Rookie quarterback Josh Allen airs it out in debut

The Josh Allen Era officially began with a bang in the second half Thursday night.

The Buffalo Bills' prized rookie quarterback entered the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers at New Era Field after the halftime break, leading the third-team offense. The No. 7 overall pick in April's draft, Allen didn't wait long to air it out.

On the Bills' first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Allen ran play action and fired a deep ball down the left sideline to rookie receiver Robert Foster, who made the catch but couldn't get both feet inbounds. Allen's pass traveled just about 60 yards in the air, an impressive display of arm strength, but led Foster to close to the sideline.

After a run for a gain of 6 yards on second down, Allen threw another incomplete pass on third down, although it was an accurate throw that rookie receiver Austin Proehl had bounce off his hands for a drop.

The first play of Allen's second series didn't go much better. Rookie running back Keith Ford failed to account for rushing Carolina linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr., leading to an easy sack. Allen didn't have time to do anything on the play.

Ford, however, made amends on the next play, picking up 12 yards on a run. That set up a third-and-4, which Allen converted by completing his first pass to receiver Kaelin Clay for a gain of 6 yards.

Allen got into a rhythm after that, connecting with tight end Jason Croom for a 22-yard gain just two plays later. The rookie did a nice job of standing tall in the pocket and absorbing a hit just after delivering the ball. That moved the Bills into Carolina territory. Allen's next throw was another completion to Clay for a gain of 3 yards, but the play was wiped out after Carter Jr. was called for lowering his head to initiate contact.

Allen completed a short pass to running back Marcus Murphy for a gain of just 1 yard on the next play, and that was followed by a 1-yard by Ford. Before the third-and-8 play, Ford jumped offside, putting the Bills in a third-and-13 hole.

Allen again delivered an accurate throw in the flat to Ford, who was stopped 2 yards short of the first down. Following a timeout, the Bills went for it on fourth down from the Carolina 10-yard line. Allen turned in his ugliest play of the night, although to be fair there wasn't a lot he could do to avoid Carter, who shot into the backfield unblocked from the right side of the defensive line.

Allen attempted to avoid Carter, but couldn't out run him to the left sideline. Allen then lost his footing trying to spin away, then fired a desperation pass intended for Croom. The ball was easily broken up by Panthers defensive end Daeshon Hall, who nearly came away with an interception that might have gone for a touchdown the other way. Allen maybe should have taken a sack, although it would have been a huge loss and set up a tougher field goal.

Allen's next possession also ended without points. He threw incomplete to Foster on first down, although the receiver may have run the wrong route. Allen came back on second down with one of his best throws of the night, a strike over the middle to rookie Ray-Ray McCloud for 8 yards. Allen scrambled for 8 yards and a first down on third down, but the play was wiped out by a holding penalty on rookie guard Wyatt Teller. A false start against Ford put the Bills in a second-and-17 hole, and Allen threw late intended for Foster, allowing Carolina cornerback Lorenzo Doss to break the pass up.

Another false start, this one on tackle Conor McDermott, put the Bills in a third-and-22 hole, and Allen again aired it out. His pass down the left sideline traveled 65 yards through the air, but was just out of the reach of Foster.

Allen's fourth drive began with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter. After another drop on first down, this one by Foster, he completed a pass to Ford that lost a yard. Allen showed off his athleticism on third down, scrambling for 13 yards to convert third-and-11.

Allen scrambled again for 5 yards on the next play, then underthrew tight end Khari Lee on second down, leading to an incompletion. Ford was stopped for no gain on a third-and-5 run, leading to a punt.

Allen's fifth and final drive started with 2:24 remaining. He found McCloud for an 11-yard gain on first down, then threw incomplete to Proehl on the next play. He once again overthrew Foster on a deep ball on second down, but it was a free play because the Panthers were offside. Allen scramble for an 11-yard gain on the next play to convert another first down.

His next pass was incomplete intended for McCloud, but Allen bounced back with two of his best plays. The first was a 27-yard completion to Lee on a ball Allen threw off his back foot. The next play, he threw a missile to McCloud for a 14-yard touchdown, fitting the ball in between two Carolina defenders to the front-right pylon.

Allen was sacked on the two-point conversion attempt, and Carolina ran out the clock on a 28-23 win. Allen finished the game 9 of 19 for 116 yards and one touchdown, a quarterback rating of 84.5.

Story topics: Connor McDermott / Jacob Croom / Josh Allen / Kaelin Clay / Keith Ford / Marcus Murphy / Robert Foster