It all came down to the final drive, as it often does between the Patriots and Bills. With the Patriots poised for a chance to at least tie the game with time running out, a Cam Newton fumble abruptly ended the contest in brutal gut-punch fashion. It was a new, painful way for the 2020 Patriots to lose a game as the team falls to 2-5 on the season and third place in the AFC East.
The Patriots had their moments good and bad in the game, but ultimately started to put it all together at the end, giving New England the chance to steal a much-needed divisional win. Turnovers have killed the Pats all season long and once again the team's only giveaway of the game proved to be the difference.
Here's everything that stood out from a tough loss.
- The Patriots got Cam Newton an easy first completion on the first play of the game, a designed rollout to Jakobi Meyers, seemingly to give the quarterback some early confidence, plus, after a week of talking about Newton wasn't throwing to the right side, that's exactly where the pass went. Damien Harris would chip in a couple nice carries, picking up 11 yards total, but a delay of game penalty set the offense back and, on 3rd-and-12, a simple handoff lost another two yards, making for another unsuccessful first possession of a game for the Pats. They have not scored a first-quarter point yet this season.
- The Bills would counter and do just what the 49ers did last week, marching right down the field and scoring a touchdown on their first offensive possession, powered by 70 rushing yards and two third-down conversions. Josh Allen made one nice throw to Cole Beasley for a third-down conversion, but otherwise the Bills were powered by 19 rushing yards by Allen and 28 by rookie Zack Moss, including the touchdown run, which gave the Bills an early 7-0 lead.
- Jakobi Meyers and the passing game would come to life on the Patriots next drive, with two-straight catches from Meyers, picking up 16 and then 17 yards, but a holding penalty to Joe Thuney cancelled out Meyers' second play, and again short-circuited the drive, setting them back 10 yards. However, on third down, a Buffalo penalty gave the Patriots offense new life. However, they couldn't take advantage, punting after three more unsuccessful plays.
- The defense would get a much-needed three-and-out on the next possession, with rookie Josh Uche getting a pressure on third down in his first NFL game that helped force the punt. Newton and the offense would respond, sparked by a dumpoff pass to James White that went 28 yards, one of the most successful plays of the last few weeks for the offense. However, the Patriots penalties continued to pile up, with a false start and an illegal shift call (declined) pushing their total to four in three possessions, all of which undercut their performance. It would set up a big 3rd-and-8 from the Bills 31 but Newton's read option would be stopped after just four yards. The drive was still enough to get New England back in the game with Nick Folk's 43-yard field goal that made it 7-3 Bills.
- The problematic penalties would continue, this time for the defense, as a neutral zone infraction by Devin McCourty gave the Bills a free third-down conversion on their next drive. The defense would rebound on the next set of downs though, getting good stops on first and second down, before Jason McCourty made a nice third-down pass breakup to get the Pats off the field for the second-straight possession. New England's defense started to find a groove in the second quarter, but the offense couldn't build off of it, going three-and-out themselves on the ensuing possession. Losing two yards on a draw on third-and-two was an uninspired end to the drive as New England often played it safe on third downs throughout.
- Josh Allen would get the Bills moving again on their next drive as the clock ticked down on the first half, punctuated by a pinpoint throw to Stefon Diggs down the sideline just before the two-minute warning. The Patriots were throwing a lot of mixed pressure at Allen to varied results, he often did a good job finding the open man or avoiding the rush, but New England got some good hits on the quarterback as well. After a Buffalo holding penalty, it was a big 3rd-and-8, with the Bills looking to add to their lead before the half, however Allen's pass was off-target and a physical J.C. Jackson knocked Diggs off his route, grabbing an interception and taking it back to 25 yards near midfield. It was a point-saving play that the Patriots really needed.
