ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Josh Allen needed just three possessions to throw two touchdown passes in his preseason debut and show he and the Buffalo Bills high-powered offense are ready for the regular season.
Allen completed his first nine attempts and finished 20 of 26 for 194 yards in leading the Bills to a 19-0 win over the Green Bay Packers in both teams’ preseason finales on Saturday.
The Packers, by comparison, can look forward to Aaron Rodgers providing stability to a mistake-filled offense which lacked finish behind a cast of backups, led by Jordan Love.
Allen capped Buffalo’s opening drive with a perfect throw in hitting Gabriel Davis in stride — a step ahead of cornerback Isaac Yiadom — on a post route for a 31-yard touchdown on third-and-20. Allen then squeezed a tight 3-yard pass over the middle to Zack Moss to put the Bills up 13-0 on his third and final possession.
Allen spread the ball in completing passes to eight receivers, while playing without his favorite target, Stefon Diggs, who sat out because of a lingering knee injury.
The fourth-year starter showed off his familiar dual-threat ability by making his best throw three plays before Moss’ touchdown. Scrambling to his left, Allen threw a pass across his body to a wide-open Cole Beasley for a 21-yard gain.
Allen got an opportunity to tune up for the regular season after sitting out Buffalo’s first two preseason games. Last year the Bills broke several single-season team passing and scoring records to win their first AFC East title since 1995, which led to Allen signing a six-year, $258 million contract extension three weeks ago.
Buffalo finished 3-0, extending its preseason winning streak to eight games, dating to a 26-13 loss to Cincinnati on Aug. 26, 2018. The Packers finished 0-3, closing a preseason in which a majority of their starters didn’t play. Rodgers, the NFL’s reigning MVP, sat out the entire preseason and was one of 31 players the Packers rested against Buffalo.
Love, Rodgers’ heir apparent, played into the third quarter and finished 12 of 18 for 149 yards and an interception. He was returning to action after missing last weekend with an injury to his throwing shoulder. A myriad of mistakes led to the Packers coming up empty, with their first three possessions stalling inside Buffalo’s 21.
Love was just off-target bouncing a pass off Reggie Begelton’s fingertips on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to end Green Bay’s first drive. Next, on first-and-10 from Buffalo's 21, Love was under pressure and threw off his back foot to have his weak pass easily intercepted in the end zone by Micah Hyde.
The Packers' third and final possession of the first half ended with Mason Crosby missing a 28-yard field-goal attempt wide left.
Complicating matters were a pair of bad snaps from backup center Jake Hanson.
Kurt Benkert replaced Love and finished 7 of 11 for 61 yards. Buffalo's Jake Fromm finished 10 of 16 for 87 yards, while scoring on a 13-yard run. Davis Webb mopped up and finished 3 of 6 for 23 yards.
Among the Packers’ inactives were receivers Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and Randall Cobb, and cornerbacks Jaire Alexander, Kevin King and first-round draft pick Eric Stokes. Also held out were LT David Bakhtiari, who is recovering from a torn ACL, and Elgton Jenkins, who has switched from left guard to tackle in the event Bakhtiari won’t be available for the start of the season.
The Bills went with most of their starters to open the game, except for players nursing injuries. The group sitting out included cornerback Levi Wallace (hip) and long snapper Reid Ferguson (back), who was replaced by defensive end A.J. Epenesa.
The Bills capped a week of COVID-19-related distractions, beginning with four players being placed in five-day self-isolation after having close contact with a vaccinated trainer. Beasley and Davis, and defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Vernon Butler, were all activated on Friday and played against the Packers after spending time in the NFL’s five-day cadence.
On Thursday, Beasley and fellow receiver Isaiah McKenzie revealed they were fined by the NFL for failing to wear a mask inside the team facility. McKenzie did not play (left shoulder injury) and, before the game, posted a picture of his vaccination card on social media.
The developments led to coach Sean McDermott expressing his frustration and questioning whether the Bills face a potential competitive disadvantage based on a player-vaccination rate of about 80%, which is among the NFL’s lowest.
PACKERS: open season at the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 12.
BILLS: open season hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 12.