One of the more predictable post-game rituals for fans of a professional sports team that has lost a game is, in aggregate, to point to every single thing that happened in said game and label it as indicative of a larger problem. No individual fan is guilty of such thorough, blanket finger-pointing, but one only needs to spend 30 seconds on the bird app to find the opinion you’re looking for.
Some Buffalo Bills fans are doing this with wide receiver Stefon Diggs, after the All-Pro was spotted lobbing some verbal grenades toward quarterback Josh Allen late in the fourth quarter of the Bills’ 27-10 divisional-round playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stefon Diggs exchanging some words with Josh Allen on the sideline pic.twitter.com/J2heSTBMrc— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) January 22, 2023
Throwing aside my exception to the use of the phrase “exchanging some words” in this tweet, this 11 seconds of Diggs’ season is apparently all some fans needed to see to write off arguably the most productive wide receiver in Bills history.
This — is “incident” even the right word? — occurred after the Bills, trailing by 17 points, went for a fourth down deep in Bengals territory in an attempt to narrow the deficit a bit. Allen threw a pass toward receiver Gabe Davis in the end zone; the throw harmlessly glanced off of some finger tips, and the possession ended. Slightly behind the play, right as (or even shortly after) the ball was thrown, Diggs had broken free from his defender, and was open in the end zone.
If you have the stomach to fire up the CBS broadcast of the play, color analyst Tony Romo broke the action down on the fly. He pointed out the bracket coverage to Diggs’ side of the formation before the ball was snapped, calling Cincinnati’s alignment “fool’s gold,” noting the bracket and saying that Allen would need to look to the other side of the field for a better matchup. Which is, by and large, exactly how the play unfolded, despite Diggs breaking open late.
Diggs was obviously frustrated. He was targeted 10 times in this game — the highest total for any receiver on either team — but caught just four passes for 35 yards. He’d spent some time in the medical tent for a small injury that caused him to miss a few plays. Allen missed him early in the game on a go route that could have been a big play. The coaches struggled to scheme him open, which is objectively a difficult thing to do when Diggs is the only skill player opponents truly need to focus on. When they did have favorable matchups, they ran out of field; Diggs had a one-on-one up the right sideline for a scoring opportunity, but to the short side of the field, Allen’s throw led Diggs out of bounds.
Playoff exits have been especially rough on Diggs in his three seasons with Buffalo. In the 2020 AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs, he was held to 77 receiving yards on six receptions, with some of that production coming late after the outcome was decided. In last season’s divisional-round exit on that same field, he caught three passes for seven yards. For those counting, that’s 13 receptions for 119 yards in three Bills playoff losses.
Diggs is an emotional player who’s dealt with a lot of postseason disappointment in Buffalo. So he yelled a little bit on the sidelines, and then tried to leave the facility quickly after the game ended. (Let’s not forget that Diggs’ brother, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs, was about to play in a divisional-round playoff game himself, and that the elder Diggs is known to take in his brother’s games when he can.) It’s fair to wonder if he dealt with the loss gracefully, but it’s fairer to wonder if any of us gracefully deal with losing. His actions certainly are not worth taking any further permanent action over.
Diggs is more than the 338 receptions, 4,189 yards, and 29 touchdowns he’s produced in his three seasons in Buffalo. He’s the guy who immediately developed a close bond with Allen and the rest of his teammates — a bond that is certain to withstand these 11 televised seconds of visible upset. He’s the team captain that teammates and coaches went to bat for after he left the building last night. He’s the guy who plays catch with little kids in the stands before his games.
Forgive him his frustration, particularly in your own moment of frustration.