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ORCHARD PARK, NY – Emmanuel Sanders admitted a harsh truth when he spoke to other Buffalo Bills receivers Stefon Diggs after the team’s 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1.
“Man, the next seven days are going to be fat,” Sanders told his teammate.
Sanders said the bills were left with a “bad taste in the mouth” after starting the season 0-1 ahead of an AFC East game in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins (13:00 ET, Fox). The disappointing loss largely fell on the shoulders of offense, a unit that came into the season with high expectations, especially when it came to quarterback Josh Allen.
Allen had an almost MVP-caliber season in 2020 and finished as number two in the award poll, after completing 69.2% of his passes to 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns. He then performed beyond his previous seasons, the talk up to the 2021 season centered on whether his success could be sustained.
So, of course, when the Bills battled one of the NFL’s likely top defenses – Allen completed 30 of 51 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown – that doubt was burned.
Former Bills quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly understands the pressure that comes from being part of a Super Bowl-fighting team.
Kelly, a three-time survivor of head and neck cancer, spoke to ESPN as part of the Your Cancer Story initiative.
“One thing I’ve learned over the course of my life is that you put the negative things behind you, you learn from what you go on,” Kelly said, repeating Allen’s mood. “You don’t just let it sink into your mind and stay there. You have to learn from them and I have been very good at going to the Super Bowls and not winning them. You put it on the back burner and move on. “
There was plenty of guilt to share against the Steelers, including for the offensive line. Right tackle Daryl Williams battled the NFL’s highest paid defender in TJ Watt. When Allen was under pressure against Pittsburgh, he completed 3 of 14 passes for 29 yards.
But instead of focusing on all the negative, the quarterback tries to use the outing as a learning opportunity.
“You learn more in losses than you do in wins,” Allen said this week. “Especially to get it early and just reset our focus, and [it forced] us to focus on some things we need to work on.
“If we had won that match, we might not be working on some of the things we are working on now. There is always an advantage to it, especially early, just do not want to make it a habit. “
The Bills try to avoid the team’s second 0-2 start under coach Sean McDermott with an away match against an divisional opponent. Fortunately for the bill offense and Allen, the Dolphins have not caused much of a roadblock in the last three seasons.
In six games against the Dolphins, Allen has 20 total touchdowns, four interceptions, completed 64% of his passes and averaged 258.7 passing yards per game. Match. The Bills are 5-1 in these matches and have scored 31 plus points in the last five (all wins).
By comparison, Allen has played five games against the New York Jets and New England Patriots, but has scored fewer than 10 touchdowns against each of them.
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Dolphins defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said this week that Allen, “has no weaknesses.”
But the third decline was a weakness for the bill’s offense in Week 1. The team went 8-of-18 (44%) on the third decline after leading the league in the category in 2020 (49.7%).
Part of the reason was the difficulty of gathering yards on the first and second down. Allen averaged 5.03 yards per game. Attempts at these downturns, second in Week 1 (Matt Ryan, 4.87).
Playing against the Dolphins could provide an opportunity to improve in that category. Miami allowed New England to convert 68.8% of the third decline (third most in the NFL in Week 1).
Another area for the bill to focus on this week? Kelly pointed it out herself.
The Bills QB great said he would like to see Buffalo run the ball a little more – Allen threw 51 times and the Bills had 15 rushing attempts from running backs in Week 1, although Devin Singletary had some success (11 carries for 72 yards). The Dolphins gave up 125 rushing yards against the Patriots last week.
“[Allen’s] learn, even though he did not play very well in the previous game, I do not think anyone did, ”said Kelly. “But the bottom line is, he is very good, he is a great athlete, he has a great coach.
“They have him in the system that he can thrive on, he has fantastic people around him. I just wish they used the race game a little bit more, because don’t put too much pressure on No. 17. “