The perfect game
Welcome to Plays That Defined 2021! This ain’t your usual game recap. Here’s what to do. Pretend you’ve just written a novel and it’s time to select the cover art. You want a single picture that tells the reader what it’s all about, right? That’s the deal here. Vote for the play that best tells the “story” of this game. Which GIF is the best “cover art” for…
Wild Card Weekend: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
They say that “revenge is a dish best served cold.” After suffering an embarrassing loss in early December to the Patriots, the Bills would eventually have two chances at revenge. The colder it got, the more ruthless the Bills were. Buffalo wasn’t satisfied with their 12-point victory in 38ºF weather during the regular season. They weren’t satisfied with that—a game in which they never punted.
Nope. When the temperature dropped to 7ºF, Buffalo not only didn’t punt, but they scored a touchdown on every single offensive possession except for the last one. For that drive they just took a knee. The defense did their job too. New England wouldn’t put up a single point until a field goal right before halftime. Two second-half touchdowns happened, but were meaningless.
Josh Allen’s third-down conversion (Q1, 11:18)
The touchdowns are the “easy” thing to show how dominant Buffalo was, but a close look at the stats show some troubling things—for the Patriots that is to say. This was the first third down that the Bills faced…of seven. Seven is an absurdly low number of third downs for an entire game. To compare, New England faced 14, converting seven. That’s actually really good. League wide, only the Kansas City Chiefs had a rate higher than 50% for all of last season. Buffalo converted six of theirs. Dominant. Football. Game.
Micah Hyde’s interception (Q1, 5:48)
As noted above, the defense played a spectacular game as well (not quite perfect, but spectacular). This play gets the nod as the early tone setter. New England was in field goal range on their first possession and had a fresh set of downs. Micah Hyde shut it down with a highlight for the ages.
Emmanuel Sanders’s touchdown (Q3, 8:57)
One of the toughest calls of the year for me was what touchdown to use for this game. Ultimately, I went with this one as it not only gives us a touchdown to work from but it highlights how good Josh Allen and the offense played in general. Josh Allen hit 84% completion rate, averaging 12.3 yards per attempt, and 14.7 yards per attempt. Devin Singletary averaged over five yards per rush. Allen hit 11. Buffalo was truly unstoppable—against one of the league’s elite defenses.
Micah Hyde’s punt return (Q4, 10:32)
Buffalo was up by 30 points in the fourth quarter. Micah Hyde was back to return a punt. Surely it would be a fair catch, right? Jake Bailey booted a respectable 53 yarder from the New England 38-yard line. Micah Hyde brought it back to the 39. Even worse, Hyde didn’t even field it right away, and did this damage off a bounce. It wasn’t even a Patriots player who stopped him either. Naturally, Buffalo promptly scored another touchdown. Against a team known for never letting up and embarrassing the competition, the Buffalo Bills made deliberate decision after deliberate decision to give a little bit of payback.
Mitch Trubisky takes a knee (Q4, 0:34)
Taking a knee is always a good illustration of who has control of the game. In this game that absolutely remained true. Aside from that, there’s one more fact to know about this particular kneel down. This was the ONLY third down the Bills didn’t convert.