Following an emotional win against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday night, the Buffalo Bills had no chance to rest as they headed to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots. As the Patriots tend to do in December and January, they made just enough plays on their way to a 24-17 win that gave them their record-setting 11th consecutive AFC East division crown.
As Matt Warren correctly pointed out, there should be no moral victories in a close loss to Tom Brady and company, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t things to be excited about. The defense, however, had some less-than-stellar play.
For those box-score enthusiasts, this will be another log on the fire of “Allen isn’t any good.” For those who watched the game, however, Allen continued to grow into the franchise quarterback Bills fans hope he is.
For starters, Allen hit on two deep balls, a 34-yard dime to Dawson Knox that set up a game-tying touchdown at the end of the first half, and a 53-yard touchdown strike to John Brown that gave Buffalo a 17-13 lead. Buffalo can only hope that this is the start of those deep balls connecting, because it changes the complexion of games when he hits on them.
Allen also showed his trademark fourth-quarter magic when he converted on a QB sneak on the final drive of the game. He appeared to get stuffed, but somehow wiggled free for the first. He also had arguably his best throw of the night when he split two defenders on a completion to Beasley.
Overall, Allen held up well against a team and coach who historically own young quarterbacks. The next step is for Allen (and ultimately the Bills) to win these types of games.
After a nearly-invisible game against the Steelers, No. 10 rebounded in a big way. Beasley finished the game with seven catches for 108 yards on a game-high 12 targets. Given his strong night, it was easy to think that on the final heave from Allen, Beasley would make some sort of play to keep the game going.
Beasley has become Allen’s safety blanket and a headache for opposing defenses. The next step for Beasley, as is the case for most of the offense, is stringing these strong games together.
The rookie tight end finished the game with only one grab—the aforementioned 34-yard snare at the end of the first half—but the box score doesn’t tell the whole story.
On Buffalo’s first drive of the game, Knox got open in the back left corner of the end zone, but Allen overthrew him and the Bills eventually settled for a field goal.
That proved to be foreshadowing for the end of the game. On the Bills’ final drive, Knox again found himself open in the back corner of the end zone, but once again, Allen couldn’t find the touch and the pass flew out of the back of the end zone.
Knox is getting open and once he and Allen find the chemistry, big things could be in store.
Good lord. The Bills chose a poor time to have their worst tackling day of the season. Whether it be breaking a tackle for a first down (Burkhead on a swing pass in the fourth quarter comes to mind) or a touchdown (Burkhead once again, this time shedding two tackles for the game-winning one-yard TD), Buffalo’s defense was not playing to the level fans have come to expect.
If the Bills tackle like they usually do, Buffalo wins the game.
Covering Julian Edelman is a tough ask, but the Bills often asked Johnson to do that and he wasn’t up to the task. Too often Edelman had significant separation and it was No. 24 trailing behind him. He also was a culprit of missed tackles. Thankfully this was an aberration for Johnson.
The rookie running back seemed to be the focus of Belicheck and company and it showed. Singletary had just 48 yards on 16 total touches and didn’t have any of his signature chunk plays. After Joe Mixon had a big game against the Patriots last week (136 rush yards), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that New England refused to be beat on the ground again.