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Was Stefon Diggs overlooked during the Bills’ biggest game of 2022 NFL season?

Is the drama with Diggs simply about involvement in the Bills’ offense?

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Stefon Diggs made headlines this week after “missing” the first day of Buffalo Bills mandatory minicamp. We now know that Diggs was excused from practice by head coach Sean McDermott. A day later, all seemed fine as Diggs participated in the second practice and McDermott stated the drama with Diggs had been “resolved.” Clearly, something didn’t sit right with Diggs and he needed to air his grievances. We might not ever know exactly what went on at this meeting, but we can try to piece some things together.

The story line

McDermott said there was a meeting with Diggs and another person before practice and that they “all” needed a break from the conversation. This implies there were multiple people in this meeting. We’re not likely to find out who was in this meeting and exactly what it was about, but we do know that Diggs wasn’t happy about something. Judging from the recent podium visits by Sean McDermott and Josh Allen, the meeting probably had something to do with offensive philosophy and him (Diggs) being thrown the football.

For me, this one day of drama brought me back to the video of Diggs yelling on the sideline in the Divisional Playoff game versus the Cincinnati Bengals in 2022. As we all know, the Bills played awful in nearly every phase of that game, but there were definitely some head-scratchers in terms of play calling. The Bengals’ offensive plays and route concepts seemed simple and came easy. But for the Bills and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, the plays and routes seemed complex, and it was a struggle to get anything going. Could Diggs still be venting about his displeasure from that game? Let’s review and see if Diggs was onto something!

Bills vs. Bengals Divisional Playoff Stats

Stefon Diggs tallied four receptions for 35 yards on 10 targets in the 2022 Divisional Playoff game. Obviously, this isn’t the stat line Buffalo’s top receiving target would want to see in such an important game. Let’s take a deeper dive into the game film to find out if there were some missed opportunities.

Bills vs. Bengals Divisional Playoff Film Review

As we all remember, the conditions weren’t great for most of the game, and we often saw Bills players struggling with their footing. There were questions about the play calling by Dorsey and whether he called too many complicated routes. When the footing isn’t great, sometimes it’s better to just keep the route concepts simple, so the receivers are confident in their route cuts.

In this film review, we’ll break it down into three categories:

  • Catches by Stefon Diggs
  • Targets to Stefon Diggs (not caught)
  • Missed opportunities

Catches by Diggs

Catch 1

I’m surprised we didn’t see more of these simple routes and throws throughout the game by the Bills. Easy five yards.

Catch 2

Textbook zone beater route by Diggs — he finds a big window, sits in it, and gets his head around to catch a laser from Josh Allen.

Catch 3

Again, take it where you can get it. An easy five yards even though Allen wasn’t on target.

Catch 4

I could do this all day, easy five yards on a crossing route. Keep it simple when the footing is bad.

Targets not caught by Diggs

Target 1

This one would have been nice! Allen gets pressured, which probably causes him to airmail this ball a bit. Diggs did his job and got open on this play, Allen just overthrew him.

Target 2

A quick out from the near hash is a good idea. I believe Allen took too long because he wanted to throw the corner route behind it, but he should have just taken the out-route to Diggs first and maybe the ball wouldn’t have been deflected.

This might be something where offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey is telling Allen to throw the corner, but Diggs wants the ball to him on the out-route when it’s open.

Target 3

We’ve seen Josh Allen make some incredible plays “off-script” and this play was almost added to that list, but he just missed the throw. Allen gets pressured so he breaks the pocket, and Diggs does a great job of working towards the QB and giving Allen someone to throw to.

Target 4

I fully encourage the Bills to go to Diggs when he’s one-on-one and this situation is no different. The only problem I have is with the footing again. Why do a double move in the snow when you can just cut off the route at five yards and have an easy pitch-and-catch?

Target 5

A difficult throw in dry conditions, and an even harder throw in snowy conditions. Not to mention that running a corner route in slippery conditions isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.

Target 6

Cincinnati’s defensive line did a good job of getting their hands in passing lanes during this game. They just made a better play than the Bills did on this play.

Missed opportunities

Missed Opportunity 1

Another instance where Allen wanted something deeper, but should have just settled for the easy yardage to Diggs. Is this a Ken Dorsey route concept thing, or an Allen thing?

Missed Opportunity 2

This one stings because I think Allen was flustered from the early snap by Mitch Morse, who was trying to draw an offside penalty. Diggs clearly wants the ball on this play as he puts his hand up streaking down the sideline. It’s a shame that Allen didn't see him because it might have resulted in a touchdown.

Missed Opportunity 3

This play makes me upset. It’s fourth down and the Bills needed a touchdown to give themselves a shot. DIGGS IS ONE ON ONE — throw him the ball! Not to mention, he gets open!

I’m not sure what happened on this play, but this is the situation where Allen just tells Diggs “get open” and you go from there.

In summary

At this point, what was said earlier this week in those meetings between Stefon Diggs, Sean McDermott and that unnamed third person seems moot. It’s also fairly obvious that it had much to do with Diggs’ involvement in the offense. Following Wednesday’s press conference by McDermott, it sounds like the main issue is resolved and we can all move on.

Perhaps we see a bigger emphasis on this philosophy going forward: In the biggest moments, get your best player (besides Josh Allen) the ball. It would also benefit the team to address these issues closer to when the heated exchanges actually take place. Simmering resentment within the locker room is a recipe for failure in the NFL. It’s natural to be frustrated — even outwardly so. NFL players lead high-stakes lives and the pressure to produce is enormous and stressful.

Stefon Diggs knows this. Josh Allen knows this. Sean McDermott knows this. Ken Dorsey knows this. General manager Brandon Beane for sure know this to be true. Now, it’s time for the team’s leaders to lead and fix what they believe needs fixing. It would seem that absolute trust in Diggs is as good a place as any to start.