The New England Patriots came to Orchard Park to play the Buffalo Bills as underdogs, a role they aren’t quite used to filling. New England had won 35 of 40 games against Buffalo since head coach Bill Belichick took over in the year 2000. I was 14. Tom Brady was 23 and had never thrown an NFL pass. Belichick himself was only 48.
Now, the Patriots find themselves in yet another unfamiliar place—near the bottom of the standings midway through a season. New England is 2-5, ahead of only the hapless New York Jets in the AFC East. While New England received some solid contributions from their top players this weekend, it wasn’t enough to earn a win.
Here’s how New England’s players to watch performed on Sunday.
QB Cam Newton
The Pats’ quarterback was much better than he’s been in recent weeks, as he completed 15-of-25 passes for 174 yards, adding nine runs for 54 yards and a touchdown on the day. However, it was Newton’s fourth-quarter fumble that sealed New England’s fate, as Justin Zimmer’s punch and Dean Marlowe’s recovery allowed the Bills to run out the clock. Newton looked especially good in the play-action game, but it was the one costly turnover that prevented the Patriots from winning yet another game in Bills Stadium.
RB Damien Harris
The young running back had a big day on Sunday, as he ran for 102 yards on just 16 carries. He was not targeted in the passing game, but Harris did score on a 22-yard rumble in the third quarter for the Patriots’ first touchdown. Harris’s angry running style was a point that scared me a bit coming into the weekend, and he didn’t disappoint, as the Alabama product was the game’s leading rusher.
DE Chase Winovich
Talk about a non-factor (not as much as our fifth player, but hey, you can’t always be right...right?). Winovich made one tackle on special teams. Otherwise, he impacted the game very little on defense.
CB J.C. Jackson
New England’s top active corner had a strong game, continuing what has been an outstanding season for the supposed No. 2 corner on the roster. Jackson nabbed his fourth interception of the year when Josh Allen threw a ball inside and Stefon Diggs was looking for it outside. That pick set up a field goal for New England prior to halftime and took the Bills out of at least a field goal try at the end of the first half. In addition to his interception, Jackson added five tackles and a pass breakup on the afternoon.
CB Stefon Gilmore
The top corner for New England injured his knee in practice in the lead-up to the game (and after I filed my initial story). He did not play on Sunday.