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Five observations: Buffalo Bills mistakes waste elite defensive effort

What a game.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills couldn’t put their miscues behind them on Sunday, falling to the New England Patriots in a close 16-10 match up. There are a lot of positives to take away from the game, but the problems are where most fans will focus their attention for the time being.

The Bills’ defense is championship-caliber

The first touchdown was a 50-yard drive where Matt Milano was in perfect position on a wheel route but Tom Brady, the greatest QB ever, beat him on a perfect throw. The second touchdown was on a blocked punt.

The Bills’ defense forced Brady to start 0-for-3 and 4-of-9 with a few three-and-outs in the first quarter. They legit had a great first half and it continued in the second half.

Tom Brady had 150 yards passing, an end zone interception, and a sub-.500 completion percentage. The Patriots were held to 3.6 yards per play. After averaging 35 points per game, Buffalo held them to 16 (and just nine scored by the offense).

Buffalo’s offense wasted another wonderful performance by their defense in this one.

Bad Josh Allen

Allen took a bad sack in the first quarter that knocked Buffalo out of field goal range. He took another sack later that made a short field goal longer and Stephen Hauschka missed it. He threw interceptions. He took points off the board. He took really long drops and held onto the ball.

In short, Allen was bad for most of the game.

The first interception was a prime example of a safety and defense knowing Allen’s tendencies. Devin McCourty’s interception was a prime example of an experienced safety setting up the young Allen. Allen thought he had one-on-one coverage but the veteran McCourty snuck over after the fact and undercut the route.

His second interception was thrown off his back foot on a deep throw where Zay Jones may have had a step. With the poor mechanics the ball was underthrown and the Patriots picked it off.

His third interception, even though it shouldn’t have counted according to CBS rules analyst Gene Staratore, was another hope and a prayer.

Even with all of that, Buffalo was still in it, but the game seemed too big for Allen. He was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter on a running play.

Special teams, you stink

It should have been 6-6 at the end of the first half (or better). The Patriots blocked a punt for a TD. Buffalo missed a FG. Nope.

Then in the second half as Buffalo was gaining some semblance of footing, Corey Bojorquez unloaded a dud of a 21-yard punt. New England started in Buffalo territory.

A 23-yard net punt in the fourth quarter by Bojorquez set up New England to potentially run out clock with 8:35 remaining in the game.

With Buffalo receiving the final punt of the game with just over three minutes left, of course a block in the back put Buffalo from their own 25 to their own 10.

Timeouts a problem again

The Bills used their challenges and timeouts in some very peculiar spots on Sunday. It hurt them at the end of the game, when New England got the ball back with six minutes left in the game. It seemed as if head coach Sean McDermott was being a little emotional on the first challenge flag. The timeout with 14:56 left in the fourth quarter was another head-scratcher.

Third down nightmares

Buffalo was just 2 of 13 on third downs, but that’s not even the nightmare. It’s pretty bad—just a 15% conversion rate—but it gets worse. Josh Allen threw his second and third INTs of the game on third down. Matt Barkley’s game-ending pick was on third down, allowing the Patriots to run out the clock. It would have been worse if Buffalo hadn’t been bailed out with a couple penalties, too.