“Just us getting back to who we feel like we are,” quarterback Josh Allen said.
On Sunday, the Bills used a balanced attack with Allen using his talents to spread the ball around to several different playmakers. Coach Sean McDermott described the game plan as, “Everything in moderation ... and that's the way we have to play. That's how you win games, on the offensive side at least.”
Executing as an offense at that high of a level -- 450 total yards and 29 first downs -- might be unrealistic consistently against tougher defenses and challenges ahead. Maintaining possession for 40 minutes and multiple 10-plus play drives don’t happen every week. But the Bills found plenty of success with a more risk-averse offense that could be used as a jumping off point for the rest of the season.
“The discipline, like I mentioned, was present really with the whole team, in particular Josh,” McDermott said. “And when he does that, when he's willing to take what they give him, and take those checkdowns, and then use his legs as well in a decisive way, he makes it really hard to defend.”
Defending was a challenge for the Raiders because Allen made smart decisions. He finished 31-of-37 for 274 yards and three touchdowns and no turnovers. Allen did not throw his first incompletion until the second quarter -- 14 passes in.
The discipline McDermott referenced was Allen not forcing the ball downfield unnecessarily as he did against the Jets. Allen’s yards per attempt increased from 5.8 in Week 1 to 7.4 in Week 2, while his air yards per attempt decreased from 7.4 to 3.9 in Week 2. Most of his throws were 5 air yards or fewer (23-of-27, 139 yards and two touchdowns). He threw four passes of 15 or more air yards versus nine the previous week.
“I think he just did a great job working progressions and making good decisions,” offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said. “I think at the end of the day we called some downfield stuff, and they were getting soft, and he did a great job taking the underneath throws when they did.”
The Bills now rank fifth in yards (284) after the catch -- improving it was a point of emphasis coming into the season.
Allen did not lock on to No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs. Instead he got the ball to nine different receivers with eight catching more than one pass. All five of the team’s touchdowns were scored by a different player.
“It wasn’t just go out there and find checkdowns, it was still being me,” Allen said. “Let our guys make some plays and our guys did make some plays. [Receiver] Gabe Davis on fourth down after that really long drive, 10-minute drive, catching a contested touchdown. Latavius [Murray], Damien [Harris] running the ball extremely hard, [James Cook] going for over 100 and catching a bunch of passes from the backfield. Got guys in different positions and our guys made some plays.”
The Bills also achieved something McDermott had been seeking: a more balanced attack. Buffalo threw the ball 37 times and ran 35 times. Cook, the second-year running back, rushed for 123 yards, in addition to four receptions for 36 yards. It was his first career 100-yard rushing performance.
Cook ranks fourth in rushing yards after contact (76) and is averaging 5.8 yards per rush (tied for seventh). He should only see an increase in opportunities as the season goes on. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Cook finished with a career-high 44 rushing yards over expected in Week 2, the most by a Bills running back since 2018.
The only Bills player to gain more rushing yards over expected during that time is Allen, who carried the ball just three times for 7 yards against the Raiders, only the sixth time he finished with three or fewer carries in the past two seasons.
“[Allen] wasn't gonna try to be a, give a Herculean effort,” center Mitch Morse said. “He just took what the defense gave him and made plays when he had to and you see that around again and again. It's a beautiful thing, and it was just awesome to see and be a part of this week, especially Josh going out there and finding this mojo and then the run game going.”