- With 1:38 left in the half the Patriots offense would grind out 34 yards and take a third-down chance to kick a field goal to make it a one-point game at the half. Folk would make his second kick, this one from 33 yards out, to make it 7-6. Jakobi Meyers added another catch on the drive, giving him four catches for 41 yards in the first half, leading the team. Ryan Izzo also chipped in critical catches of 15 and 9 yards, as two young players helped the Pats get into field goal range.
- It was a better first-half performance by the defense, which gave the offense some time to continue to work through their issues. It was never easy moving the ball for Newton, but the Patriots found ways to make a number of plays that kept them hanging in the game after a rough start. Much of their struggles were due to their own penalties, but good ball security and some timely late-down plays were enough through two quarters.
- The Bills would waste no time on their first drive of the second half, moving through the Patriots defense and right down the field in five plays, going 75 yards and finishing it off with a touchdown. It was a drive that looked too much like the 49ers last week, with the Bills seeing just one second down on the drive, otherwise it was big first-down gain after big first-down gain, highlighted by a 41-yard catch-and-run by Diggs. After a promising first half, the Patriots laid a big egg out of the locker room. Lawrence Guy heading to the locker room was
- New England wouldn't be able to answer on their first drive of the third quarter, despite picking up two first downs. A sack set them back nine yards and they couldn't climb out of the hole, punting for the fourth time in the game. It felt like a critical possession in the Patriots season was about to ensue and the defense would deliver.
- Josh Uche would make the best play of his young career on the next Buffalo possession, tackling Josh Allen on third down and getting the Patriots off the field in a critical spot. After Bill Belichick chose to punt on the edge of Buffalo territory, the move payed off with the defense getting a stop. The Patriots would get the ball back at the Bills 37.
- Shaq Mason's hands to the face penalty negated another Jakobi Meyers catch, this one would've been 14 yards. Despite good ball security for the first time all season, the penalties kept setting the offense back. This time though the Patriots' third-down draw would work, with Rex Burkhead breaking three tackles to pick up a big first down. Damien Harris would take the next carry to the house for a huge 22-yard touchdown, the Patriots first in two weeks. New England converted the two-point conversion with Newton finding Meyers in the end zone to tie the game at 14. For a moment, the Patriots were right back in the game.
- The Patriots would try to capitalize again with a surprise onside kick on the ensuring kickoff, but Buffalo was ready and retained possession, setting the Bills back up at the Patriots 45. They'd continue to rip off first down yards as the Patriots run defense had little answer for the Bills rushing attack, especially without Guy in the mix. It was an aggressive decision to try the on-sides kick but one which backfired, as Allen would take a third-down draw into the end zone to give Buffalo back the 21-14 lead.
- Down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Patriots needed a huge drive and they got it, powered by Damien Harris and Damiere Byrd, as the offense moved down the field with one of their best drives since the first two weeks of the season. It was a seven-play, 73-yard drive, started by two catches to Byrd and then four-straight carries by Harris for 39 yards.
- With the game tied mid-way through the fourth-quarter, the Bills put one of their best drives together, riding a ground game that would put up almost 200 yards, coming down to a 3rd-and-5 at the Pats 10. Once again the Patriots had good coverage, forcing Allen to scramble outside the pocket. His pass to a wide-open Gabriel Davis in the end zone would somehow fall incomplete and the Bills would take the field goal and a 24-21 lead, setting up one final possession for the Patriots with just over four minutes left in the game. It was a key red zone stop, even if the rookie receiver gave the Pats some help.
- The Patriots moved the ball on their final drive, with Meyers coming through on a key third-down conversion early on to keep things alive. Newton would add on 19 yards on a QB keeper run that took the Patriots inside field goal range. From there the critical play would unfold, as another designed run to Newton opened up along the sideline. Newton powered through tackles, getting within easy field goal range, but, as he was going down, the ball was punched out and recovered by Buffalo. It was the Patriots first turnover of the game and it was a costly one. Just like that, Buffalo was kneeling on the ball to seal their win.
The New England Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills in a regular season game at Bills Stadium on Sunday, November 1, 2020.