Johnny’s Surprise of the Week: Buffalo’s passing attack

Photo via Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

For a moment, Atlanta Falcon fans thought their much-reminded “28-3” curse would transmit to another ill-fated team. 

After Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver Stefon Diggs collected a four-yard touchdown pass with eight minutes to go in the third quarter, the Los Angeles Rams began their offensive barrage against the Bills, as they would then tally four unanswered touchdowns in a span of less than 20 minutes. 

What was once a dominant 28-3 lead for Buffalo quickly turned into a 32-28 comeback bid with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter. 

What initially looked to be an easy Buffalo victory swiftly turned into a potential New York calamity. To make matters worse, Buffalo’s usual rush-oriented offense would have to not only pile through a dominant Los Angeles defensive front but do it in enough time to have any chance of winning. 

If this was old-school Buffalo, well, sayonara to tallying another victory in the win column. 

For new-school Buffalo, though, challenge accepted, and challenge completed. 

On their corresponding drive, Buffalo, instead of grounding and pounding the defense into submission like they would in season’s past, scored their way by means of the pass attack. During their 11-play touchdown drive, Buffalo, by means of their quarterback in Josh Allen, passed the ball 10 times out of 11. 

The end result came in the form of a go-ahead touchdown, an entertaining 35-32 victory, a sparkling 3-0 record and the realization that Buffalo’s offense has transformed into a more electric unit capable of giving any defense a run (or throw?) for its money. 

This new offense, over the course of the early part of the 2020 season, has made itself apparent more than once. 

Through three games this season, the Bills’ passing offense is seventh in the NFL in passing attempts (114), tied for sixth in completion percentage (71.1%) and second in passing yards (991), passing yards per game (330.3) and passing touchdowns (10). While impressive in itself, the numbers pop out more when looking into the same statistical categories from last season. Buffalo’s passing game last season was tied for 24th in passing attempts (513), ranked 31st in completion percentage (58.3%), 26th in passing yards (3,229) and passing yards per game (201.8), and 24th in passing touchdowns (21). 

Sure, Buffalo’s positive 2020 numbers are only through three games. Buffalo’s sub-par passing numbers in 2019 were through an entire 16-game regular season slate. It is certainly tough to compare the two on an equal playing field. No doubt about it. 

The trend for Buffalo through 2020, however, could emphasize that this new passing philosophy is Buffalo’s new identity. Although Buffalo only passed for 274 passing yards (adjusted for sack yards) in their game against Los Angeles, in their previous two 2020 games, they passed for 306 yards against the New York Jets and 411 yards against the Miami Dolphins. The last time Buffalo passed for 300 or more yards in two consecutive games was 2002, when Buffalo passed for 307 and 399 yards against the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders on Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, respectively. Buffalo’s 400-yard passing game against the Dolphins, in fact, was Buffalo’s first passing game with 400-plus yards since Sept. 15, 2002 against the Minnesota Vikings. That game, however, went into overtime. Their last 400-plus yard game (when adjusted for sack yardage) in regulation was October 11, 1964 against the Houston Oilers. 

In previous seasons, Buffalo was all about the rushing and not about the passing. 

The 2020 Buffalo Bills, though, have sung a different tune. They are passing more with confidence and are producing at a much more explosive rate. They are even passing (no pun intended) milestones that have not been achieved in decades. 

Should they keep up the production, this is only the beginning for the new-school Bills. 

Published by John Crane

I am originally from Alexandria, Louisiana, but have lived in South Carolina, Texas, Arizona and now Colorado. After recently graduating from Northern Arizona University, I am now continuing to sharpen my journalistic craft through writing, radio and podcasting. My dream is to become a sports reporter or broadcaster.

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