Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills just breathed a sigh of relief.
Allen was equal parts electric with three touchdown passes as he was an enigma with three turnovers in the Bills’ 34-31 wild-card playoff win against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The Bills were pushed to the brink, and they have a lot to improve on heading into their next playoff game, opponent to be determined.
“We’ll grow from it,” Allen said after completing 23 of 39 passes for 352 yards. “All that matters is surviving and advancing. It doesn’t matter how we win, it’s if we win. And I’m proud of our guys.”
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The Bills will celebrate this win, but they were dealt a reality check against the Dolphins: If Allen continues to turn the ball over, he will be the reason Buffalo’s goal of reaching and winning the Super Bowl falls short.
Allen is regarded as one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks, but his 16 interceptions and 22 giveaways this season, including this playoff game, tell a different story of careless play.
And that’s not an encouraging sign for Allen and the Bills, three games from their final goal of the Super Bowl.
“At the end of the day, you turn the ball over, you die a pretty quick death,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said.
Perhaps more importantly, Allen must stay within the means of Buffalo’s offense.
Allen has a penchant for playing loose with the football and he often tries to play completely, taking deep shots down the field that don’t convert. .
Sometimes these plays work. And sometimes they hurt more than they help.
Buffalo’s playoff hopes were nearly dashed against Miami. The Bills entered the game as double-digit favorites to beat the Dolphins, who were without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, recovering from his second documented concussion.
After the Bills stormed out to a 17-0 lead with third-string rookie Skylar Thompson, Allen threw two interceptions in the second quarter that allowed Miami to get back into the game.
Allen’s worst turnover was a fumble that resulted in a Dolphins touchdown and their first lead of the game early in the third quarter.
“The turnovers, they hurt us. It really put them back in the game,” Allen said of his three mistakes that led to 18 points for the Dolphins. “It’s just things you can’t do and you can’t expect to win that way. There are things we have to clean up.”
That’s where Allen’s skill came into play.
Allen broke free for a 12-yard run inside his own red zone on a third-and-8, and he threw two touchdown passes in a three-minute span to help the Bills regain a double-digit lead with less than two minutes left again in the third quarter.
“The thing is, you have to keep your foot on the gas,” Beasley said. “You can never be complacent. You have to be consistent and we were a little bit inconsistent and we can’t do that going forward.”
Allen and the Bills had two final drives to score again and put the game away, but couldn’t get much going offensively.
They punted the ball back to Miami on both possessions, relying on the defense and Miami’s inexperience, including a crucial delay of game penalty on fourth-and-1 on Miami’s final drive, to escape with a win.
The Bills may not be so lucky again this postseason.
While the Dolphins were inexperienced, other teams with Super Bowl experience like the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals won’t be so forgiving.
“I give our guys credit,” McDermott said. “They hung in there and figured out a way to win. That’s one of the things they’ve been really good at this year. But we definitely have a lot to take from this game and learn from.”