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Josh Allen, Bills Cruise to Win over Drew Lock, Broncos, Clinch AFC Playoff Spot

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 20, 2020

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen runs for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The Buffalo Bills are AFC East champions for the first time since 1995 thanks to their 48-19 victory over the Denver Broncos on Saturday night.

Few teams in the NFL can claim to be playing better than the Bills at this point in the season. The only blemish on their resume since Week 7 is the 32-30 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on the "Hail Murray" touchdown from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins on Nov. 15.

Saturday's win ends the Bills' 25-year streak without a division title and officially ends the New England Patriots' 11-year reign atop the AFC East.

Josh Allen continues to strengthen his MVP credentials after breaking the 300-yard passing mark for the seventh time and accounting for four touchdowns against the Broncos defense. 

Buffalo's defense continues to play well after allowing 255 yards and returning a Drew Lock fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter. 

The loss drops the Broncos to 5-9 overall, their fourth straight season with a losing record. 

Notable Game Stats

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  • Josh Allen, QB (BUF): 28-of-40, 359 yards, 2 TD; 3 carries, 33 yards, 2 TD
  • Stefon Diggs, WR (BUF): 11 receptions, 147 yards
  • Cole Beasley, WR (BUF): 8 receptions, 112 yards
  • Devin Singletary, RB (BUF): 8 carries, 68 yards, TD; 3 receptions, 16 yards
  • Drew Lock, QB (DEN): 20-of-32, 132 yards, TD; 5 carries, 37 yards
  • Noah Fant, TE (DEN): 8 receptions, 68 yards, TD
  • Melvin Gordon III, RB (DEN): 11 carries, 61 yards, 2 TD

Allen, Daboll Perfect Combination for Explosive Bills Offense

Allen's emergence as an MVP candidate this season is one of the NFL's great success stories in 2020. The third-year quarterback deserves plenty of credit for making himself into an elite player. It helps the Bills also have a mastermind calling plays to guide him. 

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has put together some of the best game plans of any assistant coach this season. 

Bill Barnwell @billbarnwell

As impressive as Josh Allen’s growth has been, Brian Daboll’s improvement as OC has also been remarkable. His offenses before Buffalo were uninspiring. Now, he's running an aggressive, modern attack, and gets the most out of a wide range of players (Allen included).

Even when the plays that Daboll calls don't work because of a penalty, like a Statue-of-Liberty run on Saturday, they are incredible to watch in execution:

Buffalo Bills @BuffaloBills

Didn’t count but WOW... 📺: #BUFvsDEN on @NFLNetwork https://t.co/p8hbzyC9RQ

Adam Schein @AdamSchein

Brian Daboll is the assistant coach of the year. https://t.co/SGIgv5bJOs

Hashtag Sports @Htagsports

Brian Daboll, using a play made famous by Jared Zabranski, a former Boise State “Bronco” is just elite level trolling.

Making it all work is Allen. He's been a threat to break big plays with his legs since entering the league in 2018. The 24-year-old still has that in his bag of tricks when he needs it, as he did on this 24-yard touchdown run in the second quarter:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

JOSH ALLEN DOES IT ALL. (via @NFL) https://t.co/2eXFBawwdm

When you combine that speed and athleticism with Allen's precise throwing accuracy, he becomes one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. 

NFL @NFL

Josh. Allen. 🔥 📺: #BUFvsDEN on @NFLNetwork 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/TYgmNmXBkP https://t.co/dvtI4qgTpk

PFF @PFF

This resulted in a 1st down 🤯 Josh Allen is a wizard https://t.co/9qKj2IcCVV

Rich Eisen @richeisen

Hey folks, @JoshAllenQB is coming for your team.

The Bills have built a perfect offense around their star quarterback in 2020. They already had a reliable slot receiver in Cole Beasley on their roster. General manager Brandon Beane went outside the organization to acquire Stefon Diggs in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings to get a downfield threat. 

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

This is team-building: The Bills traded their first-rounder and thensome for a true No. 1 WR (Stefon Diggs) and STILL came away from the draft with a promising guy (Gabriel Davis) at the position. Not accident that Buffalo's here. That roster's loaded.

Diggs has been a revelation in this system. The 27-year-old entered Saturday having already set a career-high with 1,167 receiving yards. He added 147 to that total against the Broncos. 

Buffalo's offense has scored at least 26 points in each of its last six games. This is the most consistent and complete unit in the AFC after the Chiefs offense. 

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Allen and Daboll have the Bills positioned to be the biggest playoff threat to the defending Super Bowl champions. 

Broncos Can't Bet on Lock's Long-Term Future

If it wasn't already apparent, the Broncos need to be in the market for a long-term solution at quarterback. Lock has proven throughout his first full season as the starter that he's not capable of elevating the offense around him. 

There have been glimmers of the potential that Broncos general manager John Elway saw in him after a good five-game stretch at the end of 2019. He just threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers

Certainly, Lock made some quality throws Saturday. His touchdown pass to Noah Fant in the second quarter was terrific and kept the Broncos in the game at halftime:

Denver Broncos @Broncos

The @DrewLock23 ➡️ @nrfant connection 🔥 📺:NFLN https://t.co/ACw9qAQ21I

On the whole, though, Lock has done more bad than good in 2020. His 132 yards against the Bills was his lowest total in a game that he didn't leave early due to an injury. The Missouri alum averaged 4.1 yards per attempt. 

Coming into Week 15, Lock ranked last out of 35 qualified quarterbacks in completion percentage (57.3) and 28th in QBR (49.5). His 13 interceptions are the second-most among all quarterbacks, only ahead of Carson Wentz's 15. 

Big Cat @BarstoolBigCat

The Broncos have to be done with Drew Lock

Nick Ferguson @NickFerguson_25

I was optimistic that about Drew Lock continuing to take steps forward, but he’s reverting back to bad habits w/ drives stalling. (1)Throwing behind WRs (2)Missing targets AND (3) FOOTWORK #BroncosCountry #Broncos Any questions @jamesmerilatt @CecilLammey @JDavisD12 @1043TheFan

Lock wasn't a bad option for the Broncos when he was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft. He was regarded as a borderline first-round talent by some analysts. 

The Broncos had every reason to be encouraged when Lock went 4-1 with 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns and a 64.1 completion percentage as a rookie. 

Unfortunately, as can happen when opposing teams get tape on a player, Lock has regressed in such a dramatic way that the Broncos can't afford to let another year go by with him as their best option under center. 

Denver has a sound offensive nucleus around the quarterback in place. When Courtland Sutton returns from a torn ACL next season, pairing him with Jerry Jeudy has the potential to make for an explosive receiving duo. Fant continues to show great promise at tight end. 

There is a baseline set for the Broncos to be a quality offense. They are probably going to have a good draft pick in an excellent year for teams that need a quarterback. 

Lock's struggles on Saturday only confirmed that the Broncos need help at the most important position in 2021. 

     

What's Next?

The Bills will travel to Gillette Stadium to play the Patriots in the final Monday Night Football game of the season on Dec. 28. The Broncos will play their final road game of the season on Dec. 27 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

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