ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — As Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen took the field to meet Pittsburgh Steelers defenders, interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady called his fellow coaches to slide Allen through the headset. Avoid contact.
Others on the field and sidelines were screaming at him to get down, but instead, he kept running. His feet kept moving on a third-and-7 from the Buffalo 48-yard line midway through the second quarter, and part of a playoff performance that resulted in a 52-yard touchdown run that reset the NFL and Bills record books.
Allen's play led Buffalo to a 31-17 win over the Steelers in Monday's wild-card playoff game. Notice the wind blowing snow around Highmark Stadium.
“They played man and we didn't have a big man call, so I decided to try to find a route and got 15-20 yards downfield and a lot of guys were yelling slide,” Allen said. “And didn't slide and score. So, it worked that time.”
Or as McDermott describes it, “Josh does some of what Josh is known for. So, it's all in moderation.” That's from a coach who stressed the importance of Allen learning how to slide over the years to avoid hits.
Wide receiver Khalil Shakir remembers his jaw dropping on the play. Tight end Dawson Knox noted that it's almost normal to see at least one crazy play.
“The amazing part is, I feel like I've been spoiled since I've been in the league,” right tackle Spencer Brown said. “I've been with Josh every year that I've been here, but his ability to make plays and things like that, it's almost, you don't see it a lot, but I've seen it a lot of times. Sometimes, I don't want to say I don't feel it, but it's like, 'Yeah, we It's like, 'Let's take it.'”
Allen finished the rescheduled game — originally scheduled for Sunday's 1 p.m. kickoff, but moved back a day because of a blizzard — completing 21-of-30 passes for 203 yards and three passing touchdowns. He ran for 74 yards on eight carries and a score. The touchdown run was the longest rushing score in Bills postseason history and the second-longest by a quarterback (Colin Kaepernick, 56 yards, 2012 divisional round).
“I think Josh did a fantastic job when we needed the yards the most … he came up and made some bad runs and credit to him,” center Mitch Morse said. “I thought he was going to slide first and it was one of those 'no, no, no, yes, yes, yes, yes' things. He gets us out of sticky situations, like he always does.”
The game was Allen's third career playoff game with four combined passing and rushing touchdowns and zero turnovers, tying Joe Montana and Patrick Mahomes for the most in NFL history. Allen didn't turn the ball over for the second time since Week 4.
The reduction in turnovers by the Bills' offense is linked to Brady's takeover of the play in Week 11 and his increased ability to run the football. From Weeks 1 through 10, Buffalo had a designed rush percentage of 36% and a drive turnover percentage of 17%. After that, rushing play percentage dropped to 47 and drives ending in turnovers dropped to 10.
It wasn't Allen's perfect game and the offense got off to a slow start in the second half — three-and-out with just one field goal on a 14-play drive — to help the Steelers rebound. Get the game within a score.
But when they needed it most, Allen and the offense responded with a touchdown on the next drive, thanks to some elusive moments from Shakir after catching a pass from Allen to get into the end zone.
“[Allen’s] Very different. He's the best quarterback in the league, hands down,” Shakir said. “What he can do. Yes, moments like that, it's definitely a good feeling.”
Next to the Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs are a day short of preparation in Mahomes' first road playoff game due to a back-to-back contest. Mahomes and Allen mark the third quarterbacks to face each other three times before turning 30, joining John Elway and Bernie Kosar and Troy Aikman and Brett Favre.
“[Mahomes] Might want to come here, man, when we've played there so many times, maybe he needs a change of scenery,” defensive end Ed Oliver said. “He might be happy to come here. Never know.”