1. Takeaway train
Going into Sunday's game with the Jets, Buffalo had slipped out of a tie for most takeaways this season as Indianapolis had pulled ahead with 20 to the Bills 19. But the Bills surged back to the top of the takeaway leaderboard with an improbable five-takeaway day against Jets backup QB Mike White.
"I feel like we just played our game," said Taron Johnson. "The coaches came up with a good game plan and I feel like we executed it, and when we had the opportunity to take the ball the way, we did it."
Every member of Buffalo's secondary came up with a turnover as they logged four interceptions and a forced fumble and recovery.
Johnson got things started with an interception off a flutter pass from Mike White, who was hit in the pocket by Efe Obada as he threw. Johnson's takeaway led to a field goal drive by the Bills.
Micah Hyde then took points off the board for the Jets late in the first half when he stripped receiver Corey Davis of the football as he was fighting for extra yardage at the Buffalo 27-yard line. Hyde also recovered the fumble allowing the Bills to head into the half with 17-3 advantage.
"It's just one of those plays we preach all the time," said Hyde. "Whenever you're around the football, obviously you're making the tackle, but you're always after the football. So that's what I tried to do and was able to get it out."
Come the second half, Tre'Davious White made his first interception of the season on an errant pass by White and Buffalo's offense turned it into a touchdown.
"The one that Tre' got was high level stuff there in terms of really just playing his role in the defense doing his job and being where he was supposed to be," said McDermott. "And when you when you do that, and you see the execution, that's always fun to watch."
Levi Wallace jumped a route on the ensuing possession for another interception and Josh Allen and company turned it into another seven points.
Finally, Jordan Poyer took more points off the board for New York when he intercepted a White pass at the Bills one-yard line.
"We played some good overall team defense," said Wallace. "I think we're always striving for that. That's like our standard each and every week to create turnovers. We were joking on the sideline with Po (Jordan Poyer), and I told him that his was coming next and ultimately he did so I was happy for him."
The total of 17 points scored off takeaways was instrumental in putting the game out of reach by the early stages of the third quarter.
The takeaways by White and Taron Johnson gave the Bills nine players this season that have now logged an interception in nine games played.
Sunday's effort was not even the first time that the Bills have tallied five takeaways in a game this season. They also did it in their 40-0 shutout of Houston in Week 4.
Buffalo now has 24 total takeaways through their first nine games, the most by the Bills since 1993 when they had 29 in their first nine games.
2. The Diggs difference
Stefon Diggs targets on the season weren't that far off from his record-setting 2020 season, but the Bills top wideout was not targeted early in a good number of Buffalo's games. At times it compromised the rhythm of the passing attack at the outset of games. Regardless of the reasons, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and Josh Allen made a conscious effort to get Diggs involved early against the Jets.
Allen threw to Diggs on the first play from scrimmage, and though it fell incomplete, the Bills QB would target Diggs seven more times in the first half alone. Allen did not connect on two of his first three passes to Diggs, but it didn't dissuade the Bills quarterback from looking for him often through the first two quarters.
"We haven't given him that much opportunity to be involved in our offense," said Allen. "I know throughout the year he's had a few games where he's eclipsed 100 (yards). But the point of emphasis this week was let's get him the ball as early and often as possible."
Diggs's impact was most noticeable late in the second quarter when Allen found him deep down the left sideline off a pump fake for a 57-yard catch and run to move the Bills to the New York 23-yard line.
"He made some unbelievable plays, some off the cuff plays," said Allen. "That one before the half, the long one, 50 yards or whatever it was, that was just something that he saw, and he took off. And again, going back to last year, that's just kind of how we were. We saw the same thing, he would make a play, and I'd just give him a chance for it. And the more opportunities that we give him to have here, we're probably going to need because he just continues to make play after play."
Following the 57-yard play by Diggs, Zack Moss picked up 11 yards on the ground to get the Bills to the Jets 12. Allen then targeted Diggs on three consecutive plays.
The first two were incomplete, including a catch by Diggs along the left sideline in the end zone where he couldn't get his second foot down inbounds. But offensive coordinator Brian Daboll isolated Diggs on the left side of the formation again and Allen went right back to him on the next play with a beautiful touch pass over his inside shoulder. Diggs made a spectacular catch despite good coverage from Javelin Guidry for a touchdown to give the Bills a 17-3 lead.
"We saw the matchup, we liked it, just a little communication to run the fade and give him a chance," Allen said. "That's all I really need with him – just give him a chance, and he's more than likely to come down with it. He had an amazing game."
