(Photo credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
The Buffalo Bills already have seen a disastrous loss and a runaway victory through two weeks of the new season.
They're hoping the latter is more indicative of their ceiling as they head into Week 3 against the unbeaten Washington Commanders on Sunday in Landover, Md.
Josh Allen threw threeinterceptions and lost a fumble to let the Aaron Rodgers-less New York Jets rally for a 22-16 overtime win in the season opener. Allen played a much sharper game in Week 2, torching the Las Vegas Raiders for 274 yards and three touchdowns on 31-of-37 passing in Buffalo's 38-10 rout.
The Bills (1-1) do not want Allen to shoulder as much of the load on offense this year, so it helped that second-year running back James Cook broke out for a career-high 123 rushing yards against the Raiders.
"We can be a two-dimensional offense, pound the ball when we need to pound it," Bills coach Sean McDermott said after the game. "... When you can control the line of scrimmage, it makes play-calling a lot easier."
Allen and Buffalo face a tougher challenge this week against Washington's front seven. When the Commanders (2-0) defeated the Denver Broncos 35-33 last Sunday, they sacked Russell Wilson seven times and totaled 14 quarterback hits.
The unit features several former first-round draft picks, including Montez Sweat and Chase Young, each of whom came away with 1.5 sacks against Denver. It was Young's season debut after a neck injury.
"It's one of the best groups, if not the best group in the league up front," Allen said. "They're all big, fast, powerful, explosive. They all can get after the quarterback. Again, making sure that we don't let them take over the game because they have the ability to do that."
The Commanders are now 3-0 when Sam Howell starts at quarterback. Once a projected No. 1 overall draft pick who instead fell to the fifth round, Howell won his only start when Washington gave him the reins at the end of 2022.
Howell completed 27 of 39 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns against Denver. His cause has been helped by Brian Robinson Jr., Washington's clear No. 1 running back who has gained 146 rushing yards over two games.
Howell also credited Washington's screen pass game.
"I think (offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy) does a good job with just certain formations, certain formations where they might be expecting pass or something like that, or maybe we're running a formation a couple times throughout the game to try to set the screen up," Howell said. "That way, they see some different looks out of that formation and the last thing they're expecting is a screen."
The Commanders can also say they are undefeated in the Josh Harris era after Harris purchased the team from scandal-plagued owner Daniel Snyder.
"It's kind of a delight, to be honest with you, that we have been able to focus on our players on the field," coach Ron Rivera said.
Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne (ankle) and tight end Logan Thomas (concussion) did not practice Wednesday. Defensive back Jartavius Martin (concussion) was limited.
The Bills were missing defensive end Leonard Floyd (ankle), defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (illness) and safety Micah Hyde (hamstring) from the defense at Wednesday's practice. Tight end Dawson Knox (back) was also out and linebacker Terrel Bernard (knee/quad) was limited.
--Field Level Media