Texans coach knows Bills QB Allen’s abilities all too well

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Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) is tackled by Haason Reddick (43) of Carolina Panthers and Morgan Fox (91) during the first half of an NFL football game on Thursday, September 23, 2021 in Houston. (AP Photo / Eric Christian Smith)

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Houston Texans first-year coach David Culley closed his Zoom appeal with Buffalo reporters asking for a big favor.

“Tell them to take it easy with us up there,” Culley said as the rebuilding Texans (1-2) move to face the Buffalo Bills (2-1) led by Josh Allen (2-1). ) Sunday.

Allen doesn’t mean to oblige by saying, “Don’t plan this.”

The good-natured joke was exchanged between two people very familiar with each other. As Buffalo quarterbacks coach during Allen’s 2018 rookie season, Culley looked past the player’s raw inconsistencies to get a glimpse of his burgeoning potential.

“Basically what you did was you just wanted him to be basically right because you knew it was all there,” Culley recalls.

“I’m not surprised to know where he is now,” he added, before laughing out loud. “I wish he would go back inconsistent for at least another week.”

Allen shook off the nervousness of the start of the season in a 43-21 win over Washington last weekend. Improving to 9-0 passing 300 passing yards, Allen threw four touchdown passes and rushed for another to regain the dominant form he displayed in his breakthrough season 2020.

“I think that just sets the ball rolling, but there is still a lot we can learn from,” Allen said.

Whatever issues remain, they can be resolved against a Texan opponent with question marks on both sides of the ball.

Houston has allowed an average of 386 yards and is playing a Tampa 2 style defense that protects against big plays but is susceptible to short pass attacks. The Bills feature a trio of receivers established in Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders, who are able to find weak spots in the cover.

On offense, rookie Davis Mills makes his second straight start in place of Tyrod Taylor, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury. Mills scored 19 of 28 for 168 yards and a touchdown in a 24-9 loss to Carolina last week.

The Texans’ only touchdown came when Mills launched a rushed attack and capped a 64-yard seven-game drive with a 1-yard pass to Anthony Miller.

Otherwise, Houston had 147 yards and 10 first downs with six punters, one field goal and returned the ball to his other eight possessions.

Acknowledging that the offensive game plan could have been too conservative, Culley plans to allow Mills to do more this weekend.

Mills, however, faces a defense that has yet to allow 300 yards and has gone 9-0 against quarterbacks with 16 or fewer starts since the start of the 2019 season.

Culley is also familiar with Buffalo’s defense, which is virtually unchanged from 2018.

“It’s a challenge when you play against good football teams,” Culley said. “What it does to us is it forces us to be as good as we need to be in order to be successful.”

THE PREVIOUS MATCHUP

Allen hasn’t forgotten his previous encounter with Houston, in which Buffalo lost a 16-0 third-quarter lead in a 22-19 overtime loss in an AFC playoff game in January. 2020.

“Obviously it wasn’t a fun homecoming and it was a long offseason,” Allen recalls. “Every week is a better chance for me to learn and grow, but this one, since it was so long between games, it really, really motivated me.”

UNKNOWN ENEMIES

Buffalo is sacking 27 players as of 2019, while the Texans only have 12 players on their roster from two years ago. These include quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was listed as inactive / unrelated to injury following his trade-in request and after 22 women filed sexual assault or harassment lawsuits.

QUICK START

When asked what was the most important thing Mills had to do to be successful on Sunday, Culley didn’t hesitate, saying, “Get off on the right foot and quickly. “

The rookie didn’t make it last week, when Houston scored his first four possessions. Mills is confident he will improve the more he plays.

“There is no other way to gain experience than to go out there and get the reps live,” he said.

COOKING AGAIN

Receiver Brandin Cooks is in his third quarterback in two seasons in Houston. Despite the changes, Cooks has remained productive and ranks third in the NFL with 322 receiving yards.

“It’s the quarterback who throws the ball to us and makes those decisions,” Cooks said. “So my biggest thing is always figuring out what my quarterback likes and what he doesn’t like and trying to shape my style.”

ALREADY SEEN

The Texans are Buffalo’s second in a row after a long hiatus after playing Thursday night.

They are also the second in a row with a quarterback replacing a former Bills starter. Taylor went 22-22 in three seasons at Buffalo before being traded to Cleveland in March 2018. Last week Washington started Taylor Heinicke in place of injured Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went 20-33 in four seasons at Buffalo from 2009-12.

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AP sports writer Kristie Rieken contributed.

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