This night, Josh Allen eliminates the 'yeah, but...'
Plus, Justin Herbert obliterates another defense and the talent again shines in Green Bay.
The bar was low for two decades. Extremely low.
One C-minus quarterback to the next B-minus quarterback, fans ‘round these parts seemed to convince themselves they couldn’t have nice things. Any signs of life were greeted with echoes of “hey-ey-ey-EY!” and drunken bodies smashing through tables. A J.P. Losman deep shot. A dash of Fitzmagic. An EJ Manuel comeback. Tyrod Taylor ending the drought. For 20 years, the Buffalo Bills have teased. Only teased.
In truth, the bar always needed to be higher.
The first anointed savior remembers when the bar was the Super Bowl. In ’98, Rob Johnson was identified as and paid to be the team’s post-Jim Kelly face of the franchise with the emotions from those four straight Super Bowl runs ’90 through ’93 still fresh. On our Zoom Happy Hour at Go Long, moments before kickoff, Johnson relived that temperature in Western New York.
He still remembers being overwhelmed with the need to deliver a Super Bowl to the city.
The quarterbacks between Jim Kelly and now weren’t total abominations.
Buffalo ended the drought with an extremely underrated quarterback, in Taylor, and the city lost its mind. But the bar has since been raised back up to where it was in the 90s. And to truly get back to that expectation of kicking teams’ collective asses every Sunday — to get to a Super Bowl — a legit star was needed.
On Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium, that star appeared to arrive.
Back in the stadium where the 2020 Bills season ended, Josh Allen operated as a absolute terminator.
A missile-throwing, cornerback-leaping force of nature.
A legit MVP candidate who threw for 315 yards on 15 completions —a mind-blowing 21-yard average — with 59 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in a 38-20 win.
The bar was Patrick Mahomes for Allen heading into this 2021 season and, this night, the 6-foot-5, 237-pounder from Firebaugh, Calif., treated that bar as if it was a flailing L'Jarius Sneed in the rain. Buffalo’s confidence should be skyrocketing right now and, this night, there was no reason to bemoan the fact that Mahomes slipped right through its fingers. Yes, Terry Pegula identified Mahomes as a future star before anyone else, as early as October of 2016, yet refused to go full Jerry Jones because he didn’t want to step on the toes of Sean McDermott’s “process.”
Yes, they essentially gifted Mahomes to the Kansas City Chiefs by handing Andy Reid that 10th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and, by Year 2, Mahomes was transcending the sport. As Allen gradually evolved from Most Inaccurate QB to Playoff QB to No. 2 in the MVP voting, this “Yeah, but…” has been attached to his name. He was special… but he wasn’t Mahomes. He was worth the whopping new contract… but he wasn’t Mahomes.
Mahomes has been his bar to meet and, last night, one of those lightning bolts delaying the game essentially obliterated that “Yeah, but.” For starters, Mahomes did not play well. He still may be the best player on the planet but his 54 pass attempts were quite exhausting to watch. He threw two picks. He finished with a 70.9 passer rating.
He hasn’t been himself this 2021 season, maybe because he’s trying to overcompensate for a terrible defense.
And while Kansas City’s defense is horrid, it doesn’t detract from the fact that Allen was phenomenal.
Because he flat-out embarrassed the same team that embarrasse Buffalo in the same stadium eight months prior.
His 35-yard touchdown strike to Emmanuel Sanders was as gorgeous as it gets.
And there really should have been a huge red bull’s eye on the back of safety Daniel Sorensen. Credit to Allen for identifying a weakness and pouring salt in the wound. Tight end Dawson Knox played like one of the best tight ends in the league last night which would be a revelation that absolutely catapults this Bills offense to a juggernaut level. With so much attention devoted to this team’s wide receiving corps, Knox is going to draw linebackers and safeties in one-on-one coverage all game.
After a rocky first two weeks, Allen’s now rolling.
The Bills are the team to beat in the AFC.
The Bills are in the driver’s seat to earn the No. 1 seed.
Allen has been downplaying each of his performances. He knows legacies are not made in the regular season. He dominated KC but this is one win in a 17-game schedule. If anything, this win inched the Bills closer to hosting Mahomes in the playoffs. Pegula is likely sleeping better at night these days but if, say, Allen’s Bills host the conference title game? And slay KC with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line?
No IPA-induced “hey-ey-ey-EY!” in Western NY could possibly be loud enough.
Justin Herbert cannot be stopped
Granted, there is one other quarterback who’d like to have a word in all this Mahomes and Allen talk and this quarterback is arguably playing better than both.
All Justin Herbert did on Sunday was pass for 398 yards with five total touchdowns against the same Cleveland Browns defense that whacked around Justin Fields (six completions, nine sacks) and Kirk Cousins (20-of-38) the last two weeks.
The Los Angeles Chargers quarterback yet again announced that he has arrived in this 47-42 win.
It truly has not mattered who Herbert faces — he’s vanquishing defenses. Five games in, he’s your MVP. Hall-of-Famer Jimmy Johnson even took it a step further in saying he’d select Herbert No. 1 in a draft of all NFL players today. We can see why, too. Herbert doesn’t blink when free runners are in his face. His deep-ball accuracy is straight out of a video game. And future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees made an excellent point during the Bills/Chiefs weather delay: The velocity on Herbert’s deep ball speeds up the further it travels which is dangerously strange for every defense facing the Chargers.
You be the judge for yourself on two throws that helped key this Chargers win.
Here’s the 72-yard touchdown to Mike Williams.
And here’s a 42-yard touchdown to Williams.
This is a perfect union. Hopefully people in L.A. get on board to witness something special.
