3 key takeaways from the Buffalo Bills victory over the Titans: Stefon Diggs explodes, and more

Stefon Diggs and the Buffalo Bills easily beat the Titans
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs gestures to fans after catching a pass for a touchdown in front of Tennessee Titans’ Tre Avery (30) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

The Buffalo Bills headed into Monday night’s game with some questions about their depth. Without Gabe Davis and Ed Oliver on the field, how would a team that looked so solid in Week 1 respond?

The answer was: “convincingly.”

The Bills overcome additional in-game injuries to squash last year’s AFC number one seed Tennessee Titans 41-7. It was an inspired performance, but now injury questions loom headed into a massive Week 3 showdown against the Miami Dolphins. So what from the game was most important for fans to keep in mind?

Here are the three key takeaways from the game, as I see it. 

Stefon Diggs leads but this receiving corps is deep

Make no mistake about it, we have to start by talking about Stefon Diggs. After playing on just 64% of the team’s snaps in Week 1, Diggs was forced back into his every down role with Gabe Davis sidelined. The Bills’ star played 87.3% of snaps and outright dominated the Titans’ cornerbacks, catching 12 passes for 148 yards and three touchdowns. 

After being targeted on 34.6% of his routes in Week 1, Diggs was targeted by Josh Allen on 40% of his routes in this one. The Titans knew where the ball was going and still couldn’t do anything about it. He looks like a man on a mission this season, which is great news for Buffalo because the rest of their wide receiving corps is proving to be stellar. 

Davis and Isaiah McKenzie were the trendy breakout names this season, and both could likely wind up with impressive seasons, but the boring veterans like Jamison Crowder and Jake Kumerow are starting to show up too. 

It was Kumerow who played the majority of the snaps without Davis, not McKenzie or impressive rookie Khalil Shakir. Kumerow is the Bills’ best run-blocking receiver, much like Davis, but he also made the most of his two targets on Monday, catching both of them for 50 yards. 

Jamison Crowder also started to cut into McKenzie’s snap share with the former Jet playing 32.7% of snaps to McKenzie’s 43.6%. Neither was particularly impactful given how much Diggs dominated touches, but Ken Dorsey has continued to show that he trusts both slot receivers and will find ways to get each guy on the field in a way that attacks the opponent most effectively. 

When Davis comes back, perhaps next week, that means the Bills have weapons up and down their receiving corps that have a specific usage in the offense and the trust of both their coordinator and quarterback. That cannot be understated.  


New look defensive line delivered – again

It also cannot be overstated how impressive the defensive line was on Monday. However, this time it was the interior players who shone, not just Von Miller and the pass rushers. 

With Ed Oliver and Tim Settle out with injuries, the Bills called up Brandin Bryant from the practice squad and turned to heavy doses of DaQuan Jones and Jordan Phillips at defensive tackle. A week after both players starred against the Rams, they responded again against the Titans, but this time in their run defense. 

Derrick Henry rushed for just 25 yards on 13 carries with a long of just nine yards. The Bills defensive tackles push their offensive opponents into the backfield but also used their hands to disengage and make contact with Henry when he got to the line of scrimmage. 

According to NextGen Stats, Derrick Henry‘s -2.6 rush yards over expectation was the worst rushing yards over expected performance since the metric was introduced back in 2018.

You simply can’t say enough about the way this short-handed unit stepped up. In particular, Bryant, who seemed to be on the field for all of the Bills’ best run defense drives. I’m not sure how he didn’t wind up on somebody’s active roster, but he’s earning his time with Buffalo, nd it seems as though the money the Bills spent to improve against the run was money well spent. 


Running game remains ineffective

Heading into the game we wondered if the Bills would be able to get the running backs going. After Josh Allen was running the ball in the fourth quarter of the Rams game despite the game being essentially over, it was clear that Buffalo needed to find a running back they trusted to help protect their quarterback. 

I’m not sure they have. 

Devin Singletary was the feature back again, but he only gained 19 yards on six carries. In fact, the non-Josh Allen runners were only able to gain 39 yards on 13 carries before racking up garbage time yards on the final drive. That’s simply not good enough. 

As a result, the Bills basically abandoned the run for much of the game, instead opting to use screens and the short passing game to pick up chunk yardage. It worked on Monday, but the offensive line will need to be a lot better with their run blocking if the Bills are going to go as far as they want. They can’t be a one-dimensional offense and win a Super Bowl title. 


Bonus: Injuries could become a big issue

We’ll dive into this more mid-week when we have more information, but Monday night was a bad night for injuries in Buffalo. The team already came into the game without Davis and Oliver and then lost starting cornerback Dane Jackson early with a scary neck injury. Then, late in the game, safety Micah Hyde, linebacker Matt Milano, and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips all left with injuries. If any of those prove to be severe enough for games to be missed, the Bills’ defense could be in real trouble in Miami. 

For more Buffalo Bills coverage, like this key takeaways piece, visit amNY Sports

Tremaine Edumonds and the Buffalo Bills shut down the Titans
Buffalo Bills’ Tremaine Edmunds (49) sacks Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Tannehill (17) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)