…Rookie cornerback Keion Crossen, playing coverage on the opening kickoff, made a potentially touchdown-saving tackle with a diving, one-armed effort against Bills returner Victor Bolden. There was a lot of green space to Bolden’s left side, and he had a head of steam that might have given him the edge over a couple of other Patriots who were pursuing from the side, but Crossen managed to trip him up before he had the chance.
…After a solid three-and-out on the opening series, New England’s defense was fortunate not to see Buffalo’s second possession go further than three plays as well. WR Isaiah McKenzie had a perfect Josh Allen pass go right through his hands well past the first-down marker.
…The Patriots ran the ball well all afternoon thanks in large part to a solid blocking effort by the line and fullback James Develin. New England’s second drive lasted six plays, all of them runs, for 55 yards. Rookie Sony Michel accounted for 43 of them, while WR Cordarrelle Patterson gained the other 12 on a jet sweep. That play worked well for the Patriots in the first half on Sunday. They had to put it aside, though, when Patterson later went down with a knee injury in the early third quarter.
…Crossen made another tackle on the next Patriots kickoff, following Michel’s TD. Crossen hasn’t been active for every game this year (healthy scratch each time), but he’s developing into a solid NFL player, at least in a special teams capacity, but he’s also seeing some action on defense as well.
…Fresh off New England’s practice squad, DE Ufomba Kamalu recorded his first tackle in over a calendar year (he played for the Texans back then) when he was unblocked on the Bills’ next play from scrimmage. Kamalu chased Bills RB LeSean McCoy down from the backside and dropped him for a 4-yard loss.
…Overall, WR Julian Edelman had a solid day catching the ball. He made a foolish error as a punt returner, though, in the late first quarter when he called for a fair catch, then threw a block against a Bills gunner. Edelman incurred a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, but he should have known better, given all the experience he has in that role.
…Tough to fault RB Rex Burkhead for fumbling toward the end of the first quarter. He was spinning to avoid a tackle, got up-ended off his feet, and was struck by another Bills defender right on the ball, which he was holding with one arm. It’s not like he was being careless with the football, just bad luck that he was hit in that awkward position.
…QB Tom Brady was sacked on the first play of the second quarter. DE Jerry Hughes had beaten LT Trent Brown with a speed rush, but Brady was able to duck under Hughes’ would-be tackle. However, safety Jordan Poyer had also blitzed from the right side of the formation. Michel did a decent job of picking up the blitz initially, but when Brady ducked to avoid Hughes, that allowed Poyer to sidestep Michel and finish off the sack as Brady was heading toward the ground.
…Along with excellent downfield blocking by the o-line, Edelman helped throw a crucial block on RB James White’s 27-yard scoring scamper in the second quarter.
…Rookie CB J.C. Jackson is also having a fine first season, like Crossen. Jackson is getting more opportunities on defense, and he showed why with his interception of Allen right after White’s TD run. Jackson read Allen’s eyes, which allowed Jackson to abandon his man and drift back as he anticipated where the QB wanted to float the football. Jackson came down in great position to pick off the pass and bring it to midfield.
…Looked like Brady and Burkhead weren’t seeing the same thing that the Bills defense was showing them when Brady threw his first INT. Burkhead ran an out, but Brady threw an in, and the LB covering Burkhead, Lorenzo Alexander, was in the exact spot where Brady threw the ball.
…Brady can’t be faulted for his second INT. His pass just went right through TE Rob Gronkowski’s hands and into Poyer’s.
…Patterson appeared to be injured while returning the kickoff following Buffalo’s field goal after the Brady INT. Patterson did not play thereafter and was announced as having a knee problem. During the kickoff return, he was tripped up and fell hard on his left knee, although it’s not entirely clear which was the injured one. He did tell reporters in passing later in the locker room that he was okay, but it remains to be seen just how much time, if any, he’ll miss this week or in the near future as a result of this.
…Edelman may not have been thinking on his earlier punt return penalty, but he surely had great presence of mind on 4th-and-4 from the Bills’ 32 when New England went for it rather than kick a field goal. He took a quick slant pass from Brady and kept his feet when two Bills defenders tried tackling him past the first-down marker. Edelman landed on his back on top of the two Buffalo players, but he realized that his knees never touched the ground, so, he was still eligible to keep running. He did, the remaining 15 yards to the end zone. Great athleticism and awareness by Edelman.
…CB Jason McCourty made a couple of great plays in the second half. The first was his forced fumble of tight end Jason Croom after Croom had picked up substantial yardage on a long pass reception. DT Malcom Brown recovered the fumble, but McCourty’s effort to rip the ball out of Croom’s hands was impressive, especially considering Croom had both hands on the football.
…New England’s defensive front got some decent pressure on Allen throughout the game, but the big rookie QB is athletic and was often able to duck out of danger. Had he not, the Patriots would have had at least a couple more sacks at the end of the game.
…Patrick Chung has missed some costly tackles this season, but against Buffalo, he had a good day tackling.
…McCourty later broke up an Allen pass nicely on 3rd-and-12 from the Buffalo 23. He used textbook technique to bat down the pass without making illegal contact with the intended receiver.
…On the ensuing Buffalo punt, special teams co-captain Matthew Slater made a great attempt to block it. He actually got a hand on the ball as he blitzed through the Bills’ line, and that was enough to alter the flight of the ball, which only traveled 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.
…McCourty capped off his first-ever division title achievement with a spectacular play. Allen was trying to throw a deep out to McKenzie, but McCourty was with the receiver tightly at his hip. He was then in position to undercut the throw, high-point the ball, and keep his feet inbounds as he fell to the sideline.
The game was already assured for New England at that stage, even though the Bills added a touchdown at the very end, but the play set off a celebration on the Patriots’ sideline as they accomplished something only one other professional sports team – the Atlanta Braves—has done: win at least 10 division championships in a row.