Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills vs. Jets | Week 18

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Stefon Diggs (14) touchdown celebration Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets at Highmark Stadium, January 9, 2022. Photo by Ben Green

1. Stefon Diggs looking playoff ready

The offensive performance by the Bills in Week 18 was a series of fits and starts, but Stefon Diggs was completely dialed in. Buffalo's top wideout was busy early in Sunday's regular season finale against the Jets, logging eight receptions in the first half alone on a night where he finished with nine receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Diggs' first reception of the night may have been his most difficult. On a 3rd-and-goal from the New York 10-yard line, Allen scrambled out of the pocket to his right and Diggs headed to the near sideline to mirror his path. Buffalo's quarterback waited until the last second before flicking the ball to the front right pylon of the end zone, where Diggs deftly dragged his back toe while also making sure to sneak his front foot inside the sideline for a 10-yard touchdown reception.

"I mean, the toe tap skills, the hand strength I mean it's an unbelievable catch," said Allen. "I was just moving up in the pocket trying to extend the play. And we've known each other long enough and feel comfortable with each other. Where I'm rolling. I'm trying to find him and as well as some of our other guys, but he's got a knack for getting open and catching the ball."

Diggs was originally ruled out of bounds by officials, then they huddled and reversed the call before Bills head coach Sean McDermott could challenge it. Then because it was called a touchdown it had to be reviewed as a scoring play. But the touchdown stood, giving Diggs a single-season career high 10 on the season.

Five receptions later, Diggs became the first receiver in Bills history to post back-to-back 100 catch seasons after posting a team record 127 last season. And though his targets were down from what they were a year ago, Josh Allen indicated it was part of a plan to pace him through the season without such a heavy burden. That way he wouldn't be worn out at the most important time of the season.

"Throughout the year, he didn't have as many targets and receptions as he did last year," Allen said. "And maybe that was a little bit by design just to try to keep him fresh in the hopes that we have an opportunity to be in the playoffs. But he looks really good. And I want to try to throw it to him as much as possible because again with the ball in his hands, you never know what's going to happen."

Diggs' eight catches in the first half also marked a personal best in the first half in his career.

His total of nine receptions on Sunday also made him the most prolific receiver in league history in his first two seasons with a new club. Diggs surpassed Wes Welker's previous record of 223 receptions in his first two years with New England (2007-2008) with a total of 230.

2. Pass rush produces season best effort

Buffalo's pass rush has been coming on in recent weeks. On Sunday, the produced their biggest sack day of the season with nine takedowns.

The first came on WR Jamison Crowder after he took the ball on an end around and attempted to pass. No one was open downfield however, and Jordan Poyer forced him out of bounds for a loss of three.

The other eight came on Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson, who looked rattled for much of the game. It was the most times Wilson had been taken down in a game in his rookie season. Wilson finished just 7-20 passing for 87 yards. It was his least productive game of the season that he finished.

"Everybody eats," said Ed Oliver, who had a sack and a half in the game along with three quarterback hits. "Everybody was just on it. It just seemed like everybody was flying around. He wanted to run around and just our overlap and everybody just rushing. So that was a good sight to see especially in the game like this with so much on the line."

"We won a lot on first down," said Harrison Phillips. "Our coverage did some great things to make him hold the ball and then our offense scoring early being up kind of the whole game lets us get after the quarterback."

The only game in which Wilson had fewer completions came against the Patriots when he left in the second quarter with a knee injury after going 6-10 passing for 51 yards.

Mario Addison and Jordan Poyer led the effort with two sacks apiece as Poyer got home once on a blitz call while Addison took advantage of a mismatch against Jets third string left tackle Conor McDermott.

Oliver had a sack and a half, while Matt Milano, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa chipped in with sacks. And Jerry Hughes (53) got a half sack with Oliver to move past Cornelius Bennett (52.5) for fourth on the team's all-time sack list.

Buffalo's nine sacks were the most in a game since 2011 when they had 10 against Washington (Oct. 30, 2011). This year's Bills defense now has 19 sacks in their last four games. McDermott believes the healthy mix of young players and vets has finally begun to jell at the most critical time of the season.

"I just I think overall they're playing faster," McDermott said. "We had some young players mixed in there and then you've got some older guys with Jerry and Mario and that blend has come together at the right time."

Bills clinched their first AFC East title in Orchard Park since 1995.

3. Third down 'D' rules

Buffalo's defense came into Sunday's game with the second-best third down defense in football. The Jets came into the game with the 20th ranked third down offense. Those two rankings proved accurate in their Week 18 matchup.

New York did not convert a third down opportunity until the first minute of the fourth quarter when Wilson hit practice squad receiver Tarik Black for a 10-yard completion to convert a 3rd-and-6 deep in their own end.

It would be the only conversion the entire game as the Jets finished 1-for-14 on third downs in their regular season finale against the Bills.

"Coach Frazier, and Sean (McDermott) put together a great game plan for us," said Jordan Poyer. "We go out there and execute. Our D-line was getting to the quarterback. It was just a fun game to be a part of, fun game to win at home, take the AFC East, but a credit to our front. Those guys were eating all game. It was a fun game to play."

Buffalo's defense did a good job of creating long down and distance situations on third down for the rookie quarterback and the extra time needed for receivers to run longer routes was enough for the Bills pass rush to cause problems. Five of the Bills nine sacks came on third down.

The Jets faced 3rd-and-8 or more on nine of their 14 third down situations.

"We wanted to finish off this season and try to earn that number one defense in the NFL," said Phillips. "So, all the guys we trust one another, all 11 of us out there. And so, we'll defend a blade of grass. Put the ball on the one-yard line and we're anxious and excited to go out there chomping at the bit to go get out on the field. And so, I think that's contagious for our football team when our defense has that attitude."

By game's end, Buffalo wasn't only number one in the league in total defense. Their performance on third down Sunday moved them into the top spot in third down defense as well. The Bills allowed a league low conversion rate of just 30.8 percent this season.

Buffalo's defense gave up a total of 66 third down conversions in the entire regular season. An average of less than four per game (3.88).

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