ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Knowing Bills quarterback Josh Allen was under pressure, Khalil Shakir completed his route up the right sideline before curling back to see if the ball was coming his way.
Sure enough, it was.
“Josh is a freak of nature. I’ve always said that since I got here,” the receiver said, describing a play in which a backpedaling Allen — with three Chargers defenders in his face — almost casually lofted a 15-yard pass to a wide-open Shakir to convert a third-and-4 from LA’s 28.
“I didn’t know what was going on. I knew they had some sort of pressure,” Shakir added. “I mean, perfect timing. I turn around, the ball’s there. He’s amazing.”
The play allowed Buffalo to run more than two minutes off the clock before Tyler Bass’ game-winning 29-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in a 24-22 win on Saturday.
With all the emphasis the Bills (9-6) have placed on having a balanced offensive attack to spur their late-season playoff push, they can still count on Allen to pull off one of his amazing escapes.
“You just become numb to it because you’re so used to it,” center Mitch Morse said of Allen’s three-touchdown outing (one passing, two rushing). “When the pressure’s on, and his number’s called, and he needs to bail us out of a peculiar situation, he seems to do it more often than not. We’re just very fortunate to have him.”
Allen has put aside his early-season talk of taking a “low positive” approach to keep his emotions in check, and his inconsistent midseason stretch during which he was asked to do too much, by finding the happy medium between productive and reckless.
And he’s pulled the Bills along with him as they’ve won three straight and four of five, giving them a chance to win a fourth consecutive AFC East title. Buffalo currently holds the sixth spot in the AFC and closes its home schedule against New England (4-11) before a Week 18 showdown at division-leading Miami.
The past five outings coincide with the Bills’ switch in offensive coordinators. Quarterbacks coach Joe Brady took over on an interim basis after Ken Dorsey was fired.
In that time, Buffalo has outscored its opponents by a margin of 141-92, with the running game taking the load off Allen’s arm. In Buffalo’s past two wins, Allen has attempted just 36 passes, completing 22 for 331 yards and two touchdowns, while the Bills have 371 yards rushing and five rushing TDs.
That’s closer to the complementary style of play coach Sean McDermott sought when he fired Dorsey, though it doesn’t take Allen’s abilities out of the equation.
“It’s just really the players needing to make plays when the opportunity comes up,” McDermott said before listing the many contributors. They range from running back James Cook gaining 221 yards from scrimmage in a 31-10 win over Dallas, to Gabriel Davis leading Buffalo with 130 yards receiving and a TD against the Chargers, to clutch catches from Shakir and tight end Dawson Knox.
Suddenly, the Bills are no longer the one-dimensional team that for too long was reliant on Allen getting the ball to Stefon Diggs.
The Bills opened the season 5-5 with Diggs leading the team with 73 catches for 868 yards and seven touchdowns. In their past five games, Diggs has been limited to 23 catches for 202 yards and a TD.
Make no mistake, Allen still regards Diggs as Buffalo’s top threat.
“We’ve paid more attention to the run game, but you know, it’s Stefon Diggs,” he said. “We got to get him the ball. I got to get him the ball.”
And that might come easier for Allen with opponents having to respect Buffalo’s other threats.
As well as he played while posting his 18th career comeback victory, Allen was mindful of what went wrong. The Bills lost the turnover battle 3-0. Allen threw his 15th interception, which matches his career high and is second most in the NFL behind benched Commanders starter Sam Howell (17).
On the bright side, he enjoyed his eighth outing with three or more touchdowns, and leads the league in total scores with 40 (27 passing, 13 rushing).
Asked whether he was playing with more emotion, Allen said, “maybe a little bit.” McDermott said he can see the difference in his quarterback.
“It’s been fun to watch that develop over the past couple of weeks, and Josh driving that in particular with his urgency, vulnerability, his leadership,” McDermott said. “Usually, as Josh goes, we go.”
NOTES: CB Kaiir Elam was activated off injured reserve after missing eight games with an ankle injury. … McDermott said the team is still monitoring DT DaQuan Jones (torn pectoral muscle) before determining if he will also be activated off IR. … Edge rusher Leonard Floyd (wrist, rib) did not practice Wednesday.