The Patriots had no answers for a talented Buffalo Bills team that scored on all four of their first possessions and never looked back, en route to a 38-9 win. Josh Allen threw for four touchdowns and 320 yards as the Patriots struggled all night to get off the field and the MVP candidate carved them up for 19 passing first downs.
Offensively, it was more of the same for the Patriots, who had some early success on the ground but ultimately could only muster nine total points, despite scoring their first touchdown in two games. Cam Newton was ultimately lifted for Jarrett Stidham, but with the game already out of reach, as the Bills also inserted their own backup.
Buffalo was aggressive as they need to be, playing with the confidence of a newly-minted division champ who was out to prove a point by hammering the long-reigning Patriots. With the convincing win, Buffalo maintains their grip on the second seed in the AFC and continues their play as one of the hottest teams in football.
With the loss, the Patriots fall to 6-9 on the season but see their draft position improve to 14th overall in what is a silver lining to any defeat at this point in the season.
Here's everything that stood out as the Bills rolled over the Patriots.
- Fast starts have been rare for the Patriots this year, but a nice opening kickoff return by Donte Moncrief got things started at the 35-yard line, and then Sony Michel ripped off a 29-yard run to get them in business on the Bills side of the field. Unfortunately, Michel was stopped for a three-yard loss and then the offense attempted a Newton-to-Michel-to-Newton-to-Byrd that would've been a touchdown but Byrd dropped the pass, forcing New England to settle for a 45-yard field goal and the 3-0 lead. Josh McDaniels reached into his bag of tricks early to try and get the Pats a much-needed touchdown score, but poor execution prevented the score.
- Personnel notes...Justin Herron got his second-straight start at left tackle...The Patriots matched up J.C. Jackson on Stephon Diggs and Jonathan Jones on Cole Beasley in man coverage situations....Josh Uche got the start as an off-the-ball linebacker in an expanded role, he also saw snaps as a spy on Josh Allen...J.C. Jackson exited the game in the third quarter for unknown reasons, JoeJuan Williams was inserted in his place.
- Andre Roberts' 49-yard kickoff return was a big boost to the Bills' first possession and they'd have success getting down the field, but the Patriots defense would stiffen inside the five-yard line, getting an impressive third-down run stop and forcing the Bills to settle for the game-tying field goal. After two weeks of watching teams run over them at will the Patriot defense showed well for themselves with a quality red zone stop.
- It would be a quick three-and-out for the Patriots offense on the ensuing possession, with the Bills crowding the line of scrimmage on third down and sacking Newton for a 13-yard loss to force the punt. Buffalo showed little concern with giving up the deep ball and were aggressive upfront as teams that have success on first down against the run can get New England behind the sticks pretty easily. The second down pass that went off Devin Asiasi's hands was frustrating as the team continues to struggle to get any kind of production from the tight end position.
- Despite not having Ja'Whaun Bentley or Lawrence Guy, the Patriots' run defense was noticeably better in the early going and it helped set up a third-down stop. J.C. Jackson showed tenacious coverage on Stephon Diggs on the third-down play, forcing the incompletion. Buffalo stayed aggressive on special teams though, converting a fake punt for a first down with the upback finding the gunner for the conversion. Still, the defense held strong on the next set of downs, again getting a third-down stop, but a Josh Allen naked bootleg on 4th down went for 22 yards and kept the drive alive. Taiwan Jones would drop a wide-open touchdown in the corner of the end zone on the next play, while Dawson Knox would drop an easy touchdown as well. Adam Butler took two offsides penalties on the drive. Zack Moss would finish off the impressive drive from five yards out, making it 10-3. With a fake punt and a fourth-down conversion, the Bills had the necessary aggressive attitude to put the pesky Patriots in a second-quarter hole.
- After starting their next drive backed up on their 10-yard line the Patriots ground game would find their stride on the next drive, with runs of 21 yards by Sony Michel and J.J. Taylor for 28 yards. Those plays came back to back and then Newton would finish it off with a tough scramble through multiple Bills defenders. It was his 12th rushing touchdown of the season tying Steve Grogan's 1976 record for quarterbacks. It was a nine-play, 90-yard drive, but really it was all about those three plays as the Pats got their first touchdown after going nine quarters without one. Nick Folk's missed extra point unfortunately kept New England from tying the game up, leaving it at 10-9 Bills. Even a feel-good touchdown had some wind taken from its sail.
- New England dodged a bullet by calling a timeout just before the Bills completed a fourth-down touchdown bomb, it looked too easy until we realized the whistle had been blown. In this fan-less season, it's been hard to keep up with the action without any crowd reaction and this was another example of it. The timeout didn't really matter though, as Allen would convert the second chance, albeit not for a bomb touchdown, but still a great throw to Dawson Knox who had Devin McCourty all over him in coverage. In a weird tradeoff, the Pats D was good on third down but couldn't get stops on three fourth-down attempts of the first half. Allen would convert a third-down later in the drive and then find a wide-open Lee Smith for another touchdown to extend their lead to 17-9. All three of Buffalo's first possessions went for 10-plus plays and ended in points. The Patriots defense didn't give up a lot of chunk plays and made them earn their yardage, but they couldn't get off the field.
- The Bills wouldn't need 10 plays on the next drive as Josh Allen would find Stephon Diggs for a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown on just the third play of their fourth possession, after a lifeless three-and-out by the Patriots offense. J.C. Jackson was in pursuit and simply got outrun on the play as it blew the game open late in the second quarter, 24-9 and that's how the first half would end.
- Buffalo picked right back up where they left off on offense, driving down the field for another touchdown in just eight plays for a total of 75 yards. Devin McCourty was not spotted on the field for the drive on one notable absence, with Terrence Brooks replacing him as the deep safety. Brooks and J.C. Jackson would collide trying to make a tackle on Diggs, allowing Diggs to score for the second time. With 11:28 left in the third quarter, it was 31-9 Bills and the rout was officially on.
- After the Patriots forced their first punt of the game, thanks to the Bills deciding to unload some deep shots that both fell incomplete, Jarrett Stidham entered the game in relief of Newton, taking a roughing the passer penalty that kept his first drive alive. Stidham would find Jakobi Meyers in rhythm for 22 yards, but ultimately that was their best play of the drive as they'd be forced to punt. Stidham delivers an on-time ball with a good release. It's a noticeable difference from how Newton operates the offense and while there weren't a lot of results to point to, Stidham doesn't look out of place.
- New England had a laundry list of injuries in the game -- Josh Uche (ankle), Tashaun Bower (neck), Terez Hall (ankle) and Devin McCourty (shoulder), David Andrews (calf), Shaq Mason (foot), while J.C. Jackson was benched in the third quarter for JoeJuan Williams. Jackson would return in the fourth quarter.
- The Bills would pour it on late in the third quarter and into the fourth, this time with a 10-play, 95-yard touchdown-scoring drive that made it 38-9. Diggs picked up his third touchdown of the game. The Bills scored on six of their seven possessions with Josh Allen under center, punting just once and settling for just one field goal.
The Patriots will host the Jets in their season final next Sunday, January 3rd at 1pm. The Jets, winners of two-straight, should make for a competitive final opponent as New England will try to avoid ending their season with a four-game losing streak.