The Buffalo Bills moved to 6-2 with a victory over the New England Patriots. Plenty of obituaries about the Patriots’ dynasty were written yesterday, but little focus was on the team that actually won the game on Sunday. While it wasn’t flashy, Buffalo won a tough, blue-collar game in howling winds and less-than-ideal conditions.
The Bills had some huge contributions from players who haven’t had many opportunities this season. It was a true team victory, but our players to watch were right in the middle of the action.
Here’s how our players to watch fared this weekend.
QB Josh Allen
Buffalo’s signal caller didn’t put up huge numbers, completing just 11-of-18 passes for 154 yards and an interception. Allen did manage a two-yard rushing touchdown among his ten carries and 23 rushing yards, however. The interception came at the end of the first half on what appeared to be a miscommunication between Allen and Stefon Diggs—Diggs thought the throw was coming to his back shoulder, but Allen thought Diggs was turning towards the middle of the field. Instead, it was J.C. Jackson who caught the pass. If my read is correct, I’m siding with Diggs, because I thought the throw should have been to the sideline side, as well; however, I don’t know what the call was or what the communication is, so I won’t speculate much further than I already have. Allen wasn’t flashy, but he took what the defense gave him and made some plays with his legs, doing just enough to keep the chains moving on a day where the Bills’ rushing attack finally carried its fair share of the load.
WR John Brown
With a real-feel temperature of 33 degrees and winds gusts at 40 miles per hour, it wasn’t exactly the right day to utilize Buffalo’s best field-stretcher on downfield throws. Toss in the fact that the Patriots spent almost their whole game in a dime package, and Brown’s effectiveness was limited. He only caught one ball for 21 yards on the afternoon, but his presence made the Patriots guard against the big play even in those adverse conditions. By doing that, they dared the Bills to run—and Buffalo obliged them to the tune of 28 carries for 167 yards and two touchdowns (both by Zack Moss) out of the running backs.
DT Harrison Phillips
Speaking of players who influenced the game but didn’t quite show up in the box score, Phillips played more snaps than any defensive lineman on Sunday. Considering the fact that he’s been a healthy scratch for the last two weeks, that’s a big accomplishment. And while teammate Justin Zimmer made the big play, punching the ball out of Cam Newton’s hands in the waning moments of the fourth quarter while New England was driving, Phillips managed to clear space for his linebackers all day long. Phillips finished the day with two tackles, but one thing bears noting more than his play on the field: Check out the locker room speech that head coach Sean McDermott gave after the win. Look at who the guy is with Zimmer the whole time McDermott is firing him up. It’s Phillips—the guy whose spot on the active roster Zimmer usurped—hanging with him and hugging him. That’s what it’s all about right there, folks. When you have guys who revel in the accomplishments of the “we” more than the accomplishments of the “me,” you have a true team.
LB Matt Milano
Buffalo’s top cover linebacker, and arguably their top linebacker overall, just isn’t right physically yet. He played even fewer snaps this week than he did against the New York Jets, as he logged only 15 snaps on defense against the Patriots. He made one tackle and put one hit on quarterback Cam Newton. Otherwise, Milano was a ghost on the stat sheet. After straining his pectoral muscle, he’s still working himself back into shape.
S Dean Marlowe
Backups like Marlowe are hard to come by in any sport and in any league. Marlowe has been with Sean McDermott since his days as the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. He knows the system inside and out, and he can fill in at a moment’s notice. That’s exactly what he did Sunday, filling in for Micah Hyde, who suffered a concussion against the Jets. Making just his second start as a safety in his time with Buffalo, Marlowe was second on the team in tackles on the day with six. He also had a tackle-for-loss, and most importantly, the game-sealing fumble recovery. Marlowe played all 65 defensive snaps, as third-year man Jaquan Johnson was relegated to special teams duty only even with Hyde out for the game. Marlowe is a fantastic backup, and he stepped up this weekend when given the chance to play a leading role.