ORCHARD PARK — A sellout crowd piled into Highmark Stadium for the Bills’ primetime home opener on Monday night, and they were treated to quite the party.
Buffalo entered halftime with a 17-7 lead and never looked back, riding a big game from Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and the Bills’ passing offense to a dominant 41-7 victory.
After an 11-yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen to Reggie Gilliam helped give the Bills the first lead of the game at 7-0, Tennessee tied things at 7-7 following a touchdown from running back Derrick Henry with 5:23 to go in the first quarter. The Bills then responded with a scoring drive of their own that finished with a Tyler Bass 49-yard field goal which gave Buffalo a 10-7 advantage and proved to be the difference in the game.
The Bills closed the half with a four-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Diggs, who the Titans’ secondary lost track of toward the back of the end zone before the wide receiver came down with the TD reception. Buffalo held a 10-point advantage at the break, from which they wouldn’t look back.
The first half featured a scary moment, with Bills starting cornerback Dane Jackson taken off the field by an ambulance after suffering a neck injury while trying to make a tackle. Jackson was contacted in the head area by teammate Tremaine Edmunds, who was also in on the tackle of a Titans ball carrier, whose forceful blow resulted in Jackson’s neck suddenly springing backward.
The Bills later reported that Jackson was taken to ECMC for further evaluation. The team revealed Jackson did have movement in all of his extremities. The Bills also announced Jackson would have a CT scan and X-rays while at the hospital.
A few other Bills injuries put a damper on an otherwise celebratory night in Orchard Park, with veteran defensive players Micah Hyde (neck), Matt Milano (stinger) and Jordan Phillips (hamstring) all leaving the game during the second half and not returning.
Allen connected with Stefon Diggs during the second half for a 46-yard touchdown strike with 10:18 remaining in the third quarter that put the Bills ahead 24-7, and the rest was history. Late in the third, Matt Milano intercepted a pass thrown by Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill and returned it 43 yards to the house for a touchdown. Milano’s defensive score served as the nail in the Titans’ coffin, helping provide Buffalo with a 41-7 advantage with 3:49 remaining until the fourth. Buffalo finished the game with four takeaways, including an interception from Jordan Poyer, who recorded a pick for the second consecutive week.
Allen finished the game 26-of-38 passing for 317 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to Diggs, who recorded a career day. Diggs’ supreme effort consisted of 12 receptions, his most as a Bills receiver, for 148 yards and the three scores, one of which went for 14 yards and increased Buffalo’s lead to 34-7 with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter. Defensively, the Bills’ pass rush failed to perform at the same level as we saw from it during its Week 1 victory over the Los Angeles Rams but managed to do enough to bother Tannehill, who was removed in favor of backup QB Malik Willis in the fourth quarter. Tremaine Edmunds and Greg Rousseau each finished with a sack of Tannehill, who finished the game 11-of-20 for 117 yards and two interceptions.
The Bills did a phenomenal job slowing down former Offensive Player of the Year, running back Derrick Henry, who was limited to just 25 rushing yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Another item of note came from the Bills’ special teams effort, as punter Sam Martin saw his first action of the season, including one of his three punts which was muffed by the Titans and recovered by Bills linebacker Tyrel Dodson. The muff and recovery led to a 37-yard field goal from Tyler Bass, which increased Buffalo’s lead to 27-7 with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter.
Buffalo (2-0) now looks ahead to a matchup with the Miami Dolphins (2-0), who are coming off of a miraculous comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2. Check back later for my complete Five Takeaways, to be posted at thedailynewsonline.com.