With 88 receiving yards at the break, Allen went right back to Diggs on the first play from scrimmage in the second half connecting on a 23-yard pass play that kick started a touchdown drive on the first possession of the third quarter.
Of the 28 pass attempts that Josh Allen threw in the game, 13 went to Diggs, who delivered with eight receptions for a career single-game high of 162 yards and a touchdown. Three of his receptions accounted for three of the team's six longest plays from scrimmage on the day.
It was also Diggs' second 100-yard receiving day on the year. No other Bills wideout had more than three targets on those 28 throws by Allen.
"He's an elite receiver for a reason," said head coach Sean McDermott.
3. Pressing the edges
Buffalo's run game and exploitation of the wide areas of the field 10 yards from the line of scrimmage had become a seldom used part of their attack in recent weeks. On Sunday, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll chose to change that in Sunday's game plan and it proved enormously effective.
For the first time since Week 2, Buffalo had all three of their primary running backs active for the game and Daboll made sure to inject Matt Breida's speed into the offense.
"He was going to be part of the plan," said McDermott. "It was just a matter of how much. So at the end of the day it was, he's up, he's active for the game and I thought Dabe's (Brian Daboll) called a great game in terms of getting him the ball in different ways."
Breida, who has 4.38 speed, was utilized right from the opening possession as Josh Allen hit him for a 15-yard touchdown as he slipped down the sideline behind the defender and into the end zone for the first score of the game.
"I actually converted that route," Breida said. "Once again, that goes to Josh and working with him throughout the offseason and then throughout the season. Me and him, we just think a lot alike. I saw that they were doubling Diggs on that, so I decided to take off. And Josh is a playmaker. He's probably the best quarterback in the NFL. So, we just read each other the same, and he just looked at me, and we were on the same page."
On the team's second possession, Breida was used on a pitch play and a swing pass as Daboll continued to call plays that tested the edges of New York's defense with the back's speed. The drive resulted in a field goal.
Once the Bills offense forced the Jets to defend the full width of the field, Buffalo's run game saw more productive gains as Daboll used 21 (2 RBs, 1 TE) and 12 (1 RB, 2 TE) personnel to keep the offense on schedule with some wide zone runs.
The best examples or this came on Buffalo's first two touchdown drives of the second half. After Allen hit Stefon Diggs for a 23-yard pickup deep down the left sideline, Daboll came back with an off tackle run for Singletary that picked up seven. Singletary went for another 13 off the next snap.
Daboll also made use of misdirection knowing that New York's defensive communication might be inconsistent knowing they lost defensive leader, safety Marcus Maye, to a season-ending Achilles injury the week before.
So, Buffalo's offensive coordinator called a play fake and end around to Emmanuel Sanders, who had a convoy of blockers in front of him including Reggie Gilliam, Mitch Morse, Ike Boettger and Spencer Brown. The play picked up 24 yards and set up first and goal at the at the Jets eight-yard line.
Daboll then re-introduced Isaiah McKenzie to the attack bringing him left to right across the formation on a jet sweep and with good blocks from Dawson Knox and Gabriel Davis, McKenzie reached the end zone on an eight-yard run.
"When you give Josh time and the running backs lanes you can make stuff happen," said Mitch Morse. "So, for us it's just putting our offense in better positions."
On the following drive after a 49-yard pass play to Gabriel Davis off play action, Daboll lined Breida up in an I-formation set with Reggie Gilliam at fullback, Tommy Sweeney at tight end and had Boettger and Daryl Williams climb to the second level, while Brown pulled out in front of Gilliam and Breida around the right corner.
Boettger and Williams both got on linebackers, Brown pancaked a linebacker and took out a defensive back with him while Gilliam cleaned out a safety to get Breida to the end zone almost untouched for his second touchdown of the game.
"Just the game breaking speed... he's able to make one cut and go," said Allen of Breida. "You see it in the passing game too. This is a guy that hasn't had many opportunities throughout the year, but he made the most of it Sunday. It was good to see."
Come the fourth quarter, McKenzie was used once again in the red zone on a jet sweep to pick up nine more yards to set up 1st-and-goal at the two-yard line. Daboll deployed an unbalanced line with six linemen and a tight end, with Devin Singletary the lone setback and two receivers left.
Singletary found the crease up the middle for the team's fourth rushing touchdown all in the red zone where the Bills went six for seven in the game.
"Yeah, that's big. You've got to do that," said McDermott. "Red zone plays an important role every week and I was glad to see us do what we did this week."