fail, So of Course He’s the Bills’ Best QB

Playing in his first game in 679 days, the former USC star led a 41-10 thrashing of the Jets on Sunday

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Matt Barkley joined the Bills 11 days ago, which is not a long time—for perspective, Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande reportedly called off their engagement 28 days ago. Barkley also hadn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since 679 days ago, when Barack Obama was president. That seemed like a recipe for failure even before you considered which team he was suiting for: Buffalo has had the worst offense in the league this season—and the worst offense in NFL history through nine games by DVOA.

Naturally, Barkley submitted one of the best performances by a Bills QB all season. The former USC star threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns with 15 completions on 25 attempts in a 41-10 thrashing of a division rival. To put that in perspective, before Sunday the Bills had just three passing touchdowns on the entire season.

That number is all the way to five now! In one half, the Bills scored nearly as many points (31) as they had in their last four games combined (33). Buffalo’s quarterbacks had combined for a league-low 5.5 yards per attempt and a 51.5 passer rating entering Sunday. Barkley finished with 9.3 yards per attempt and a 117.4 passer rating.

Even more impressive than Barkley’s numbers was how quickly he started to pile them up. On the first play from scrimmage, Barkley found undrafted rookie Robert Foster for 47 yards, the third-longest reception of Buffalo’s season and the longest pass of Barkley’s career (if you were wondering, he had started six games since being drafted by Philadelphia in 2013).

One play later, LeSean McCoy ran into the end zone to give the Bills a 7-0 lead—and their first lead of any kind in a month.

One of Buffalo’s biggest problems this year has been not having a ton of quality receivers. Barkley solved this by throwing a touchdown pass to a left tackle (and a player who is tied for the third-heaviest on Buffalo’s roster at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds), Dion Dawkins.

Buffalo’s rout is astounding considering Barkley seemed set up to fail. He hasn’t entered a game since New Year’s Day 2017 and he signed with the Bills on Halloween. That date is apt because Buffalo’s quarterback situation this year has been a nightmare: Josh Allen suffered a sprained elbow that forced the team to play Nathan Peterman. When Peterman Peterman’d, a potential player revolt forced Derek Anderson to start less than two weeks after his signing, but he suffered a concussion against the Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 8. That led to Barkley, who led the Bills to 186 yards in the first quarter, the highest figure for Buffalo since 2015.

Matt Barkley playing like a Pro Bowler, the Bills being on the right side of a blowout, Todd Bowles on a sideline—these are all things we may not see again this season. Let’s cherish these moments while we can. (Except if you’re a Jets fan.)