During his press conference after Sunday’s 28-14 win, Bills quarterback Josh Allen was asked by a Giants reporter if he'd thought about the chance he might have ended up in New York in the 2017 draft.
“I am in New York,” Allen said with a knowing smile. Second later, he pointed to the questioner and added, “One New York team.”
Well, if Bills fans didn’t love Allen before this, they’ll be positively wild about him now — especially if he keeps winning games. I can just hear the fans at Sunday's home opener against the Bengals, shouting “One New York team!” when he walks out of the tunnel.
Buffalo people love an athlete who embraces their town, who understands the raw connection between an often downtrodden and disrespected fan base and its team.
So when the Bills opened the season with two victories in New York — OK, across the river in New Jersey — it showed a keen sense of awareness for the presumed franchise quarterback to remind the world that Buffalo was the only NFL team located in the state.
Of course, it’s the other sort of awareness that matters most to Bills fans who have been awaiting Jim Kelly’s successor for more than two decades. Two games into his second season, Allen is winning fans over in that regard too, by showing the kind of awareness that you expect from a true franchise guy.
Allen was tremendous for a half against the Giants, completing 15 of 20 passes and throwing for over 200 yards as the Bills jumped to a 21-7 lead.
Sure, they stumbled to the finish against an overmatched Giants squad. Allen finished 19 of 30 for 253 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a TD, his second in as many weeks and the 10th rushing score of his brief career.
During the week, New York (New Jersey?) head coach Pat Shurmur created a stir when he said Allen looked like a quarterback who could “be a starter” in the NFL when he was evaluating players for that year’s draft.
It was a fairly innocuous comment. There were lots of NFL personnel people who doubted Allen coming out of Wyoming, who questioned his accuracy and ability to make it in the pros. Saying he had the stuff to start was hardly some insult.
Still, you know coaches. The Bills seized on the quote and had it posted on TVs throughout the team facility last week for motivation. And you wonder why head coach Sean McDermott is so buttoned-up at press sessions, careful to say virtually nothing.
Whatever his motives, Allen gave Shurmur an emphatic reply. He still has a long way to go, but on this day Allen showed the skeptics that he’s not simply a starter, but a star.
Fans are falling for the kid, but you know who really has faith in Allen? His coaches. From the start of preseason, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has used game plans that emphasize Allen’s athletic gifts and betray a willingness to attack defenses through the air.
McDermott praised Allen and his offense for working hard to develop communication and cohesion with so many new players, and despite injuries to the offensive line.
“They're still somewhat new to each other,” McDermott said after lifting his career record to .500 (17-17) in the regular season. “Those guys work extremely hard on communication during the week to make sure they’re on the same page. Because we don’t have the continuity some teams do offensively out there.”
Allen carried over his fine play from the second half of the opener. He completed seven passes in the first quarter to seven different receivers. He was 5 of 5 for 52 yards on the Bills’ second drive, a 75-yarder that ended with Allen scoring on a designed quarterback sweep around right end to tie the game at 7.
The Bills went 70 yards for a go-ahead TD on their next possession, with Allen converting two third-down throws to John Brown and another to Cole Beasley. Management has given him weapons, and he’s showing what he can do with reliable NFL receivers.
There are things you don’t know about a quarterback until he confronts crisis. During his young career, Allen has demonstrated an ability to come up with a big play to meet the urgency of the moment — like when he scrambled away from a rush and zipped a 17-yard pass to Brown on third down with the Giants making a minor run in the second half.
The offense was a mess at times in the second half. After scoring their third touchdown, the Bill gained a total of 20 yards on four possessions. They played like a team that’s not accustomed to playing with a lead on the road. They had false starts, sacks, a bad throw by Allen.
But they never seemed in real danger. You didn’t get that sense of looming calamity that was such a familiar part of Bills road games during the drought. There’s a new sense of order that comes from having a top defense and an offense that can carry its weight.
Yes, Allen and the offense started the season against two brutal pass defenses. But you never apologize for a road win in the NFL.
For the first time in many years, the Bills appear to have a legitimate NFL passing game, one that can rise up in difficult circumstances and win games that seem lost — as well as games they’re expected to win.
They’re also 2-0 without playing a home game for the first time in their 60-year history. It should be quite a scene when the only unbeaten team in New York — sorry, Josh, the only team, period — comes home to New Era to play the Bengals next week.
Jerry Sullivan is a sports columnist with over 30 years experience in Western New York, as well as the host of The Jerry Sullivan Show from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. weekdays on 1270 AM The Fan. Follow him on Twitter @ByJerrySullivan or respond via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.