As I was rewatching the Bills win over the Jets, I found myself starting to take a little blame off of Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s play-calling, which I had previously believed to be near reckless in the fact Josh Allen finished Sunday’s game with double-digit carries.
Leading up to Allen’s first fumble, the Bills ran three-straight run plays, only one of which was called specifically for Allen - a QB draw that went for nine yards. The other two were read-option plays, which are in almost every team’s playbook.
In both circumstances Allen appeared to make the right decision in keeping the ball, as oncoming defenders appeared to favor the running back, leaving a lane open for Allen to decide to keep it himself.
The first read-option play was stopped by a nice play from Jets defensive back Blessuan Austin, who read the play perfectly from the outside and came darting in to make the stop. Had Austin not had such great play recognition, Allen’s decision to run it himself may have appeared more clearly to be the correct decision, which it was.
The second read-option play of the drive, Allen did a nice job faking out Jets linebacker Frankie Luvu who was coming from the edge, and Allen would have recorded a big gain if it weren’t for a nice strip from New York defensive back Marcus Maye, which led to the first of Allen’s two lost fumbles.
On the Bills next drive following the turnover, Allen didn’t take long to run the ball again as, on a second down and one, Daboll called another read-option play, which Allen once again read well and kept himself, evading a potential Jets’ tackler in the backfield and escaping off the right side for a nine yard gain. Allen wouldn’t run again until the final play of the drive when Daboll called a play-action bootleg for Allen - which wasn’t necessarily a designed run play as offensive lineman Ryan Bates was running along the end line in the back of the end zone as a receiver. With that said, Bates was covered, leaving the Bills to take what was likely their first option on the play, as Allen used the space created by the play fake and ran it into the end zone untouched.
Later in the first half Allen fumbled for the second time, and this time I was not a big fan of the play call and represents my point about purely designed runs for the quarterback. On a second and 10 just outside the 10-yard line, Daboll called for a quarterback sweep which was doomed from the very beginning and resulted in Allen taking a big hit, being flipped upside down, and fumbling the ball away.
In the end, however, there weren’t as many purely designed runs for Allen in the early going of Sunday’s Bills win as I had originally thought. It was rather a case of Daboll dialing up several read-option plays and Allen simply taking what the defense was giving him, along with several scrambles which came as a result of broken plays or pressure being provided by the Jets.
Ideally, Daboll’s call to conclude the Bills’ first scoring drive is the type of Allen run that I can live with. That’s an example of a play that suits Allen’s strengths and minimizes his greatest weakness - losing the football while he is on the run, a prime example of which being his second fumble of the afternoon. The key for Allen to find success in the run game without fumbling, in my opinion is to get him out in space and away from the oncoming surge near the line of scrimmage.
I will never be a fan of a quarterback running the ball 10-plus times per game, but there are ways to go about it that don’t put your quarterback in harms way and also minimize any potential fumbling issues one may have.
Upon further review, Daboll’s gameplan on Sunday was efficient and set the Bills, and their quarterback up for success.
That’s certainly something all Bills fans should be able to live with.
—Alex Brasky is a sports reporter/columnist for the Batavia Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.