Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills got the season off to a throwing start.
In overseeing three consecutive first-half touchdown drives, Allen became Buffalo’s first quarterback to top 300 yards passing in nearly three-plus years in a 27-17 season-opening win over the New York Jets on Sunday.
The Bills overcame injuries to two starting linebackers, while Allen overcame his own sloppiness in picking apart a rebuilt Jets secondary after star safety Jamal Adams forced his trade to Seattle this offseason.
“We wanted to start off and get the ball into our playmakers' hands outside and let them do their thing,” Allen said. “But we still have to find more ways to get into the end zone. We left too many points out there. I take that responsibility on myself.”
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Allen was referring to losing two fumbles in the first half, both times inside Jets territory.
Blemishes aside, Allen spread the ball to his upgraded group of receivers, which now features the addition of Stefon Diggs, in finishing 33 of 46 for 312 yards with two touchdowns, plus another one rushing. Tyrod Taylor, Allen's predecessor, had 329 yards passing in a overtime loss to Miami on Dec. 24, 2016.,
Diggs had eight catches for a team-leading 86 yards in his Bills debut after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota in March. John Brown had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Buffalo’s defense was a force despite losing Matt Milano to a hamstring injury in the second quarter, and after the outside linebacker intercepted Sam Darnold’s weak pass over the middle. Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds did not return after hurting his shoulder while trying to tackle Jets receiver Jamison Crowder, who scored on a 69-yard touchdown catch and run, which briefly cut Buffalo’s lead to 21-10 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
The Bills defense, however, came through on New York’s next possession. Safety Jordan Poyer stripped the ball from tight end Chris Herndon, and the fumble was recovered by Jerry Hughes at the Jets 38 two plays into the fourth quarter.
The turnover led to Tyler Bass hitting a 22-yard field goal — after the rookie missed his first two attempts wide right.
Coach Sean McDermott was unable to provide any updates on his injured players, but was impressed how the Bills persevered through injuries, turnovers, and Bass’ inconsistencies.
“We’ll see what happens this week. We hope and pray we get them back,” McDermott said of Milano and Edmunds.
“There’s going to be adversity like there was today, whether it was injuries or change of momentum,” he added. “And I think we’ve learned that we’ve got to continue to push through and I thought our team did that today.”
Very little went right for the Jets, who opened with three three-and-outs, combined for 23 yards of offense and one first down on their first five possessions, and trailed 21-0 before the game was 25 minutes old.
“It was about as bad of a start offensively as we could’ve had,” caoch Adam Gase said. “We just really did not play well. It’s disappointing in the aspect that, just watching the guys work all week and the excitement level coming into this game. We’ve got a lot to work on. We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to get fixed.”
Darnold finished 21 of 35 for 215 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in a matchup of two of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. Crowder had seven catches for 117 yards. Josh Adams scored on a 2-yard plunge in the final minute.
“I’ve got to be better and we’ve got to execute better. It’s as simple as that," said Darnold, who opened hitting just four of his 10 first attempts for 22 yards.
The Jets finished without starting running back Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) and linebacker Blake Cashman (groin).
New York resembled the team that opened 1-7 last season — a stretch that began with the Jets squandering a 16-0 lead at home in a 17-16 loss to the Bills — as opposed to the one that closed 6-2, including a season-ending 13-6 win at Buffalo in a game the playoff-bound Bills rested most of their starters.
Ball-handling aside, Allen showed continued signs of development, which was particularly evident on his 17-yard touchdown pass to Brown, which put the Bills up 21-0.
Allen made an audible after seeing Jets cornerback Pierre Desir playing 10 yards off the line of scrimmage opposite Brown. Allen threw a quick low pass, which was scooped up by Brown, who then cut into the middle for the score.
The Bills and Jets remained in their locker rooms for the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
The numerous Bills and private parking lots around the stadium -- some which usual begin filling up two days before a home-opening kickoff -- were completely empty. The Bills barred fans from tailgating, and Orchard Park declined to provide business licenses to private operators.
Inside Bills Stadium, the first seven rows from the field were covered in blue tarp and featured logos of team sponsors. A slogan printed on the tarps on each side of midfield read: “Bills family honors those on the front lines.”
Very little crowd noise was being pumped in, and players could be heard yelling out calls and checks could be heard echoing through the empty stadium.
Jets: Host San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 20.
Bills: At Miami Dolphins on Sept. 20.
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