The Patriots didn’t mess up much. The Bills did.
The Buffalo Bills lost to the New England Patriots on Monday night in a game that was hard to watch for most of the action. The Bills folded on defense, eventually figured it out on offense, but couldn’t score enough points when it mattered to secure the victory. Now they’re in an all-out fight for their postseason lives.
Weather sets the tone
Both teams came out cautious and running the ball with a steady 25-mph wind and gusts at more than 50. The Patriots started the game with ten straight runs as part of 23 total running calls in the first half. They threw just one pass before halftime, the fewest in a game since at least 1978. After that first pass, they went with 32 consecutive runs. Perhaps that says something about Mac Jones, who finished 2-for-3 on the night. The kicking game was fun, too. New England’s second punt went 15 yards but he kicked a 72-yard bomb later in the game heading the other direction.
McDermott not ready for primetime
From the multiple shots of him screaming his head off over minor ref mistakes in the first half to the strange challenge in the second half on New England’s fourth-down sneak, Bills head coach Sean McDermott felt like he was pressing all game long. His decision to attempt a 33-yard field goal with seven minutes left when Buffalo was down four points and driving into the wind was strange.
Defense dabbles in 4-3
When the Patriots went heavy, the Bills went to a 4-3, replacing Taron Johnson with Tyrel Dodson. Remember, A.J. Klein was placed on the COVID-19 list prior to the game. Dodson made the tackle on his first play on the field, too. I don’t have snap counts right now, but it’ll be interesting to note Dodson’s number. They didn’t use it all the time, but they used it a lot. They’ve used it a few more times in the last few weeks than they did earlier in the year, for the record.
Grounded and pounded
The Bills’ defense gave up a long touchdown run to the Patriots in the first quarter and played from behind all game as a result. We told you how many consecutive runs they had in the game and it’s because it was working. No need to pass here with 222 yards on 46 rushing attempts for 4.8 yards per attempt. And that includes Mac Jones running backwards on two plays to end the game and draw more clock. It’s the second time this year they’ve allowed more than 200 yards on the ground.
Missed opportunities for Knox
Knox started the game with a drop on 3rd & 7 on the opening drive. In the second quarter, on 3rd & 19, he had the ball to convert for a new set of downs in his hands and allowed the defender to knock it out. On 3rd & 9 at the end of the game, he had a false start before allowing the defender to out-muscle him for the ball on 3rd & 14 in the end zone. He’s been a little bit hit and miss over the last couple games, and he was much more miss than hit on Monday. Even though some were bad plays by Knox and some were good plays by the defense, it would have been nice to see him come through on a tough catch.
Matt Breida was playing with fire, as his first-quarter fumble killed a promising Bills’ drive. On a later kickoff return, he swatted at it with his hand but it luckily rolled into the end zone for a touchback. Tyler Bass missed a 33-yard attempt into the wind, but if he had made it, the Bills would have only needed a field goal on their final drive (though it’s hard to fault him with the conditions). Even for the Patriots, Buffalo’s only touchdown came off a punt that grazed the New England returner and Siran Neal fell on it.