The Buffalo Bills defeated the New England Patriots 35-23 in Week 18 in what was a highly emotional game for the team and its fans. Josh Allen connected with Stefon Diggs early and often, resulting in Diggs leading all wide receivers with seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. After only 16 receptions for 123 yards in the last three games, it was a welcome sight for Bills Mafia to see Diggs get back in a grove with Allen this week. Let’s break down how they were able to have a successful connection versus the Patriots.
Veteran move by Diggs
Allen and Diggs got their connection established right off the bat on the first two offensive plays of the game. In this first play, Allen rolled out to his left to the wide side of the field and found Diggs for a quick five-yard gain. Diggs snuck in a little shove on the DB to get open on this play — but we’ll just consider that a veteran move. As soon as the DB starts looking back at the QB, Diggs gets his hands inside (to hide the shove) and makes him fly forward, leaving Diggs wide open for an easy completion.
Short passing game
On the second offensive play of the game, Allen went right back to Diggs for another completion and a first down. I like how the Bills started the game with two quick passes for Allen, which helps to get him in a rhythm early. They took advantage of a big cushion on Diggs, and Allen took what the defense gave him. Notice how Diggs condensed his split towards the inside so he could effectively use the wide side of the field. This wasn’t anything too complicated but it was well executed.
Scheming Diggs open
Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey drew up a beautiful route concept on this play to scheme Diggs open. The Patriots appeared to be in a “Quarters” coverage, which means they had four defenders playing deep zones. Diggs and Shakir acted like they were both running a vertical route, which made the two deep defenders to their side sink. The Bills ran two shorter routes underneath them to pull defenders up closer to the line of scrimmage. As the play developed, Shakir ran at the safety to keep him occupied, and then Diggs cut off his route to the sideline. This all left Diggs wide open on the sideline for a big gain.
When if comes to elite wide receivers like Stefon Diggs, all teams need to do is throw him the ball, even if he’s covered. Diggs had press man-to-man coverage on this play and was defended closely throughout the route. The Bills showed a run-pass-option play — notice how the offensive line run blocked — but Allen quickly threw a back shoulder fade after faking a handoff. This was likely something Allen and Diggs talked about in the huddle. So, if they got this specific look, they would be on the same page for this route. The most important part about this completion is how Diggs waited until the very last moment to turn his body and reach for the ball.
This play is simply spectacular. Very few people on Earth can make this throw, and we’re lucky Josh Allen is one of them. Allen had pressure in his face, threw it from the opposite hash, and put the ball on a dime for a touchdown to Diggs. Bills fans have become accustomed to this type of play from Allen, but this throw is extraordinary! Take a look at some cool stats on this throw:
Josh Allen's 49-yard TD pass to Stefon Diggs traveled 62.2 yards in the air, the 3rd-longest completion by air distance this season.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 8, 2023
Allen has a league-high 5 completions traveling 60+ yards in the air since entering the league in 2018.#NEvsBUF | #LoveForDamar pic.twitter.com/WoPcIoaOjd
There was nothing particularly special about this play, Allen and Diggs just took what the defense gave them. Even though this type of play is simple, it’s effective. Establishing the short passing game will open up opportunities for deep balls later in the game.
Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs has been one of the premier QB-WR connections in the NFL since Diggs was traded to Buffalo, and it will be important for them to bring this momentum from Week 18 into the NFL playoffs. Diggs is second in the NFL receptions over expected — meaning even when he’s covered, he’s still catching footballs thrown to him. It will be exciting to watch these two superstars go to work on their quest for Buffalo’s first Super Bowl victory.