The quarterback doesn’t have any visible weaknesses. The head coach, Brandon Staley, proved at Arrowhead that he’s a tenacious playcaller. He kept throwing — late — when practically every other coach would run. The supporting cast is loaded. Austin Ekeler is the new Alvin Kamara in OC Joe Lomardi’s offense, and his background is fairly remarkable. We sat down two years ago for this. Keenan Allen will obviously attract the most attention in the passing game because he basically has created his own route tree. Nobody gets in and out of cuts like him. But what about Williams? In this scheme, he’s blown up. He has 31 catches for 471 yards (15.2 avg.) with six touchdowns through five games.
This is the player who takes the Chargers offense (and Herbert) to a new level.
Expect a story at Go Long this week. We chatted with Williams recently.
Packers’ talent shines
The press conference was jaw-dropping and should not be forgotten. It’s very rare you hear a starting quarterback speak in such stark terms about his own front office but, as a reminder, Aaron Rodgers did not hold back.
He used this moment as his own Festivus airing of grievances and, in truth, is ensuring Festivus continues all season long on his weekly radio program.
Name to name, he listed off the players he believed were wronged by the Packers.
He made it clear he wanted a say in personnel.
He got his wish in reuniting with Randall Cobb.
And for all the mocking over all the missed kicks, I think this is the main takeaway from Sunday’s 25-22 Packers win in Cincinnati. Again, we see just how superb of a job GM Brian Gutekunst has done with this roster from drafting AJ Dillon to re-signing Aaron Jones to picking De’Vondre Campbell up off the street. And, it turns out, his new assistant to the regional manager isn’t a half-bad personnel guy himself. At least in this instance. Cobb sure looked worthy of a sixth-round pick this day. Add it all up and the myth that Green Bay doesn’t have talent around the QB was debunked yet again.
Start with the two stars: Davante Adams and Jones.
Adams, again, looked like the best receiver in football. He’s averaging 8.4 receptions and 115.8 yards per game, roasting corners weekly. Rodgers has had telepathic-like connections with receivers before — Jordy Nelson comes to mind — but nothing like this. He and Adams again played a masterful game within the game.
It doesn’t really matter how he’s covered. It’s gotten to the point where Rodgers can confidently Moss it up to Adams and hope for the best.
Jones, again, resembled a top 5 back. His 57-yard run in the fourth quarter was one of the best plays of Week 5.
He juked out one defender three yards behind the line of scrimmage. He juked another 10 yards downfield. And, he was gone.
Few players in the sport can embarrass tacklers like Jones.
That drive, Rodgers actually missed an open Adams in the corner of the end zone before Mason Crosby missed one of his three field goals, too. I still can’t believe a team with loaded pockets, like Miami, didn’t give Jones top dollar in free agency. What a coup by Gutekunst to keep him at what’s essentially a two-year, $20 million deal. This Packers offense is at its best running through him.
Dillon continues to bust out, too. He looked unbelievably nimble for a 247-pounder with 7.8 percent body fat on his touchdown reception.
The Packers are without their No. 2 receiver who led the NFL in yards per catch last season — Marquez Valdes-Scantling — and still churned out 466 total yards, on the road, against a gnarly Bengals defense.
Other quarterbacks would sell their soul for a setup like this.
Defensively, at all three levels, you see the GM’s fingerprints. Up front, Kenny Clark disrupts the QB in just about every game. Safety Adrian Amos had a diving pick. Campbell had the pick in OT. To his credit, Rodgers did tip his cap to management for finding Campbell after the win. He called it “baffling” that Campbell was even available.
He’s right. This is a strong roster top to bottom. If the Packers can win despite their kicker missing three game-winners, they must be doing something right.
What do we make of the Pittsburgh Steelers? I’m not writing the obit yet. This is still a coach and a team that, somehow, took it to Buffalo in the opener and if they’re able to stick to the script, the Steelers have a shot at sneaking in the playoffs. Against Denver, Najeh Harris was fed early and finished with 23 carries for 122 yards. Ben Roethlisberger hit 50- and 59-yard completions. And the defense did its thing. After three straight losses, they at least stopped the bleeding.
Terrible break for the Giants. Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, for one week anyways, looked like the future in a thrilling win over the Saints. With a chance to upset Dallas and right this Giants season, both suffered injuries in the first half. Jones to a concussion, Barkley to a sprained ankle. While neither are long-term injuries, the damage might be done. The Giants are 1-4.
Joe Burrow is going to be a star, right on par with Herbert and Allen. Everything comes so, so easy for the Bengals QB. He took a vicious shot from safety Darnell Savage in Cincy’s loss to Green Bay, then he suffered a throat contusion. The latter required a trip to the hospital. Through it all, Burrow did his part in this upset bid. Throws like this 2-point conversion that seem easy to our naked eye most certainly are not. What smooth patience to fade… fade… fade… and sling it to Tee Higgins.
What a weird way to celebrate in Minnesota. Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer look like they’re going to start throwing punches at each other after a game-winning field goal to beat Detroit. For what it’s worth, Cousins said he “was just fired up.”
The Cardinals are for real. As fun as Kyler Murray is to watch, does it get any better than Arizona’s goal-line stand? This is the sort of play Kliff Kingsbury would rather see: Linebacker Isaiah Simmons, the eighth overall pick in 2020, and Tanner Vallejo blasting quarterback Trey Lance to prevent a touchdown on fourth and goal. Few plays will suck the life out of a team quite like this one, which rendered a 10-play, 93-yard drive by the 49ers nil.
Mark your calendars! The 10-episode Isaiah McKenzie Show will continue this week with a Zoom call and the next live show at Mister’s Bar and Lanes is slated for Monday Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. We greatly appreciate everyone for coming on our for Episode No. 1 and listening/watching the show here at Go Long.