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Plays that defined 2017: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

A review of the 2017 season and the plays that defined each game.

With 2017 in the books following a fairly surprising playoff berth, we look back at the season and our beloved Buffalo Bills. Every week is a story, and we bring this to you through the lens of key plays that defined the game. Your Week 13 match-up:

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills were returning home with a much-needed victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in their back pocket. Unfortunately for the Bills, the luck of the draw had them hosting the New England Patriots in Week 13. At 9-2 the Patriots were a tall order, scoring 30 or more points in over half their games. Adding to the pressure, the football world was well into the yearly exercise of “playoffs if A, B, and C occur.” This game didn’t fall into must-win territory, but a loss would narrow the road dramatically. With a second game against New England still to be played, the Bills would almost certainly need to sweep the Miami Dolphins and take down the Indianapolis Colts to have a shot at the postseason.

The Bills struggled to find an offensive identity all game. Despite 16 first downs and 265 yards of offense (183 rushing yards), the Bills came away with a sole field goal. The Patriots scored 23 in an ultimately lopsided affair. Looking deeper, the Bills were within one score going into the half with plenty of chances to get back into the game even late. A solid defensive effort allowed the Patriots 5.8 fewer points than their per-game average, despite an eight-minute differential in time of possession. Moral victories don’t count in the standings though. To cap it off, the Patriots added injuries to insult. Tyrod Taylor and Tre’Davious White would be injured during the course of the game. The banged-up Bills exited week thirteen with playoff aspirations on life support.

Kyle Williams sack (Q2, 7:09)

The Bills pass rushing woes were well documented in 2017 with only 27 sacks on the season. Three first half Brady takedowns were a welcome anomaly. In addition to this one by Kyle Williams, Shaq Lawson and Adolphus Washington got in on the fun. The defensive effort was enough to hold the Patriots to nine points through 30 minutes and kept the game closer than the final score looks.

Joe Webb 22-yard run (Q2, 6:26)

Looking at the final score and total offense, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that the troubles on that side of the ball were more of the same. The Bills’ coaching staff were uncharacteristically bold in this game though, with good play calls and tomfoolery. This designed run for Joe Webb caught the Patriots off guard. It wasn’t necessarily all of the stops, but the Bills were certainly pulling out some of them.

Joe Webb incomplete pass (Q2, 4:01)

With the stage set for more Joe Webb shenanigans, the Bills continued to ramp things up. The Patriots were ill prepared to defend this, and about 12 inches separated tragedy from triumph. On this pass of about 36 yards in the air, it was less than a 3% margin of error. Knowing that makes it worse somehow.

Tyrod Taylor takes a 20-yard sack (Q3, 6:11)

The Bills were their own worst enemy all day. Poor pass protection and technique (the flag was holding for the record) combine with bad decisions from Tyrod Taylor for a 20-yard loss. In the middle of the third, the Bills were still quite alive but a guttering offense couldn’t get anything going.

Tyrod Taylor incomplete pass (Q4, 14:42)

Once again, the right play was called at the right time and the inability to execute squandered a golden opportunity. Deonte Thompson is open for the long gain the Bills desperately needed. Poor ball placement here and elsewhere resulted in a 50% completion percentage for Taylor and sighs from dispirited fans.

Nathan Peterman incomplete pass (Q4, 8:51)

What’s worse than having two quarterbacks miss out on some great chances? Three quarterbacks missing out! Nathan Peterman came in for Taylor in the fourth quarter and threw 15 passes (just three shy of Taylor). He managed a 40% completion rate and at least one facepalm moment here. Zay Jones manages good position against Stephon Gilmore. The throw that should have been to the back pylon is too far inside and Gilmore easily breaks up the pass.

Tre’Davious White interception (Q4, 4:50)

There’s an extra gif in here this week as my play selections initially left this one out. After consideration, we couldn’t tell the story without it. Tre’Davious White picks off Tom Brady on this well-read interception. Rob Gronkowski shows his true colors right after this play, earning a paltry one-game suspension in the process for concussing White with a dirty hit.