Josh Allen's growth on display in first playoff victory with Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills proved they can win close games, after winning six games by multiple scores to close the regular season, including their 27-24 wild-card win Saturday over the Indianapolis Colts.

They also proved they can win the big games, thanks in part to Josh Allen.

The Bills' quarterback completed 26 of 35 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns, adding 54 yards and another score on the ground. He became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards and complete 70% of his passes in a playoff game. One year after the Bills' playoff loss in overtime to the Houston Texans, Saturday's game was the culmination of the growth Allen has displayed throughout the 2020 NFL regular season.

"We were able to take what we learned last year and take it into this game," Allen said. "Not trying to press or do too much. Let the game come to us. That's what we did. Obviously, we started off a little slow and we were able to get into a rhythm late. Made enough plays to win. I’m still kicking myself for a couple plays.

"I talked to [offensive coordinator Brian Daboll] and this is playoff football. You gotta forget about it and focus on next week. It doesn't matter what we did -- it's back to 0-0. Whatever team we face, they're 0-0 and they're coming into our house. We got another home game and we have to prepare and get ready to go."

He'll look to do so against the streaking Baltimore Ravens, who held the Tennessee Titans' second-ranked offense to 209 yards in their 20-13 win Sunday. In a season which Allen has debunked misconceptions about his play, beating a Ravens team that stymied him in 2019 would be his latest bit of redemption. Baltimore's defense forced Allen into arguably his worst game of the 2019 season, in which he completed 17 of 39 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown, and lost a fumble.

During their 5-1 stretch to close the 2020 regular season, the Ravens allowed the 14th-fewest passing yards per game outside the pocket; the Bills' offense averaged the ninth most yards outside the pocket in that same span. On Saturday, Allen was particularly brilliant operating outside the pocket, completing 7 of 9 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown -- on a highlight-worthy shovel pass to Dawson Knox in the first quarter. As he evaded Colts defenders, Allen heaved the ball toward Knox in the back corner of the end zone before he was brought down.

The play caught the attention of his teammates, particularly left tackle Dion Dawkins.

"The first TD to Knox, come on now, the kid is special," Dawkins said of Allen. "He's special; this is a special group. Josh is almost like a character on Madden -- a 99 overall. He just keeps doing it week in and week out. I'm happy to call him my quarterback and I'm happy to block for him."

Beyond his passing numbers -- the Bills improved to 9-0 this season when Allen throws for 300 yards -- he moved the chains in the run game, even as running backs Zack Moss and Devin Singletary struggled to find running lanes for most of the game.

His 11 carries and 54 rushing yards marked his highest totals in those categories since Week 7. Buffalo didn't need Allen to run the ball this season as it had in years past, but considering what the Colts did on defense Saturday, it made sense to tap into that aspect of his game.

"It's the playoffs, man. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win football games," Allen said. "If [Daboll] dials it up, I got to do my job. They put an extra guy in the box and gave us numbers, and that's always a viable option for us and we know that. We made some good plays today and that's what I’m happy about."