1 – Josh Allen is improving
The rookie quarterback moved up in the rotation this week, as he got the opportunity to play with most of the starters on offense when he entered the game with just under 12 minutes left in the second quarter.
Allen appeared to put a charge in an offense that had been spinning its wheels. After an incomplete pass on his first attempt, Allen would connect on five of his next six passes capping a 15-play drive with a two-yard touchdown throw to Rod Streater in the back of the end zone.
"Overall, I would say he's been pretty steady," said head coach Sean McDermott. "That's a great quality. Mentally he's pretty steady. I think the guys appreciate that for a rookie to have that quality is important. The mental toughness element if you will that's so important to manage the highs and lows of the NFL."
On the team's first four offensive series they gained just 22 yards on 12 plays, going three-and-out on each of those possessions with AJ McCarron directing the offense. The touchdown drive with Allen at the controls went 15 plays for 80 yards.
The rookie's poise on the 3rd-and-goal play from the Browns' two-yard line was impressive. After standing tall in the pocket, Allen felt the rush, stepped up and delivered a strike to Streater, who was coming across the back of the end zone left to right and hit him right in the chest for the score.
"Rod is a vet," said Allen. "He knows how to win. He was on time at the right time and we had a little pressure, but we made the play. I just had to get the ball to him and he did it."
"We had a little back end line play," said Streater. "Josh did a good job. The safety bit on him when he stepped up in the pocket, so a really good play design. So props to Daboll on that play. We ran that play so many times in practice. It was a great throw."
Allen also got an opportunity to lead a two-minute drill at the end of the first half. A drive which also resulted in points for the Bills.
With a favorable drive start at the Browns 41-yard line, Allen put his scrambling ability on display as he ran twice to pick up 15 yards. That along with an eight-yard completion to Streater, helped put the Bills in field goal range for Stephen Hauschka to put a 33-yard attempt up and through at the close of the first half to turn a 7-0 deficit into a 10-7 halftime lead.
"As quarterbacks we try to make this game more complicated than it is. We took what the defense gave us and tried to get the ball in our playmakers hands was what we were trying to do," said Allen. "I felt I did a pretty good job of that. There are still some things to clean up."
The Bills first-round pick got one more series to start the second half and went 3-for-3 passing for 19 yards before the drive stalled, with Hauschka picking up the offense with a 53-yard field goal.
"I thought Josh came in and moved the ball. He was productive," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Three scoring drives I believe. It looked like it was a step in the right direction. He got some meaningful time in the first half, which is important. He directed a two-minute drive before half. He came out after half and took control of the first series, which is all good experience for him."
McDermott declined to answer any questions about what the quarterback rotation might look like going forward, saying he wanted to review the game film first. AJ McCarron also sustained a right shoulder injury, which could impact the QB competition as well.
Allen finished 9-13 for 60 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 104.6.
*2 – Run defense needs work *Buffalo's defense had a good-looking performance against the run in the preseason opener against Carolina, when they held the Panthers to 53 yards on 26 carries (2.0 yards per carry). Their run stopping ability against the Browns was a much different story.
The Bills first team defense got hit for consistent gains by Cleveland's run game on the opening possession. A missed tackle on the flank led to a 26-yard run by Carlos Hyde. That was followed by an 18-yard run up the middle by Duke Johnson.
Hyde capped the Browns opening drive with a four-yard touchdown run.
"They were hitting us on the outside," said Shaq Lawson. "They showed us a lot of different stuff that we hadn't seen. When they were running the belly play they were getting outside. Usually those plays hit inside and not out wide, so I was kind of crossed up a couple of times when I saw it.
"We've got to get better. It starts with the run game. We've got to stop the run game first. They came out and were running it and scored on the first drive."
Cleveland rolled up 63 yards on nine carries on their opening possession, needing just 17 yards through the air on the drive.
"Not good enough," said McDermott flatly. "I thought last week we did a good job of stopping the run. This week it wasn't good enough by any means. It was not up to our standard. So we've got to go back and take a look at it. Some of those were hitting inside. Sometimes it takes the film to really diagnose where it was hitting and why. You go back and get things corrected and get it up to the standard that we desire."
The Browns finished with 164 yards on the ground and averaged more than five yards per carry.
*3 – Murphy shows he's multi-faceted *After a strong outing in the preseason opener as a rusher, Marcus Murphy put his talents on display as a return man for the Bills.
With Buffalo set to get the ball back with just under two minutes remaining in the first half, Murphy delivered premium field position. Lined up as the punt returner, Murphy was able to capture the corner and accelerated down the right sideline.
He later cut inside and had he not lost his balance and fallen over his feet he likely would've gone another 20 yards on what wound up being a 39-yard return.
"I just try to take advantage of each opportunity," said Murphy. "The guys did a great job and blocked for me and they just allowed me to run and get the yards that I did get. I'm just thankful that I did get the opportunities."
His return set the offense up at the Browns 41-yard line, and they delivered with a field goal drive to give the Bills the lead at halftime (10-7).
Murphy also was the team's leading rusher with 39 yards on four carries (9.8 avg.).
Coupling a strong rushing performance in the first preseason game with a big return on special teams against Cleveland has all but assured the diminutive back a spot on the 53-man roster.
Photos of Buffalo's second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.