(Reuters) – Facing the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen told reporters ahead of Sunday’s AFC Championship game that he’s focused on being “the best version of myself.”
After a breakout 2020 season, one could argue that mission has already been accomplished.
The 24-year-old was dogged by skepticism through the first two years of his career, finishing 23rd in passing yards in 2019 amid concern from experts and armchair analysts alike that he could become yet another former first-round pick who failed to live up to his potential.
What a difference a year makes.
Allen charged into the 2020 regular season with four straight wins and wrapped up the year with 4,544 passing yards – the fifth most in the league – improving his completion percentage to 69.2% from 58.8% in 2019 and honing his reputation as one of the NFL’s strongest-performing quarterbacks under pressure.
“He’s the general, he’s the man,” said wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who lead the league in receiving yards (1,535) during the regular season. “He’s poised, he doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. I never see him overly excited.”
With 421 rushing yards on the regular season, the 6-foot five-inch, 238-pound dual-threat quarterback ran in eight touchdowns in addition to his 37 passing TDs, earning respect from his offensive corps.
“Him putting his head down to get extra yards and things like that go far with us,” said Diggs.
The Pro Bowl quarterback harnessed that poise to take down Philip Rivers’ Indianapolis Colts and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens in the postseason, setting up a potential matchup against Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, who is in doubt for the AFC Championship showdown due to concussion protocol.
“I’m just trying to be the best version of myself – I’m not trying to compare to the other three guys who arguably (are) some of the best guys to play the game that are left,” said Allen, who finished 2020 with the fourth-highest passer rating in the NFL.
“This is the next step for Josh,” head coach Sean McDermott told reporters Wednesday. “This is what you work for, this is what he worked for so he’ll be ready.”
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)