Josh Allen threw two touchdown passes and ran for another – shrugging off aggravating an injury to his throwing shoulder – and the Buffalo Bills hung on to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18 on Thursday night.
After a week of questions about his “low-energy” approach and Buffalo’s slow-starting offense, Allen came through for the Bills (5-3), throwing for 324 yards on 31-of-40 passing. He had been listed on the Bills’ report with a right shoulder injury and was checked in the blue medical tent in the second quarter, but remained in the game.
Gabriel Davis had a career-best nine catches for 87 yards and a touchdown, and rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid scored his first career TD on a 22-yard catch.
Buffalo’s defense limited the Buccaneers’ Baker Mayfield-led attack to less than 200 yards of offense through three quarters and 302 overall. And Bills punter Sam Martin contributed by landing three punts inside Tampa Bay’s 10.
Mayfield tried to rally Tampa Bay (3-4) late. He threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans, followed by a 2-point conversion to Cade Otton, to get the Buccaneers within six with 2:44 remaining. But it took Tampa Bay 17 plays and 7:21 to march 92 yards for that score.
The game ended when Mayfield’s Hail Mary attempt from his own 45 fell between several players in the end zone. The Buccaneers have lost three straight and four of five since opening 2-0.
Buffalo built a 17-10 lead at halftime and never trailed. That was seven more points than the Bills had combined for in the first halves of their previous three games, two of which they lost.
Having a lead took the pressure off a defense missing three key starters.
Mayfield finished 25 of 42 for 237 yards and two touchdowns, including a three-yarder to Chris Godwin, who was the closest to Mayfield’s final throw when it fell to the turf untouched. Running back Rachaad White led the Bucs with seven catches for 70 yards and had nine carries for 39 yards.
Tampa Bay’s defense was missing both starting defensive tackles. Vita Vea was ruled out with a groin injury, and Logan Hall hurt his groin during pre-game warmups.
Allen took advantage, topping 300 yards for the 23rd time in his career.
His TD run was the 43rd of his career, matching Steve Young for second-most all-time among quarterbacks. And he now has 199 combined passing and rushing touchdowns, tying Hall of Famer Dan Marino for second among quarterbacks in their first six seasons.
Allen said on Tuesday he might be partially responsible for Buffalo’s slow-starting offense after consciously making the decision to rein in his emotions last month. Allen called it a “low positive” approach and acknowledged he might have gone too far in reducing his energy level.
The only thing subdued about Allen was his touchdown celebration following his 13-yard scoring run. Allen stood in the left corner of the end zone in front of a cheering crowd and casually walked up the sideline after being congratulated by several teammates.
On the play before his TD run, Allen was sacked along the sideline, and that hit is what sent him to the medical tent to have his shoulder evaluated. He returned in time for Buffalo’s next drive but threw an interception when his pass deflected off the fingers of Antoine Winfield Jr and was caught by defensive lineman William Gholston.
The Buccaneers scored two plays later on Mayfield’s pass to Godwin to tie the game at 10-all.
Allen then led Buffalo on a nine-play, 75-yard drive, capped by the quarterback rolling to his right and throwing across his body to find Kincaid open over the middle.
Everything the offense appeared to lack over the past three weeks seemed corrected. The Bills changed their rhythm by going up-tempo at times to keep the Bucs off balance. And Allen attacked the middle of the field, something he was hesitant to do in his previous two outings.