1. Duke Williams makes a difference
Duke Williams knew the call-up was coming. The plays he was getting with the first team offense in practice told him that. So he set about cementing those plays in his head all week so he'd be ready when the time came.
The most critical time came with 9:46 left in a 7-7 dogfight between the Bills and the Titans. Lined up at the seven-yard line with the game on the line, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called Williams' number.
Josh Allen executed play-action, both linebackers bit and came up to the line of scrimmage, Williams in the right slot, faked his defender wide and then broke to the post. The result a seven-yard touchdown, and eventually a giant road win for the Bills.
"I played the plays in my head last night," said Williams. "I played the plays in my head all week long. I knew the plays that I had. I was just thinking about it all week long. Went to sleep with it on my mind and woke up with it on my mind."
"He handled it the way he handles every day. He goes and attacks it," said Josh Allen of Williams. "He's one of the guys who you love to have on the team because of the way he approaches the game, the way he approaches practice. I think a lot of guys appreciate what he's done for us, not even being on the active roster and being on the practice squad and the juice that he gives us. You see today he gets the opportunity and he makes the most of it."
Williams' day consisted of more than just the game-winning touchdown. He and John Brown were the two most critical components of a first-half passing game that allowed Buffalo to move the ball. The pair accounted for seven first downs.
"He did a good job. I'm sure there are some plays that he'd like to have back. He'll learn from it. I love his juice and the toughness he brings. He's earned it," said head coach Sean McDermott. "The way he's practiced. His behavior in terms of his habits. One practice to another all the way through the first four weeks leading up to this week. He made plays in practice and in the one-on-ones and he earned it. It's one game, so we'll take it one game at a time. It's important that he continues to improve."
As the game ended with the offense on the field, Williams was the deep back as a safety in case there is a fumble. But as Josh Allen took a knee for the last time, and the clock expired, the quarterback turned and handed the ball to Williams.
It's clear his teammates respect the journey he's made from being an undrafted signing of the Rams and then released in 2016, to grinding in the CFL, to toiling on Buffalo's practice squad. Williams work ethic to get up to the 53-man roster and then deliver earned respect.
"It meant a lot man," said an emotional Williams of being handed the ball. "It's been a long ride. There are a lot of people who don't know my journey. All I can do is thank God. Thank my teammates, thank everybody around me, my support system, my family. They supported me a lot. Right now I'm just thankful. I'm overwhelmed. There are so many emotions going through my mind right now. I'm just thankful for the opportunity.
2. Jordan Phillips dominant part of Bills pass rush
Coming into Sunday's game ranked 25th in the league in sack percentage, Buffalo's defense improved their numbers against the Titans. Leading the way was defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who looked virtually unblockable in the first half.
"I need to get on his diet plan," joked Lorenzo Alexander, who had a sack of his own. "Jordan has been playing better every single week. Playing with great confidence. Big, powerful man. But we had everybody flying around today getting hits on Mariota. It was a good job on the front end and back end."
Phillips had three sacks and three quarterback hits in the first half alone. His biggest coming on a 3rd-and-7 when he dropped Marcus Mariota for an eight-yard loss, making a potential 42-yard field goal attempt a 50-yarder. Cairo Santos missed the attempt wide left and the game remained scoreless at the time.
"I just play my game," Phillips said. "I couldn't tell you what I did. I'd have to watch the film to know what I did.
"We have a three-headed monster with me, Ed (Oliver) and 'Zo. We all do three different things and it's a hard change-up. You get power from me, you get power and speed from Ed and you get different things from 'Zo it's just a hard thing to stop. So if you're an offensive lineman you're thinking what am I getting here? It's just tough for them."
Jordan Phillips is the first Bills players with three sacks in the first half of a game since Mario Williams on against Carolina in 2013.
Lorenzo Alexander notched the other sack for Buffalo in the first half, with three of their four first-half sacks coming on third down.
Rookie Darryl Johnson would add the fifth and final sack of Mariota in the second half after the Bills went ahead in the second half 14-7.
"We're built for this," said Phillips of the grinder of a victory. "This is what we do week in and week out. You see the same thing every week and it's time for the world to see it. We'll finally get the respect we deserve and keep doing it week in and week out and keep trying to do what we do."
3. Bye week needed after multiple injuries
Very thankful, were the only words that head coach Sean McDermott could come up with concerning the bye. After a rock 'em, sock 'em game between the Bills and the Titans, Buffalo's lineup took some hits on both sides of the ball.
In the first half, Mitch Morse left the game with an ankle injury and could not return. Right tackle Cody Ford and defensive end Trent Murphy both left the game in the second half with head injuries and did not return to the game.
With the two injuries on the offensive line, Buffalo had to plug in Spencer Long at right guard as Jon Feliciano moved to center to replace Morse. Undrafted rookie Ryan Bates came on to replace fellow rookie Cody Ford at right tackle, with Ty Nsekhe inactive with an ankle injury of his own.
Linebacker Matt Milano suffered a hamstring injury in the second half and was unable to continue.
Safety Jordan Poyer briefly left the game with a shoulder injury, but did return.
Fortunately, Buffalo has a bye week this week to heal up before the Bills host Miami in Week 7.
"Thank God we have a bye this week," said Feliciano. "We have a lot of people hurt and banged up, but we're 4-1 and thankful. We're ready to get healed up and come back in a couple of weeks."