“Great player, certainly an MVP candidate,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said midway through his press conference opening monologue this week talking about Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen.
On the surface, it might seem a meaningless remark, a simple statement of the obvious. After all, Allen is clearly a great player and undoubtedly an MVP candidate once again, leading the Super Bowl-contending Bills into Thursday night’s matchup with Belichick’s fledgling Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
But for Belichick the comment could just as easily be interpreted as, “I’m sorry, Josh. I was wrong about you.” Call it damage control.
You see, it was less than two years ago now, when Allen was in the midst of this breakout third NFL season, that Belichick reportedly questioned the Buffalo star’s budding greatness.
As the Bills and Patriots prepared to do battle on Monday Night football back in December of 2020, Belichick made it abundantly and energetically clear to the ESPN broadcast crew during their production meeting that he, as Brian Griese put it then, “didn’t buy into the Josh Allen craze.”
“He was not having any of it,” ESPN’s Louis Riddick, a former Belichick player with the Browns, passed along of his former coach’s feelings on Allen being the supposed MVP favorite at that time.
Well, as the old saying goes, mess with the bull and you get the horns. Or, in this case, mess with the Bills QB and your defense gets dominated.
The Patriots and Bills have played four games since Belichick questioned Allen’s MVP worthiness. In those four games Allen has thrown 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. His passer ratings in those performances included games of 104.4, 138.7 and 157.6. He’s also averaged more than 7 yards per carry on over 200 rushing yards in the matchups.
Since Belichick questioned Allen’s MVP credentials, the Bills have outscored the Patriots a combined 128-61 in four meetings.
Sure New England stole one of the four thanks in large part to the wacky winds in Buffalo early last December, but even in that game Allen made plays and easily could have gotten the victory had his teammates caught the ball better in the crazy conditions.
Despite Belichick’s inexplicable recent comments attempting to muddy the water or defend his defense that’s been defenseless against the Bills, New England was unable to force Allen to even punt once in the last two meetings in the series late last season.
Certainly the most obvious example of Allen’s greatness, ability that Belichick previously overlooked and underappreciated, was last postseason when he led the Bills to seven touchdowns on Buffalo’s seven meaningful possessions in the 47-17 embarrassment of the Patriots. He completed 21 of his 25 throws in the game for 308 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for another 66 yards. The Bills were perfect in the red zone (6-for-6) and perfect on third down (6-for-6) until backup QB Mitchell Trubisky’s final kneel-down of the night to send Belichick’s Patriots into the offseason with their collective tail between their legs.
Allen has unequivocally owned the Patriots and their Belichick-led defense of late. It is what it is.
Does Allen take matchups with the Patriots and Belichick’s defenses personally? Did those Belichick comments two years ago motivate the talented passer, giving him even more reason to unleash his incomparable skills on New England’s overmatched defenders? Does he try to prove a point every time Belichick is on the opposite sideline?
Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe Allen is just that good and the Patriots defense just isn’t. He is, after all, pretty damn impressive against the rest of Buffalo’s opponents as well.
Whether Allen took note of Belichick’s comments two years ago or not is no longer relevant. Whether he still thinks about the future Hall of Fame coach questioning his abilities and talents is not the issue.
What matters now is whether Belichick can find any answers for Allen’s obvious greatness as arguably the most uniquely talented quarterback the NFL has seen in quite some time. Allen has the size, running ability and arm talent to beat a defense in almost any fashion he so chooses. Anyone needing evidence of that need look no further than last January’s Super Wild Card Weekend game against the Patriots in which Allen ran around and through the defense while also showing off his incredible arm strength, touch and accuracy.
Is Allen an MVP-caliber quarterback? You’re damn right he his.
Even Belichick knows that now, a late arrival to the party.
Now that he actually admits it, maybe that’s the first step to he and his team’s defense finding a way to at least slow down the Bills’ superstar quarterback. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?
Two years too late Belichick finally realizes that Allen is a “Great player, certainly an MVP candidate.”
Yes, Bill, now what are you and your defense going to do to stop him?
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