The Bills didn’t punt. Again.
Last season there were 285 NFL games in the regular season and playoffs, meaning there were 570 individual team games. Eleven times, an offense managed to go all game without punting—that’s just 1.9 percent of all team games. The Buffalo Bills have now done it four times in their last six games, dating back to Week 16 of last season. They didn’t punt in their 33-21 win over the Patriots in Week 16, or in their 29-15 win over the Falcons in Week 17. Their wild-card playoff game against the Pats was arguably the greatest offensive performance in NFL history. —seven drives, seven touchdowns, no field goals, turnovers, turnovers on downs, or punts. The Chiefs ended Buffalo’s season in the divisional round, but it feels unfair to say Kansas City stopped Josh Allen—after all, Allen left the game with the lead and 13 seconds remaining. (You know what happened next.)
Thursday night, Buffalo opened the 2022 NFL season by crushing the defending Super Bowl champion Rams, 31-10. They converted 9-of-10 third downs, becoming just the fourth team in the last 40 years to hit on 90 percent of third downs. Their new punter, Sam Martin, got paid to visit LA and hold on some field goals and extra points. He should’ve brought one of those frozen margarita mixers down to the sideline.
It feels like I’m being metaphorical or hyperbolic when I say the Bills are unstoppable. But they didn’t punt. Again. For the fourth time in six games. They are more likely to not punt than they are to punt.
In the first half, the Bills had three turnovers—weird, flukey stuff. On the first, Allen’s pass hit Isaiah McKenzie in the hands, but McKenzie could not secure the ball, and it was wrested away by the Rams. Then, on the first carry of rookie running back James Cook’s NFL career, he fumbled—stunning, because he didn’t fumble once on 140 touches for Georgia last year. Allen also threw a legit bad pick, as Rams safety Troy Hill read Allen’s eyes and jumped Bills receiver Jamison Crowder’s route. Buffalo entered the locker room at halftime tied 10-10 with the Rams.
But the Bills weren’t even mad. They’d given away the ball three times in 30 minutes of football, and were tied.
“They didn’t really stop us offensively,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “That was some of the talk that was going on in the locker room. We had stopped ourselves.”
The guys in the visiting locker room here at SoFi Stadium were right. The Rams spent most of the first half simply trying to contain Allen, playing the 2-high coverage which has become a league-wide antidote to the league’s many deep-ball bombers at QB. Allen went 17-of-20 passing before halftime, and one of the three incompletions was a drop. He was making quick, decisive throws downfield with pinpoint accuracy.
In college at Wyoming and throughout the predraft process in 2018, Allen was criticized for his inaccuracy. Now, he can easily complete 90 percent of his passes. (I was one of the guys criticizing him for his inaccuracy; if you’ve got any good crow recipes, I’m running out after watching Josh Allen the last few years.) We expect the guy with the bazooka arm to win by blasting the ball deep and hoping for touchdowns; but he didn’t throw any passes more than 17 yards downfield in the first half.
Allen had solved the Rams defense, even if the halftime score didn’t reflect it. The Bills’ punter, on the other hand, hadn’t solved the crossword puzzle he tried doing during the first half. (The Thursday puzzles are pretty hard!) Eventually, Allen must have gotten tired of dinking and dunking. So he decided to run some dudes over. After carrying the ball just once in the first half, Allen had nine carries for 49 yards and a touchdown in the second. You’ve gotta feel for Nick Scott, the Rams safety Allen powerbombed into the ground on this first-down carry.
Von Miller, the three-time All-Pro linebacker who won a Super Bowl with the Rams last year, seemed happy to be on the team that doesn’t have to tackle Josh Allen. “He’s a creature,Miller said in his postgame interview. “He’s a creature, man.” Determine what type of creature he is by watching this play, where Allen scrambled and stretched past the Rams defense for a touchdown.
In his postgame press conference, Allen spoke about the importance of sliding and running out of bounds—which is funny, because Allen didn’t do either of those things all night. He just ran over the Rams, ran around them, and stretched past them. Why would you slide when you run like you’re half-man, half-rhinoceros?
The Rams couldn’t stop Allen as a passer or a runner. So they got desperate, and decided to blitz. It almost worked! But when you blitz, somebody’s going to be open, and Allen is showing us that he will find that guy even if that receiver is 40 yards downfield.
The Bills scored 21 unanswered points in the second half. Allen finished the game 26-of-31 with three touchdowns, plus the rushing score. He throws for accuracy, he throws deep balls, he runs over dudes, he makes perfect throws on the run. What the hell can you do to stop him?
NFL teams have five months to figure that out—but I don’t like their chances. Meanwhile, the Bills’ punter has five months to figure out what the hell he’s supposed to do on the sideline of these games. He should consider turning the kicking net into a hammock, although it’s probably gonna be hard to nap when his teammates are going nuts for touchdowns all the time.