The Bengals have found their backup quarterback. And some teams might be looking at Brandon Allen as more than that.
Allen started out the game against the Houston Texans by protecting the ball and playing with great efficiency, finding running backs Giovani Bernard and Samaje Perine for 28-yard and 15-yard gains respectively on screen passes on Cincinnati’s first drive. He culminated the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Drew Sample. It seemed as if the team was working to Allen’s strengths, or, to put it another way, hiding his weaknesses. Allen continued to complete passes at a high rate by playing conservatively into the middle of the second quarter.
And then the QB took over.
With seven minutes left in the half, he connected on a 33-yard deep ball to A.J. Green. Three plays later, he found Tee Higgins for a 30 yard gain. Things only got better in the second half, when he hit Higgins again for 31 yards and Alex Erickson - Alex Erickson - for 42 yards, which set up his 20 yard touchdown pass to Higgins.
The fifth-year journeyman out of Arkansas was hot by every metric. In terms of traditional stats, he finished with 371 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs passing. In the process, he completed 29 or 37 passes (78.4%). That earned him a QB rating of 126.5, a QBR of 86.3, and a PFF grade of 91.0. How good is that? Well, it’s the best by a Bengals QB all year, and that includes Joe Burrow.
PFF gave Brandon Allen a 91.0 grade for yesterday's performance!— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) December 28, 2020
Joe Burrow's highest single game grade was an 86.5 vs Philadelphia
That stellar grade propped his season stats up to the point where he now leads the team in a number of categories:
Brandon Allen this season— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) December 27, 2020
69.4 completion percentage
7.3 yards per attempt
4.13 touchdown percentage
97 passer rating
All best on the team
Before anyone gets carried away, it is clear that the team is playing far more cohesively late in the season. The running game has finally gotten going, even though Joe Mixon is missing. And the pass protection has been noticeably better. This could be related to Burrow’s absence, in the sense that, talented athletes and desperate coaches decided to assume more responsibility with their franchise cornerstone out for the year. Or it could simply be that playing for nothing but pride is precisely what they needed.
But the bigger story is that the Bengals do have a quality backup quarterback now. Clearly, Allen is making progress. Just look to his far weaker numbers across the board last year with the Denver Broncos. He completed just 46.4% of his passes and ended up with a QB rating of 68.3. Hopefully, the 28-year-old Allen, who signed just a one-year deal, will decide to stick around instead of pursuing better opportunities at a starting gig.
We talked about Allen’s performance in the video below:
You can also listen on iTunes and using the player below: