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Buffalo Bills 41, Tennessee Titans 7: Rapid recap and notes

Titans cut down to size

The Buffalo Bills know they’ll spend this whole season in the spotlight. Everyone and their cousin thinks they’ll be in the Super Bowl this year. They’re scheduled to play six games in primetime this year, plus another one on Thanksgiving and one on Christmas Eve. Their home opener was set to be played on Monday Night Football, against the Tennessee Titans, who won their last two games against the team by an average margin of 38-24.

Under all the pressure and expectations with tonight’s game, the Bills could’ve wilted—especially early in the game, when the Bills failed to convert on 3rd & 1 or 4th & 1, and the Titans took the ball back in a 7-7 game.

But these Bills didn’t lose one iota of focus.

They avoided mistakes, and they squeezed the life out of their opponents until there was no fight left in them. With all the attention of a national spotlight game, the Bills coasted to a 41-7 victory. They forced the Titans to bring on their backup quarterback well before the end of the third quarter.

The game balls for this game belong to the defense and special teams, which kept the team stable while the offense was finding its footing, then stepped on Tennessee’s neck and ground its heels for good measure. Derrick Henry was held to a pitiful 1.9 yards per carry on 13 attempts. The Titans had 107 yards passing. The Titans turned the ball over four times: two interceptions, a muffed punt, and a fumble on a QB carry. After Tennessee drove 75 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive, they didn’t so much as sniff the end zone for the rest of the game.

On offense, the Bills played well in scoring a TD to start the game, but it wasn’t a perfect experience all around. Josh Allen was off-target on several first-half throws, including a pitch-and-catch attempt on 3rd & SHORT that he spiked right into the dirt near his receiver. But Allen eventually settled in, aided by (who else but) Stefon Diggs, and his final results speak for themselves: 26 of 38 passing, 317 yards, four TDs, no picks, and a single sack. The Bills didn’t really rely on the run until garbage time, but that strategy worked out just fine. They were able to score on six of their first eight drives, at which point they led 34 to 7.

This is well-trodden territory for the Bills, who seem to only win games by huge margins nowadays. It’s their 20th consecutive victory by double digits, a streak dating back to late 2020. This team sends a clear message with every new victory: they are inevitable.

Next foe on their list: the Miami Dolphins, in an early showdown for dominance in the AFC East. Get your popcorn ready.

Injury report

  • Cornerback Dane Jackson was taken to the hospital in an ambulance after Tremaine Edmunds collided with him on a tackle, snapping his head and neck backwards with a lot of force. The early word was that he had feeling in all his extremities, so hopefully it’s not a serious spinal injury. With Jackson out, the team relied on their rookies, Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam.
  • Safety Micah Hyde suffered what the team is calling a neck injury, and walked off the field with the help of trainers. He was later taken into the locker room on a cart. Jaquan Johnson replaced him in the lineup.
  • Center Mitch Morse was rolled up with a handful of linemen in the first quarter of the game, torquing his elbow in an uncomfortable fashion as he landed on the ground. Greg Van Roten replaced him until late in the second quarter.
  • Right tackle Spencer Brown came up slowly at one point in the third quarter, clutching his stomach and doubling over in the huddle. He remained in the game, though.
  • Linebacker Matt Milano suffered a stinger in the fourth quarter, and the team took him out of the game.
  • Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was another player taken out of the game in the fourth quarter, after a hamstring injury. That one might be worth monitoring, since the Bills were already short two DTs in tonight’s game.

Quick hits

  • Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is in full All-Pro form early in this season. The Bills are using him as a possession receiver, a red zone target, and a deep threat—and everything just works. He was targeted 14 times before the end of the third quarter, catching 12 passes for 148 yards and three TDs.
  • Say hello to Sam Martin, the Punt Devil. He kicked his first two punts of the season, and his end-over-end style was too much for the Titans returner to handle. Both were muffed, and the Bills recovered one of them.
  • Either Derrick Henry is toast, or the Bills’ defense (without Ed Oliver or Tim Settle, mind you) is terrifying to behold. Henry’s longest carry went for nine yards, as the Bills bottled him up to 25 yards on 13 carries.
  • Buffalo, perhaps thinking of their failed fourth-down conversion last year, made a concerted effort to avoid Jeffery Simmons this go-round. They had a 38:11 pass:run ratio through the first three quarters, and Josh Allen only took a single carry (which gained a first down).
  • With wide receiver Gabriel Davis absent with an ankle injury, there were questions about whether a Bills receiver could step up in his place. While his blocking ability was missed, the team was able to piece together some good plays from Jake Kumerow (two catches for 50 yards).
  • Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds only had two tackles tonight, but he sure made them count. One was a sack and the other was a stop in the backfield. Edmunds added a pass breakup to his ledger for good measure.
  • Congrats to linebacker Matt Milano for scoring his first ever pick-six in the second half of the game. He almost had another one on the very next play from scrimmage, but wasn’t able to hold onto the pass as he deflected it.
  • Cornerback Christian Benford had one of the most impressive plays of anybody tonight—stacking and shedding a Titans receiver, then tackling Derrick Henry behind the line of scrimmage (one-on-one) for a four-yard loss near the sideline.
  • Thanks to the huge score differential, running back James Cook was handed a few carries when the Bills rested their starters in the fourth quarter. To his credit, Cook ripped off a 33-yard run. He was moving so fast he caused the nearest Titans defender to cramp up after the play.
  • To sum up Buffalo’s defense tonight: On the first Titans drive of the game, they scored a touchdown. After that: Punt, Punt, End of Half, Punt, Punt, (Muffed punt return), Interception, Interception touchdown, Punt, Lost fumble, Punt

Next week

The Bills head to Miami for a 1:00 PM Eastern game against the 2-0 Dolphins. The Fins wrapped up a dramatic 42-38 comeback win over the Ravens through the combined efforts of Tyreek Hill (11/190/2), Jaylen Waddle (11/171/2), and Tua Tagovailoa (six TD passes)