ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)Josh Allen made a mental note after seeing receiver Gabe Davis have a bounce in his step a day earlier during the Buffalo Bills’ final walk-through session before facing the Steelers.
Perhaps, the quarterback hoped, Davis was finally over any lingering issues of an ankle injury that had limited him over the past three weeks.
Three snaps into what became a 38-3 rout of the Steelers is all it took for Allen to prove his instinct correct.
Facing third-and-10, and backed up at his 2, Allen aired a pass deep down the middle, which Davis caught in stride for a game-opening 98-yard touchdown.
”I kind of got hit right when I threw it, so I didn’t see him catch it. I just kind of heard the crowd go crazy,” Allen said. ”Those ones are cool. It’s going to be tough to beat.”
It was enough to wow even Stefon Diggs.
”I was like, damn,” Diggs said. ”I gotta go talk to him. I tell him he’s still slow, but that was amazing.”
Allen followed what matched the franchise record for longest completion by throwing three more touchdown passes – including a 62-yarder to Davis and 15-yarder to Diggs some two minutes apart – in the first half alone in picking apart a flimsy and injury-depleted secondary.
Following two close calls in splitting its past two outings, Buffalo (4-1) overcame its own injury-depleted offense which was missing three receivers and starting tight end Dawson Knox, to build a 31-3 lead by halftime.
”We like to go fast,” Bills pass rusher Von Miller said of the team’s identity on both sides of the ball.
”We came into this with the killer instinct, attitude, the mindset of domination,” Miller added. ”And I feel like that mindset really separates good teams from other good teams.”
Despite wind gusts of up to 20 mph, Allen’s 348 yards passing in the first half were tied for the second most over the opening two quarters in an NFL game since 1991. Pulled in favor of backup Case Keenum in the fourth quarter, Allen finished 20 of 31 for 424 yards, the second most in team history, and most in a game ending in regulation.
Davis became just the fifth NFL player since 2000 to have two touchdown catches of 60 or more yards in the same game, and first since Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase had a pair in a 34-31 win over Kansas City on Jan. 2 last season.
Very little went right for the Steelers (1-4), who have lost four straight – their longest skid since opening the 2013 season with four losses. The loss was the biggest margin of defeat for the Steelers since a 51-0 rout against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 10, 1989.
”We just got smashed today,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
”There’s nothing mystical about it,” he added, noting the Bills did the same thing in beating Tennessee 41-7 in Week. 2. ”We know it’s capable of happening. Just disappointed that we didn’t coach well enough or play well enough to prevent if from happening. We need to absorb the position that we are in, what transpired today. And we’ve got to know that there’s going to be better days.”
Whatever spark the Steelers hoped rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett would provide in his first career start was negated by a defense missing top pass rusher T.J. Watt and starting safety Terrell Edmunds (concussion) and starting cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring). The injuries mounted during the game with cornerback Cam Sutton sidelined by a hamstring injury and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi ruled out with a back injury.
Pickett finished 34 of 52 for 327 yards and an interception, in taking over the starting job from Mitch Trubisky.
”It’s one game at a time, and it doesn’t get easier,” said Pickett, looking ahead to a Steelers schedule that has them facing Tampa Bay, Miami and Philadelphia before hitting their bye week.
Impressive as Davis’ first touchdown was, his second one might have been even better.
Pulling in the ball with his right hand at the goal line, Davis then outmuscled Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had momentarily stripped the ball away. Davis then ripped the ball back midway through the end zone.
Buffalo’s 31-3 lead at the half could have been even bigger. Allen’s pass intended for Davis in the end zone was intercepted by Levi Wallace to end the Bills’ fourth possession, while kicker Tyler Bass had a 49-yard field-goal attempt blocked three minutes in.
Rookie receiver Khalil Shakir scored his first career TD on a 24-yard catch, and rookie running back James Cook scored his first career TD on a 24-yard run.
Steelers: TE Pat Freiermuth sustained a concussion in the third quarter and did not return.
Bills: MLB Tremaine Edumunds (hamstring) did not play, though the Bills welcomed back starting DT Ed Oliver, who missed three games with an ankle injury, and Jordan Phillips, who missed two games with a hamstring injury.
Steelers: Host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Bills: At the Kansas City Chiefs in playoff rematch on Sunday.
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