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Quarter-by-quarter analysis

Officials were in middle of many key calls as Bills edged Titans

First quarter

Theme: A defensive struggle

Three and out: The Buffalo Bills’ defense picked up where it left off the New England game, when it forced seven three-and-out plays. The Tennessee Titans went three and out each of their first two possessions.

Lineup watch: The significant absence for the Titans was edge rusher Cameron Wake, the old Bills nemesis from Miami, who sat out with a hamstring injury. The Titans lack edge rushers and could have used the 37-year-old veteran.

Zebra report: Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan, in his first game after sitting out a four-game suspension, held Jerry Hughes on the first snap of the game to wipe out a 26-yard pass to Delanie Walker. Hughes was blocked up, but Lewan clearly grabbed Hughes by the neck of his jersey.

Second guess: Sean McDermott made the correct call going for it on fourth down from the Titans’ 31. However, it might have been better if the Bills lined up more quickly to run the play. The Bills snapped the ball with 4 seconds left on the play clock. The Titans’ middle defenders got too low for Josh Allen to gain the first down.

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Second quarter

Theme: The Jordan Phillips show. The Bills’ defensive tackle followed up a sack in the first quarter with two in the second to help keep the Titans off the scoreboard.

Lineup note: Jon Feliciano was forced to play center due to the ankle injury to Mitch Morse, but it wasn’t a big adjustment for the Bills’ right guard. Feliciano spent virtually the entire summer and preseason at center due to Morse’s concussion.

Kicking woes: The Titans lost place-kicker Ryan Succop to injury just before the start of the season and signed six-year veteran Cairo Santos. Santos missed attempts from 50 and 36 yards in the quarter. His long-distance record before Sunday wasn’t great from 50-plus yards (53%) or 40 to 49 yards (73%).

Zebra report: A holding penalty on a punt return by Isaiah McKenzie cost the Bills 17 yards of field position.

Second-guess: There were 34 seconds left in the half when McKenzie was tackled at the Buffalo 27. The Bills had all three times out but ran out the clock, a conservative call by Sean McDermott. We would have liked to have seen a couple more plays.

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Third quarter

Theme: Bad Josh returns.

Key third-down mistake: The Bills faced a third-and-1 play on their second drive because Allen snapped the ball too quickly, before the receivers were set. The QB got a little overeager. It wiped out a run for a first down by Allen.

Forced INT: On the next snap after the penalty, Allen forced another pass late over the middle rather than throw the ball away. It was intercepted by Kevin Byard, and the Titans turned it into a touchdown.

Respect: Titans punter Brett Kern did a good job with directional punting, putting almost all of his kicks directly on the sideline and preventing Andre Roberts from making a return. The Titans were not going to get beaten by Roberts.

Ticky tacky: It was not a great quarter for the crew of referee Bradley Rogers. Cody Ford was flagged for a highly questionable holding foul that wiped out an 8-yard run.

Zebra report: The officials blew a key encroachment penalty on Trent Murphy with the Titans at the Bills’ 10. Both Titans tight ends moved first. Bad call. The Titans scored two plays later.

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Fourth quarter

Theme: A road win is a good win.

QB matchup: This one is tough to swallow for Titans fans. Marcus Mariota got outplayed at home by Josh Allen, any way you want to break it down – from a yardage, accuracy or play-making standpoint.

No home-run throwback this time: The key play of the game for Mariota came with 12:27 left when he scrambled over the line of scrimmage on a would-be touchdown pass to A.J. Brown. The franchise QB has to make a play or two somewhere. Was his arm over the line? Yes. The line-of-scrimmage review didn’t go against the Bills, like it did in 1999.

Good call: Titans fans were mad that Jurrell Casey was flagged for roughing the passer even though he did not make contact with Allen’s head. However, Allen already had given himself up with a slide. Casey could have avoided colliding with Allen’s back.

Second guess: Why did Titans coach Mike Vrabel kick a 53-yard field goal with 6:35 left after his kicker already has missed three times? Vrabel opted not to go for it on a fourth-and-4 play. That showed a lack of faith in Mariota.

Defense, Duke Williams do enough for Bills in big win

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