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Buffalo Bills 3, New England Patriots 23: A season on the brink

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The 6-6 Bills came out of their first Patriots game looking worse for the wear

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills lost their first match against the New England Patriots at Orchard Park, 23-3. Buffalo’s offense failed to find the end zone all game, and the defense was only able to contain the potent Patriots offense for so long. At 6-6, Buffalo’s next loss will all but eliminate them from the playoff race. Making matters worse, several key players suffered injuries in this one.

The loudest news from this game is undeniably the injury to rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White. On a play where White, pushing and shoving with Rob Gronkowski, undercut a Tom Brady pass for his third interception of the year, Gronkowski, deciding he didn’t like losing, chose to dive on White after the play like a vindictive meatheaded wrestler.

White left the game with a head injury, likely a concussion. He didn’t return after his fourth quarter injury. The play also featured three extracurricular penalties called by the referees, two against Buffalo, but no ejection for Gronkowski.

The second biggest news item was an injury to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor injured his knee on Buffalo’s first series, but remained in the game and played through the pain. Eventually, he took enough additional hits that he had to come out of the game at the start of the fourth quarter. (It didn’t help that he wasn’t throwing effectively while he was on the field. Taylor made a JV move in throwing a “gimme” pass to a Patriot defender at the goalline when his predetermined read wasn’t open, and the passing offense never clicked.)

Also to hit the injury lists: defensive end Shaq Lawson (ankle) and nickel cornerback Leonard Johnson (knee).

Adding insult to the injury, Patriots defensive end Eric Lee, signed off Buffalo’s practice squad two weeks ago, had a game to remember in his return to Orchard Park. He picked off Taylor’s aforementioned pass, added two sack and a tackle for loss.

Nathan Peterman took over for Taylor but failed to resuscitate the offense. He completed six of fifteen passes for 50 yards, and put a cherry on top of the lousy offensive performance by throwing consecutive five yard passes from 2nd-and-25, then checking down on 4th-and-15.

The Bills are on to Indianapolis. They have three winnable games left on the season, plus a Christmas Eve battle against the Patriots. Winning all four of those gives Buffalo an extremely strong playoff resume. Losing one of them puts Buffalo on the brink of the playoffs. Lose two, and they’re done. Hopefully their difference-makers come back healthy next week.