The Patriots ran over the Bills on Monday night to the tune of 222 rushing yards on 46 attempts, while attempting just three passes. New England leaned into their jumbo package, featuring Michael Onwenu as a third tackle and fullback Jakob Johnson leading the way, not to mention some key blocks delivered by the always-willing wide receiver and tight end groups. On a gusty Buffalo night, the Patriots identified their plan and stuck with it, as they locked down their 35th winning season in franchise history with the victory.
Their approach was clear from the start of the contest when New England came out and ran the ball 10-straight times. It was power football at its finest, as New England exerted their will over the Bills defense, leaving the Mac Jones to attempt just three passes, the fewest since 1974. According to Next Gen Stats, their 94 percent run rate was the highest rate in the NFL in over 20 years.
"I think it was the whole team," said Bill Belichick on Monday morning when asked about the performances of the running backs. "The offensive line did a good job. They used Micah [Hyde] as a sixth lineman quite a bit. The tight ends and, obviously, the receivers were heavily involved in the running game, blocking for us or crack blocking on some of the perimeter plays, things like that. All the backs ran well; Rhamondre, Damien, and Brandon [Bolden] gave us a couple big runs there as well, especially the two-point play. He had another third-down conversion on a trap play. Those guys were productive. They ran hard. They ran with good pad level. They got some extra yards after contact."
Damien Harris' 64-yard touchdown was the key offensive play of the game, as Harris rushed for 111 yards on 10 carries and scored New England's only touchdown of the game. When he sustained a hamstring injury late in the first half, Rhamondre Stevenson took over the bulk of the carries, setting a career-high with 24. Although his final 3.3 yards-per-attempt average might not jump off the page, situationally Stevenson was the hammer that helped close the game out with a methodical third-quarter drive that ate up over eight minutes of clock, getting the Patriots into the fourth quarter where the Bills were forced to go against the wind in the final frame.
Harris' final carry of the game came on the first play of the third-quarter drive, as he got things rolling with an impressive 22-yard run. Stevenson then took over, with eight carries on the important drive, including gains of 11, 10 and six yards that helped set up Nick Folk's 34-yard field goal.
According to Next Gen Stats, the Patriots had Mac Jones under center on 93 percent of the snaps and used the jumbo package 61 percent of the time with condensed formations that averaged just 17.0 yards wide, the tightest average formation in the NFL since 2016 by over a full yard. And they just kept going to the well, at one point running the ball on 32 consecutive plays, the longest stretch of rushes over the last 40 seasons of football.
It was old-school power football at its most pure and, in classic Belichickian Patriots fashion, there was no concern for stats, appearances or playing time. It was all about getting a huge win over a divisional foe on the road. As always, the Patriots did what needed to be done and it came against one of the more highly regarded defenses in the NFL. Coming in, the Bills defense ranked 5th in rushing yards, having allowed over 100 rushing yards just three times. They also came in at 4th in rushing defense DVOA.
Overall, it was an unconventional evening for the Patriots but they adapted and once again executed the gameplan that the coaches thought would give them the best chance to win and because of it, there is plenty to digest from the performance. It's also a good sign moving into December and January that the rushing attack is looking potent.
"Obviously, it's satisfying to win and beat a good team like Buffalo in Buffalo," said Belichick. "That's over with, and it's time to turn the page and move onto Indianapolis. That's what we'll do, but I thought the team played well, not perfect, and, again, against a good team. Buffalo certainly gives you some problems in all three phases of the game."