The Buffalo Bills won a second consecutive nationally televised game, this time beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-15 on Sunday night. The Bills were sluggish early, but they scored 23 unanswered points in the span of 7:39 of game time from the end of the second quarter through the start of the third quarter. A 7-0 deficit turned into a 23-7 lead, and Buffalo was off to the races.
The Bills’ big players made big plays in this one, and some of their less-heralded guys stepped up, as well. The players on our watchlist all played key roles in the victory.
RB Zack Moss
After a fumble-related benching against the San Francisco 49ers, Moss stepped up and put that negativity in the past. He led the game in rushing attempts and rushing yards, carrying 13 times for 46 yards on the evening. Perhaps more importantly, he once again out-snapped Devin Singletary, as it was nearly a 60-40 split in favor of the rookie. Moss played on 44 offensive snaps to Singletary’s 30. The coaching staff has shown time and again that they have faith in Moss, and he responded with a workmanlike effort against the league’s top defense entering play. Want more proof that the coaching staff holds Moss in high regard? On Buffalo’s game-ending, clock-killing, seven-minute drive to close the fourth quarter, Moss ran the ball six times for 24 yards. Singletary did not touch the ball on that drive. Excluding the 49ers game, Moss has out-snapped Singletary in every game since Week 8. The coaching staff believes in him, and he’s steadily improved as the year has worn on.
WR Stefon Diggs
My oh my. Diggs put on an absolute show Sunday night, as he was uncoverable all game long. Once quarterback Josh Allen started firing the ball at Diggs, Buffalo’s offense picked up a head of steam and put up points in a hurry. Diggs was the target on 14 of Allen’s passes, and he made ten catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. That effort gives Diggs an even 100 catches on the season, which ties Eric Moulds for the franchise record. Moulds set that record back in 2002. Diggs has 1,167 receiving yards, as well, and he needs only 202 yards over his next three games to break the team record Moulds set in 1998. It didn’t matter what Pittsburgh did last night to try to cover him. Diggs was unstoppable, and once the Bills adjusted to double-team defensive tackle Cam Hayward, thereby giving Allen enough time to throw, the mismatch became apparent. In big games, you need your big playmakers to make big plays, and Diggs did just that on Sunday.
RT Daryl Williams
While Diggs could be considered the star of the game thanks to his huge receiving numbers, I nominated a guy who doesn’t accumulate stats for the honor in Williams, who had the pleasure of matching up with arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL, T.J. Watt. Williams stymied the league’s leader in sacks and quarterback hits, often with little or no help from anyone. The Bills’ right tackle was so effective that they were able to provide more help for Mitch Morse and Ike Boettger on Hayward, sliding protection his way and leaving Williams to beat on the smaller, quicker Watt. I was iffy on Williams coming into this season, as I thought Ty Nsekhe played well enough last year to earn the starting role in 2020. However, Williams has been outstanding in his first year in Orchard Park, and he may have played his best game in the biggest spot Sunday night.
LB Matt Milano
Still working his way back from injury, Milano found himself the third linebacker in terms of snaps once again this week. However, he increased his snap number from 19 against the San Francisco 49ers to 27 against Pittsburgh, and he made the most of it. Coming into the evening, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t been sacked in well over 200 pass attempts. That streak ended when Milano sacked him on Pittsburgh’s first third-down try of the third quarter. Overall, Milano made his presence felt, totaling two tackles, one tackle-for-loss, two quarterback hits, and a pass breakup. He was also called for a defensive holding penalty when Pittsburgh was inside the ten-yard line prior to scoring their final touchdown. With Milano and Tremaine Edmunds both back to good health, the improvement in Buffalo’s defense has been obvious—and well timed as the team prepares for what could be a nice playoff run.
CB Levi Wallace
After a dreadful outing against San Francisco when Nick Mullens abused him all night, Wallace looked like a new man during Sunday Night Football. He broke up a pass on the first throw his way, and while he was turned around on a nice route by James Washington on Pittsburgh’s first touchdown, Wallace more than held his own on Sunday. Aside from that touchdown, Wallace only allowed one other catch on the night, and he also came down with a grab of his own, intercepting Roethlisberger on what wound up Pittsburgh’s final offensive play of the night. Wallace ceded snaps to Josh Norman at times in the game, but he still played on 44 percent of the defensive snaps, totaling one tackle, that one interception, and three pass breakups. It was a strong night for Buffalo’s oft-maligned CB2.