Josh Allen had a spectacular postseason. A top-tier showing in NFL history. And it’s over after two games, eight quarters away from a probable lift of the Lombardi Trophy.
The Bills’ cannon-throwing, next-level-gridiron-IQ quarterback genuinely couldn’t have done anything more to help Buffalo secure its second-straight AFC Championship Game appearance. Only this time, it would’ve taken one route to the Super Bowl through Western New York for the first time since January 1994, the same month figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was struck with a club by some goon hired by the ex-husband of her rival Tonya Harding.
Allen wouldn’t be born for another 28 months.
The former Wyoming standout will be 26 years old the next time he attempts a pass in the NFL. Allen threw nine combined touchdowns in the Bills’ Wild-Card trashing of New England and in their all-time classic against Kansas City on Sunday night.
Two of his four touchdown throws against the Chiefs came in the game’s final 1:54 — a pair of missiles to Gabriel Davis, who set an NFL record himself with four receiving touchdowns in one playoff game. Yet both Allen and Davis will watch the AFC Championship Game instead of playing it on their home turf.
We likely watched the de-facto Super Bowl last night. Can anyone see the Bengals taking down Kansas City, which will host its fourth-straight conference championship game this coming Sunday? Whichever NFC West team challenges the AFC winner in three weeks at Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles could provide an interesting test, especially since the Rams would be playing for the title at home, the second time in a row and ever that’s happened. It’s still hard to imagine the Chiefs’ depth being rattled by Jimmy Garoppolo or Matthew Stafford.
The Chiefs toughest test in the postseason is no doubt behind them in vanquishing Allen. Mahomes was outplayed at his individual position last night. Mostly everyone else did just enough to let Allen, a future NFL MVP, down. In reality, Allen had three game-winning opportunities after the two-minute warning. The first was his 27-yard touchdown pass to Davis on the first play after 2:00 left in the fourth quarter was shown on the clock.
Allen handed one of the best defenses in the NFL a 3-point lead. Leaving Mahomes 114 seconds and three timeouts is basically light years. We know this already.
No problem for Allen. He vaulted the Bills back into another 3-point lead with 13 seconds left in the game. That’s game-winner No. 2. That had to be it. The Firebaugh, California native finally backed up the claim of being the best quarterback in the world. It was the last time Allen touched the pigskin on the night.
Why Bills head coach Sean McDermott didn’t call for a squib kick to run down the clock to 8 or 9 seconds left in regulation is beyond explanation. He fears the legs of Byron Pringle more than the arm of Mahomes, who has been so locked in for years with his receiving corps? That mistake wasn’t amplified at the time. Kansas City’s offense still had to go 26 yards in a dozen seconds for Harrison Butker to attempt to send the game to overtime at the length of the new NFL record field-goal distance, a 66-yard boot, achieved earlier this season by Baltimore’s Justin Tucker.
Furthermore, the Bills defense was stout throughout the season, No. 1 in the league in scoring defense in 2021. No way with two quick plays that the Chiefs could put themselves in an ideal situation to send the game to overtime. It did happen though. Marvelous play calls from Kansas City head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy gave Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, who had scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Chiefs moments earlier, and Travis Kelce accumulate 44 yards in 10 seconds. Butker now only had a 48-yard try from the left hash mark, a kick he’s made his entire career with ease. And the end-of-regulation attempt was no different.
Allen’s final time taking the field was for the coin toss to begin overtime, his final chance to win the divisional-round showdown. A coin flip decided his season. Both defenses were gassed. Heads or tails would decide which dominant offense got to keep the ball away from their opponent and play again in seven days. Allen incorrectly chose tails and could only watch his season end from a bench inside Arrowhead Stadium.
That takes nothing away from Allen’s heroics over the last two weekends. His five touchdown passes against the Patriots was one shy of tying the single-game NFL record, a three-way tie shared by the likes of Tom Brady and Steve Young, according to Pro Football Reference. Allen would’ve likely smashed the record for touchdown passes in a single postseason, 11, another three-way tie shared by Joe Montana, Kurt Warner and Joe Flacco, also per PFF.
That record will likely solely belong to Mahomes after this season. He’s at 8, another opportunity his team took from Allen. It’s another debate to say whether Allen should’ve gotten another opportunity past regulation to throw the ball. Rules are rules. He wouldn’t be complaining should the coin have landed on its other side. Or if the Bills defense got one of two necessary stops. In defeat, Allen had the greatest postseason that won’t be remembered outside of Western New York and maybe parts of Canada.
His tear through the Bengals and either NFC team would’ve been legendary and life-changing for everyone around him. The helplessness of overtime will stay with him, fuel him and probably make him better long term. There’s no doubt he’s dealing with massive FOMO right now. There’s always next year for Allen, which he probably also said after watching the Chiefs win the AFC last season at Buffalo’s expense.
He’ll get his chance soon. Allen is too damn good not to play in a Super Bowl in the next few years. This one would’ve been a little sweeter.