Bengals vs. Bills had true "legacy game" vibes. There were two young quarterbacks coming into their own, both with impressive (yet very different) resumés to close out the regular season.
It was the game of the week. We had bad weather, a snowy, slippery field - absolutely perfect for playoff football, mind you. We had the emotion of these two teams meeting again following Damar Hamlin's collapse just weeks earlier. It felt like there was more than just a trip to the AFC Championship on the line.
This was about pride. This was a fight for bragging rights for both quarterbacks, whose faces have become synonymous with their respective franchises. It was about showing the world that you have the reliance to persevere. That’s why it was so disappointing when it felt like one of those quarterbacks didn’t show up.
Buffalo now has a full off-season to contemplate how their season unraveled. Cincinnati now goes on their second consecutive AFC Championship game against the Chiefs in Arrowhead. Me? I've spent most of the day wondering which is the more important takeaway here — is it Josh Allen's demise, or is it Joe Burrow's victory?
That’s fair. It really is. Everyone’s favorite do-it-all quarterback finally couldn’t do it all, and then things fell apart.
There’s a lesson to be had here, Mr. Brandon Bean. The lesson is that your young franchise quarterback shouldn’t have to do it all. Some of that is on Josh Allen, sure. He loves to play hero ball. You can practically see the adrenaline shooting into his veins after every highlight throw, every big time run. He doesn’t shy away from anything — he’s just the quarterback you need.
That feels like what Allen really needed this season. Remember back in Week 9, when he suffered a sprained elbow many feared could end his season? He didn’t miss a single game. In fact, he averaged just under 34 pass attempts per game from Week 10 onward - just a slight decrease from his workload beforehand.
Despite investing in the running back position in the draft with rookie James Cook, we still saw Allen as a focal point of the rushing attack. Despite the lack of a reliable WR2, the team continued to lean on Allen’s sprained elbow. Instead of addressing the lack of a reliable WR2, they signed 2020 Bills legends Cole Beasley and John Brown. Were they really supposed to be Allen’s fearless heroes?
All of this is to say that the Bills are not a perfect organization. They have not built a perfect team, as much as it hurts Bills Mafia to admit. They weren’t perfectly coached, either.
To blame a floppy elbowed Josh Allen alone for their loss feels silly. So, here’s my suggestion. Let’s pour one out for the game we could have seen if all had gone right for the Bills. Then, let’s give Joe Burrow the massive credit he deserves for a stunning road upset and a nearly flawless game.
Allen’s “legacy stock” will be just fine, and if I have it my way, we’ll be watching both of these quarterbacks making deep playoff runs for many years to come.