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Plays that shaped the game: Bills show off weaponry in blowing out Titans

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Eyeing his receiver

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass in the third quarter at Highmark Stadium on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.

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The Buffalo Bills’ offense showed off its diversification in rolling to another victory Monday night.

The passes can and will go anywhere when Josh Allen is dealing from the pocket.

In the season-opening win at the Los Angeles Rams, Allen’s first nine passes were completed to seven different receivers over the first two possessions of the game.

In the 41-7, home-opening blowout of Tennessee on Monday, Allen hit six different receivers on the opening scoring drive.

Big plays in the passing game came from targets all over the field, as the Bills had too many weapons for the Titans’ defense.

“That just shows you the weapons that we have,” said tight end Dawson Knox. “It’s so fun going out there knowing that anybody can score at any given time. When you’ve got a quarterback like 17 he’s going to spread the ball around and do what he does naturally.” 

Here’s a closer look at plays that shaped the game:

Dialing it up. Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey schemed up a great play for a touchdown on the opening drive in Los Angeles last week.

He did it again to start Monday night’s game. The Bills ran a hard play-action fake to Devin Singletary to the right. Fullback Reggie Gilliam blocked on the left side against defensive end Rashad Weaver. Then Gilliam released to catch a screen pass.

Titans linebacker Zach Cunningham read the play, but Gilliam spun out of the tackle. Gilliam had Spencer Brown and Ryan Bates blocking for him and sprinted to the left corner of the end zone for the second touchdown of his three-year NFL career.

“It’s great to have the coordinators and coaches believe in me and draw something up like that for me,” Gilliam said. “It was an awesome feeling. . . . No. 41 (Cunningham) is a great player. I caught that ball, and the whole time I’m thinking I’ve got to score, I’ve got to get in the end zone.”

No. 6 burns No. 1. It’s not a good sign for a defense when the opponent’s sixth receiver on the depth chart burns a No. 1 draft pick.

That’s what happened on the Bills’ second touchdown drive, when Jake Kumerow blew past Tennessee’s Caleb Farley for a 40-yard reception.

It was another good play design, with the Bills bringing in Bobby Hart as an extra offensive tackle, and Allen selling a first-down run fake.

Kumerow blew past Farley up the left sideline and had to wait a bit for the pass, down to the Titans’ 27. Farley, 6-foot-2 and 197 pounds, was the Titans’ top pick in 2021, No. 22 overall out of Virginia Tech.

“I ran as fast as I could and josh threw a good ball up there,” Kumerow said. “I’m just doing what they tell me. The play was called and I just did my job.”

Farley has the size and length to play press-man coverage, although Tennessee is predominantly a zone-coverage team. Farley has struggled early in his career with smaller, shiftier receivers. Farley was beaten out for a starting job this summer by rookie second-round pick Roger McCreary.

Allen on move. Six plays after the pass to Kumerow, the Bills took a 17-7 lead late in the first half on a play that was almost all Allen.

On a fourth-and-2 play from the Titans’ 4, Isaiah McKenzie ran a fake orbit motion and sprinted to the left side of the end zone. Allen rolled to his left but had no intention of throwing left to McKenzie, who was well covered. Allen pivoted back to the right side and fired a TD pass to Stefon Diggs.

The Titans’ secondary got caught looking to McKenzie’s side. Safety Amani Hooker lost track of Diggs, who easily made the catch.

Knox was in the corner of the end zone, 5 yards beyond Diggs.

“First I thought he was throwing to me," Knox said. "And then when I saw Diggs there, I said, OK, that works, too. That’s just a testament to Josh as a player. It’s impossible to guard as a defense. He’s the best player in the league. He’s going to keep doing that every week.”

Picked on. The Titans were without their No. 1 cornerback, Kristian Fulton, out with a hamstring injury.

That pressed Tre Avery, an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers, into the lineup. On the Bills’ opening drive of the third quarter, Allen attacked Avery.

Diggs ran deep, faking a corner route and breaking to the post in the middle of the field. Allen had great pass protection, stood tall in the pocket, and delivered a strike for a 46-yard touchdown.

Zone beater. The Titans weren’t about to play much man coverage, given their inexperienced cornerback roster and Bills’ receiving talent.

On a third-and-9 play early in the third quarter, slot receiver Jamison Crowder split a zone between linebacker David Long and safety Kevin Byard. Allen drilled a strike for a 16-yard gain. Four plays later, Diggs scored on the 46-yard pass.

Bull rush. Greg Rousseau’s sack of Ryan Tannehill late in the second quarter was noteworthy. Rousseau bulled left guard Aaron Brewer backward and into the quarterback for an 8-yard takedown.

Rousseau was lined up at defensive tackle for just the second time in his pro career, according to Pro Football Focus. Von Miller was outside of Rousseau at right defensive end on the play.

Unexplosive. An inability to stretch the field was one of the Titans’ big problems last season and a huge question mark entering this season.

Tennessee managed only 35 pass plays of 20 yards or more in 2021, second worst in the NFL ahead of only the New York Giants (31).

The Titans did not get a single 20-plus pass play with Tannehill in the game against the Bills on Monday night.

The Titans traded star receiver A.J. Brown in April to Philadelphia for the 18th overall pick, which they used to take receiver Treylon Burks of Arkansas.

Perhaps concerned about Brown’s long-term ability to stay healthy (he was dinged up in 2021), Tennessee opted to get younger at receiver rather than join in on the exploding wideout salary market. The Eagles gave Brown a four-year, $100 million contract, making him the sixth highest paid receiver in the NFL.

The Bills allowed the fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards in the league last year at 31. They were tied for sixth best in preventing explosive passes in 2020, tied for first in 2019, second in 2018 and first in 2017.

Good call. The Bills’ third drive got to the Titans’ 26 but was stopped by an offensive penalty on a fourth-and-1 play. Titans defensive tackle Naquan Jones lurched forward but did not get far enough to go into the neutral zone. Bills center Greg Van Roten thought it was a penalty and tapped Jones’ head. No flag was thrown. The officials correctly called a penalty on the Bills, who settled for a field goal.

The quarterback speaks to reporters following Monday night's win. 

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Bills/NFL writer

Gaughan's insight is featured in the "PlayAction" video series, providing analysis to get Bills fans ready for the next game. He is past president of the Pro Football Writers of America and served as a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector for 12 years.

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