1. Turnovers and field position the difference
A little more than a week after Buffalo's defense forced a pair of late turnovers to help preserve a victory over the Raiders, it was Tennessee's defense that proved opportunistic. On the very first pass play by the Bills, the Titans got an interception off a deflected pass that set up a short field for their offense. Two plays later Tennessee had a touchdown and a lead it never relinquished in their convincing 42-16 victory.
"Doing things that you can't do and expecting to win a football game… what it boils down to is turning the ball over, pre-snap penalties and not a high enough level of execution," said head coach Sean McDermott. "So, I'll give credit where credit's due. The (Titans) were ready to go, but we beat ourselves more than anything and that's something you can't do in this league."
The Bills were driving early in the second half in an effort to close what was an 11-point lead to single digits. But on a 2nd-and-4 Josh Allen forced a pass to Gabe Davis and threw off his back foot and the ball was picked off and returned 68 yards deep into Buffalo territory.
It took Ryan Tannehill and the Titans offense three plays to reach the end zone again and an 11-point lead ballooned to 17 (28-10) at the end of the third quarter.
"The interception in the third quarter really hurt our chances and it's a defense that they're allowing you to take everything underneath," said Allen. "And I got greedy, made a bad decision threw that ball and really cost our team. They had a short field and we had three turnovers."
The Titans early 14 points off turnovers provided a valuable cushion on the scoreboard that allowed them to turn to their rushing attack late in the game to run clock and seal the game.
Tennessee would add another touchdown off a turnover late in the game on a fumble by Bills kick returner Andre Roberts. Again the Titans would cash in on a red zone possession, where they went 6-for-6 for the game as Ryan Tannehill found Jonnu Smith for a short touchdown pass.
The late score made it 21 total points off takeaways in what wound up being a lopsided result.
"That's a huge difference in a game," said Allen. "When we turn the ball over three times and they don't turn it over at all. They scored all three times on them so they took advantage of their opportunities."
In addition to the turnovers, Buffalo's efforts to climb back into the game were further complicated by the team's starting field position.
The offense never had a drive start beyond their own 25-yard line until their final possession of the game, which was only their own 31-yard line. And four of their 10 possessions in the game started at their own three, nine, nine and 10-yard lines.
Meanwhile four of the Titans nine possessions began on the Bills' half of the field, with three of them starting in the red zone. All four of those drives resulted in touchdowns.
2. Penalties prove costly
From a yardage standpoint the penalties committed by Buffalo won't look so bad as they were assessed 56 yards in infractions. But the timing of the penalties only made life more difficult for a Bills team that was trying to climb back into a game in which they fell behind early.
There were 10 penalties in all with five on offense, four on defense and one on special teams. Three of the four defensive penalties came on third down plays, which either gave the Titans a new set of downs or shortened the yardage to gain to help Tennessee extend a drive. Those three third-down penalties all helped lead to drives that resulted in points for the Titans.
The toughest one to watch was Quinton Jefferson's roughing the passer call on a 3rd-and-6 play from the Bills' eight-yard line. Buffalo's defensive line successfully collapsed the pocket and forced an incomplete pass from Ryan Tannehill. At worst Buffalo was going to give up a field goal, but Jefferson followed through to the quarterback and got flagged.
Tennessee got a fresh set of downs, but they only needed one play as Tannehill found Jonnu Smith for a short passing TD.
"Uncharacteristic of our defenses to this point in terms of the start of our season," said McDermott. "To get the takeaway we turned it over, but we get a three-and-out and then we had the penalty on the roughing the passer, so it wasn't our night, but again we've got to be honest with ourselves and say why and make sure we get this thing fixed here."
The offense fared no better. An illegal shift penalty took a touchdown off the board, which the offense fortunately overcame finishing the drive with a touchdown anyway. They also overcame three false start penalties in the span of six snaps to score their only touchdown of the second half, but it wasn't a good look.
The pre-snap penalties ran counter to the way the team has played thus far this season. Buffalo came into the game averaging 5.6 penalties per game. On Tuesday night they almost doubled it and Micah Hyde felt there was one main reason behind it.
"Not being focused," Hyde said. "We can't beat ourselves. There were a few third and longs and we jumped offsides. There was another 3rd-and-20 and we just had bad communication. Third down killed us this game and we can't beat ourselves. We can't play against the opponent and play against ourselves. It's not going to happen. You don't win in the league that way."
3. A noble effort by Diggs
If there was one constant on Buffalo's offense it was Stefon Diggs. Buffalo's top wideout turned in yet another 100-yard receiving performance, his third so far this season.
Without John Brown in the lineup due to a calf injury, Josh Allen relied heavily on Diggs in the first half targeting him on nine of his first 20 targets.
Diggs worked mainly in the intermediate areas of the field as he routinely beat zone coverage and the occasional man-to-man looks he saw.
"That's what he is and he's a dog and to be down one extra guy we knew that he was going to have a heavy work load for us and being gassed and tired wasn't an option for him," said Allen. "He made as many plays as he could."
By game's end, Diggs had 106 receiving yards on 10 receptions. Those 10 catches were the most in a game for a Bills receiver since Robert Woods had 10 in the 2016 season.
Diggs' 36 receptions on the season are the second-most over the first five games of a season (Eric Moulds: 41, 2002).
His 509 yards on the season has him ranked second in the league in receiving yards behind only DeAndre Hopkins (528 yards). It also marks just the fifth time in franchise history that a Bills player has recorded 500 receiving yards in the team's first five games. He's the first to do it since Eric Moulds, who had 530 yards in the first five games of the 2002 season.