Why the Buffalo Bills collapse was a forgone conclusion (if you only paid close enough attention)

So, I’m sitting here trying to figure out what’s wrong with the Buffalo Bills, I mean, aside from the fact that they’re a cursed (albeit proud) franchise.  I’m not a Bills fan per se.  I’m just curious as to why they can look so unbeatable, for so long, and then collapse when the heat (albeit snow) is on?

No disrespect to the teams in both Kansas City and Cincinnati who are more than happy to keep Buffalo’s curse alive, but all season long, for much of last season, certainly in 2020, indubitably next season and a few more to come, we look at Buffalo’s regular season dominance and assume, rather incorrectly, that they will end up hoisting a Super Bowl Trophy.

And then, we realize they’re the Buffalo Bills.

If any of us were forced to put money on it, we’d probably bet that somewhere along his NFL timeline, Josh Allen will win a Super Bowl as quarterback as the Buffalo Bills. 

Or would we?

As a running quarterback, or rather, as a player whose team relies so heavily on his ground game, Allen takes a pounding.  He ranked 40th in rushing attempts this season and third in rushing attempts among quarterbacks, behind Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts.

That got me to thinking, mostly because I have little else to do, about the changing nature of the game, and more specifically, how many teams have won a Super Bowl with their quarterback accounting for the bulk of the team’s yards on the ground.

Allen has played five years in the league and has already rushed for over 3,000 yards.  Over those seasons, he’s ranked 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd on his team in rushing respectively.

So, I thought to myself, how many NFL teams have won a Super Bowl with their quarterback ranking either first or second on their team in rushing?

Any guesses?

Before I get to your answer, it’s important to note we didn’t really see scrambling quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era until recently.  Guys like Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick were more of an anomaly than anything else.  In fact, it took a while before we even saw a quarterback become the THIRD leading rusher on a Super Bowl winning team.  And while you might think the answer to that trivia question is Steve Young, you’d be wrong.  The first NFL quarterback to rank THIRD in his team’s rushing output, and win a Super Bowl, was Jim McMahon for the Super Bowl XX winning Chicago Bears.  McMahon rushed for 252 yards that season, which was third behind obviously Walter Payton and fullback Matt Suhey.

Only TWO quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era have ranked second on their team in rushing (none have ranked first) and won a Super Bowl.

Those men are… Aaron Rodgers in 2010 who, with 356 yards, was second in rushing to teammate Brandon Jackson (703) and Russell Wilson in 2013, who rushed for 539 yards, behind Marshawn Lynch’s 1257.

That’s it.

Only twice in the Super Bowl era has a team whose quarterback accounted for that much of their rushing output ever led them to a championship.  For this reason, teams salivate over pocket passers like Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence and why they’re hesitant to sign players like Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson.

This is also why the Buffalo Bills better figure out what they’re going to do with Josh Allen and the offense that surrounds him before his body starts to wear down.   While the game itself may be changing, its history does not lie.  I am not suggesting running quarterbacks can’t win Super Bowls.  I am suggesting that running quarterbacks who account for that much of their team’s ground attack rarely do. 

Which brings us back to why the Buffalo Bills can’t win the big game, or even get to it.  I’m sure this conundrum has the front office and fan base scratching their collective heads.  I’ll gladly pick up the phone if they ring.

These Buffalo Bills, as they’re currently comprised, have had double digit wins their last four seasons.  The closest they’ve come to making a Super Bowl came in 2020 when they lost in the AFC Championship game to the Chiefs.  They lost again to the Chiefs in 2021 and now the Bengals in 2022.  And I have bad news for Bills fans.  Mahomes and Burrow are not going anywhere any time soon so the Bills will have to design their roster to beat not only those two teams but also the up-and-comers in the AFC, of which there are plenty.

Buffalo’s (in retrospect, explicable) collapse once again broke the hearts of a fan base that’s grown accustomed to it.  That doesn’t make it any easier.  A Bills offense that ranked second in the league (28.4 ppg) managed only 10 against the Bengals.  A Bills defense that also ranked second in in the league (17.9 ppg) allowed 27 to the Bengals.  This game was in their home stadium, where they wanted it, yet Buffalo was exposed by a more, well-rounded team who knew the Bills better than their own front office.

Josh Allen will be 27 years old by the time next season starts.  He will be entering his prime.  Behind him, the 2022 offense was frightening.  Stefon Diggs was fifth in the league in receiving yards.  Gabriel Davis was a highlight reel.  Devin Singletary tallied another 819 yards rushing.  They just didn’t do it again when it mattered most for reasons that are right in front of their frostbitten faces.

All they need to do is look.

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