The Patriots and Bills battled it out on a windy night in Buffalo as both teams' passing attacks were largely grounded by the conditions. New England was forced to lean into what has been one of their strengths all season, the rushing attack, making enough plays on the ground, including a 64-yard touchdown run by Damien Harris, and getting enough key stops by the defense, including a huge one at the end to pull out their seventh-straight win.
New England moves to 9-4 on the season and maintains a strong position in the standings atop both the AFC and the division, as they head to their Week 14 bye.
Here are the key takeaways from the big win!
Buffalo weather strikes
There will be plenty of qualifiers with this game because of the weather as the wind made things tough anytime the ball ended up in the air. This game couldn't quite live up to the hype simply because of the conditions.
The Patriots' toughest quarters were the first and third as Buffalo deferred the opening toss and took the ball to start the second half. New England resorted to their rushing attack, leaning on their heavy set featuring Michael Onwenu, who played a ton as the third tackle, and Jakob Johnson.
The wind would limit one Jake Bailey punt to just 15 yards, while the offense avoided passing almost entirely. Mac Jones would complete just 2-of-3 passes for 9 yards as it was all about the rushing attack.
After New England's opening score and subsequent stop by the defense, Buffalo would punt and the bouncing ball deflected off of N'Keal Harry's facemask and was recovered by the Bills, who would throw a touchdown on the next play. While the wind might've had some effect on the punt, the conditions looked like they influenced some personnel tweaks that helped contribute to the turnover.
The weather had a significant impact on the game and, on this night, the Patriots were better equipped to deal with it.
Run to win
Due to the weather, it was little surprise to see that the game became a battle of the rushing attacks. The Patriots finished with 226 rushing yards, while the Bills had 99 rushing yards.
With two three-and-outs to start the game, it was tough going early on for the Patriots, but on the third third down of the game, Damien Harris burst through the hole on a 3rd-and-5 and took the ball 64 yards to the house for the first score of the game. Brandon Bolden capped it off with a similar play for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Rhamondre Stevenson carried the load after Harris was lost to a hamstring injury, as he continued his recent trend of hard-charging runs, breaking a number of tackles over the course of the game, delivering 77 yards on 24 carries as he took over in the third quarter. Stevenson was a big part of leading the Patriots on an excellent field-goal scoring response drive in the third quarter after the Bills closed within one point.
Brandon Bolden was also effective in his usual third-down spots, rushing for 28 yards, while also notching the two-point conversion.
There's little question at this point in the season that the Patriots feed off their rushing attack and on a night where the offenses badly needed to lean on them, the rushing attack got enough done for the win.
Defense makes the last stand
The Patriots defense got some help from the weather, but had a strong showing against the usually-potent Bills offense for most of the game. Aside from the touchdown that the Bills scored off of the muffed punt returner, the Patriots defense stiffened twice inside their own red zone, holding the Bills to two field-goal attempts, one they'd make and another they'd miss in the fourth quarter. Those would set the stage for the biggest stop of the evening.
Down 14-10, the Bills would get one final drive in the fourth quarter, pushing deep into Patriots territory but the defense stepped up and made a red-zone stand to seal the win for New England. It was a clutch effort as the Bills were threatening to steal the game late.
It was their stout work against the run that most stood out and had the biggest impact in the game until the final drive. The Bills finished 4-of-13 on third down and 1-of-4 in the red zone.
Patriots are 9-4
With the win, the Patriots move to 9-4 on the season, extending their win streak to seven games and maintaining their spot atop the AFC standings as well as the AFC East, as they enter their late-season bye week. It's been a remarkable run for the Patriots this season, who entered the year with lowered expectations after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and a collection of new players young and old that no one was quite sure how they would all mesh in New England.
At 9-4, we have our answer, as the gritty Patriots toughed out a win over the defending division champs on their home field. With four games to go, the Patriots hold their fate in their own hands. Win out and they'll get the first week of the playoffs off. But it won't be easy, with the rushing nightmare Jonathan Taylor and the Colts on tap after the bye week, followed by a rematch with the Bills that will likely be in more suitable conditions.
But for now, the Patriots can get some well-deserved rest during their weekend off as preside over the conference and division with just four games to go.