The Buffalo Bills gave their best try against the division-leading New England Patriots, but key circumstances didn’t play out in their favor, and the Patriots eventually pulled ahead to a 37-16 win over the Bills.
Through two quarters, the Bills were hanging right there with the Patriots, tied at 13 points each. Jordan Poyer intercepted Tom Brady and brought it back for a touchdown, and the Bills drove into the red zone three times. At the end of the half, it looked like Kelvin Benjamin had scored a touchdown to give Buffalo the lead, but the referee crew had other plans. The biggest mismatch in this one wasn’t Rob Gronkowski versus anyone - it’s the referees’ uneven officiating.
They called defensive pass interference on an underthrown Brady pass where Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks straight up hugged Micah Hyde to try drawing a penalty. They controversially overturned Kelvin Benjamin’s touchdown catch at the end of the first half. They overturned a short fourth down spot to extend a Patriots drive and give them a field goal try. Then they called a pass interference penalty because Rob Gronkowski whined that he wasn’t able to catch a touchdown. This was embarrassingly one-sided officiating, coming on the heels of a Patriots win gifted by the referees against Pittsburgh. The NFL is a sick joke.
Both teams traded field goals in the third quarter. The Patriots finally took the lead for the first time with a minute remaining in the third quarter when Mike Gillislee ran the ball in from one yard out. Tyrod Taylor threw one of his five attempts per season to a covered receiver, and Kelvin Benjamin caught it over Stephon Gilmore and brought it 35 yards downfield. On 4th and one, McDermott opted to kick a 50 yard field goal, but Stephen Hauschka’s kick never hooked back to the middle; the Bills were still trailing 23-16. The Patriots capitalized quickly. Brady and Dion Lewis orchestrated a touchdown drive to extend New England’s lead to fourteen points.
A strip sack (recovered by the Bills) killed Buffalo’s next drive, and the Patriots did what they do - find a weakness and beat the crap out of it. With E.J. Gaines out on his injury, the Patriots mercilessly ran Dion Lewis left again and again, stretching the drive to Buffalo’s end zone and scoring a back-breaking rushing touchdown.
The final score is not indicative of the closeness of this game. Through 44 minutes of the game, the Bills either held the lead or were tied with New England. Referee garbage made up a seven point swing in New England’s favor, and if the Patriots had been forced to play catchup during the third quarter, the playcalling outcome would’ve changed. Given the freedom to dictate their pace, the Patriots finally found a leak in Buffalo’s banged up defense in the fourth quarter.
With the Los Angeles Chargers winning and the Tennessee Titans on their way to a loss, the Bills are up against their worst case scenario. Assuming they beat Miami next weekend, they’ll need the Ravens or Chargers to lose, or the Titans to win against the Jaguars, in order to make the playoffs. Facing the Bengals and the Raiders, respectively, Baltimore and L.A. aren’t exactly in danger of a loss next week, and the Jaguars have been one of the NFL’s hottest teams this year.