Josh Allen on Bills’ close, ugly win: ‘All that matters is winning’

After the Buffalo Bills’ too-close-for-comfort Super Wild Card victory over the Miami Dolphins, Josh Allen chose to take a bottom-line perspective to Sunday’s game.

“At the end of the day all that matters is winning the game,” Allen said. “If it’s by one or by 100. These are one-week seasons now. Everything you got. Like I said, it’s win or go home.”

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Allen’s facts can be checked and approved. They’re all true, according to Hoyle. But he’s also leaving out a big part of the story: The Bills and he let the Dolphins off the hook. More than once. Can the Bills keep living this dangerously?

Of all teams, this one should know. Look how the Bills’ seasons have come to an end the past three years. Up seven early and three late against the Chiefs last year. Up 9-0 against the Chiefs in 2021. Up 16-0 to the Texans late in the third quarter in 2020.

Each team and each season is different, but the Bills and Allen have to know they got away with one Sunday against the Dolphins and their third-string QB, Skylar Thompson. In this game, the Bills led 17-0 and let off the gas. The Dolphins helped out by kicking three straight field goals, but the Bills made big mistakes that reopened the door for Miami.

In that stretch of the game, Allen’s receivers let him down.

Going for the kill shot, Allen fired deep to John Brown, but Brown stopped running and Miami’s Xavien Howard not only picked it but also ran it back 49 yards. (The Bills were also lucky not to be flagged for Spencer Brown pushing Christian Wilkins to the ground.) That led to the second Miami field goal.

The next drive, Allen looked to connect with Khalil Shakir for a 54-yard catch, but Shakir couldn’t quite haul it in. The Bills punted, and the Dolphins ran it back 50 yards. Another short field and another Miami field goal. Miami’s first three scoring drives spanned 38, 18 and eight yards. Yet those netted nine points and made it a one-score game.

Then Cole Beasley joined the party by failing to reel in Allen’s pass, which was picked by Jevon Holland and run back into the red zone. Three plays later, the Dolphins scored and converted the two-point try and the game was miraculously tied.

Bills head coach Sean McDermott admitted he didn’t stay up late to watch the conclusion of Saturday’s wild comeback from 27 down by the Jaguars over the Chargers. But he secretly had to fear that his team could be the next playoff team to cough up a big lead.

“I give our guys credit,” McDermott said. “They hung in there and figured out how to get a win. That’s one of the things they have been really good at this year, but we definitely have a lot to take out of this game and learn from.”

The learning opportunities kept piling up. Allen getting strip-sacked and the Dolphins running it back for an early third-quarter score was one. The defense allowing some long conversions and letting a Thompson-run offense stay in the game was another. Some curious late play-calling — including several deep, low-percentage shots that failed — also are some elements that might require reconsideration going forward.

This needs to be the reminder that the Bills can’t continue living like this and expect to advance in the divisional round next week, and thereafter.

In the end, it took two big plays by rookies and some Miami miscues to seal the victory. First-rounder Kaiir Elam, subbing for an injured Dane Jackson, had a pick midway through the fourth quarter and a big pass breakup he almost intercepted. Shakir, a fourth-rounder who entered the game with 10 catches, had the early drop but caught a 50-yarder on the next drive.

“That was a big momentum shift for us,” Allen said. “I know (Shakir is) a rookie, but we have a lot of faith and trust in him to make some plays for us, and he’s going to continue to do so.”

But do the Bills win if the Dolphins don’t screw up their late-game execution? Thompson’s pick to Elam was underthrown, thanks to pressure. And on the final drive, a Dolphins false start was followed by a delay of game on fourth and less than a yard to go with just over two minutes left. They’d be forced to punt and would never see the ball again.

It’s arguable the Bills would have lost this game against a better opponent or a healthier Dolphins team. But Allen believes that the Bills’ tightly knit camaraderie helps them in tough spots as much as anything.

“We understand the seriousness of the playoffs,” Allen said. “It’s win or go home. Guys just wanting to win and not hang up the cleats just yet. We have some goals to accomplish, and guys in that locker room love each other. We work extremely hard to go out there and execute to try to accomplish those goals that we set.”

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