The Buffalo Bills defeated the New England Patriots 35-23 in Week 18 in a highly emotional game for the team and its fans. Josh Allen connected early and often with Stefon Diggs, resulting in Diggs leading all wide receivers with seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. After just 16 receptions for 123 yards in their last three games, it was a welcome sight for Bill’s Mafia to get Diggs back in a grove with Allen this week. Let’s break down how they were able to build a successful connection against the Patriots.
Veteran Train by Diggs
Allen and Diggs made their connection right off the bat in the first two offensive games of the game. On that first play, Allen rolled left to the wide side of the field and found Diggs for a quick five-yard gain. Diggs snuck into the DB a bit to stay open on this game – but we just consider that a veteran move. Once the DB starts looking back at the QB, Diggs gets his hands in (to hide the shove) and sends him flying forward, leaving Diggs wide open for an easy finish.
short passing game
On the second offensive play of the game, Allen returned straight to Diggs for another finish and first down. I like how the Bills started the game with two quick passes for Allen, which helps get him into a rhythm early on. They used a big cushion against Diggs and Allen took what gave him the defense. Notice how Diggs compacted his split inward so he could use the wide side of the field effectively. It wasn’t overly complicated, but it was well executed.
Open scheming Diggs
Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey designed a beautiful route concept for this game to plan Diggs Open. The Patriots appeared to be in “quarters” coverage, meaning they had four defensemen playing deep zones. Diggs and Shakir pretended to both run a vertical route, causing the two deep defenders at their sides to sink. The Bills ran two shorter routes below them to draw the defenders closer to the line of scrimmage. As the game developed, Shakir ran towards security to keep him occupied and then Diggs cut his way to the touchline. This all left Diggs wide open on the sidelines for a big win.
Back shoulder fade
When it comes to elite wide receivers like Stefon Diggs, teams just have to throw the ball to him, even when it’s covered. Diggs had man-to-man coverage of that game and was closely defended throughout the stretch. The Bills showed run-pass option play – note how the offensive line run blocked – but Allen quickly threw a back shoulder fade after faking a handover. This was probably something Allen and Diggs talked about in the group. So if they had that specific look they would be on the same page for that route. The most important thing about this finish is how Diggs waited until the very last moment to twist his body and grab the ball.
This piece is simply spectacular. Very few people on earth can make this throw and we are lucky that Josh Allen is one of them. Allen had pressure on his face, threw it out of the opposite hash and put the ball on a dime to Diggs for a touchdown. Bills fans have grown accustomed to Allen’s play, but this shot is exceptional! Take a look at some cool stats on this litter:
Josh Allen’s 49-yard TD pass to Stefon Diggs flew 62.2 yards in the air, the third longest flight distance this season.
Allen has had 5 completions in the league flying more than 60 yards in the air since joining the league in 2018. #NEvsBUF | #LoveForDamar pic.twitter.com/WoPcIoaOjd
— Next Gen Statistics (@NextGenStats) January 8, 2023
There was nothing special about that game, Allen and Diggs just took what the defense gave them. Although this type of game is simple, it is effective. Establishing the short passing game opens up opportunities for deep balls later in the game.
Josh Allen on Stefon Diggs has been one of the most important QB-WR connections in the NFL since Diggs was traded to Buffalo, and it will be important for them to bring that momentum from Week 18 into the NFL playoffs. Diggs is second-to-best in NFL receptions — meaning even when he’s covered, he’s still catching footballs thrown at him. It will be exciting to watch these two superstars go in search of Buffalo’s first Super Bowl victory.