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Takeaways: “Soft” Bills pound Patriots to retake AFC East lead

The Bills control their own destiny

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 control their own destiny in the AFC East and it feels sooooooooooo good. If Buffalo wins their last two games, they are the AFC East champions. We will get to all of the playoff scenarios, but first, here are our takeaways from the game.

The Isaiah McKenzie Game

McKenzie was benched a few weeks ago against the New England Patriots, with head coach Sean McDermott saying he wanted “someone he could trust” in the game, with wind whipping all over the place. McKenzie responded on social media, simple saying “oh.” Well, with Cole Beasley and Gabe Davis out due to COVID-19 positives, McKenzie was the trusted man on Buffalo’s offense. Over and over again, he gave the Patriots fits. He scored three TDs against the Miami Dolphins in the season finale a year ago, but this win was way more important and, with Beasley out, the stakes were much higher. He is just the second player to nab ten-plus catches in a game for the Bills this year. Career highs all over for McKenzie with 11 catches for 125 yards and a TD and he drew a bunch of penalties. (He had one run for -1 yards but we’ll ignore it.)

Singletary proving he’s not soft

On the opening drive of the game, Devin Singletary got five touches, gaining 32 yards including dragging Patriots defenders for half of them. He was breaking tackles into the fourth quarter, and on the drive to put Buffalo up by 12, he fought hard to the two-yard line and on the next play fought through a tackle to put it into the end zone. Maybe we’ve been too harsh with him on his physicality. His yards per attempt are terrible, but his yards per touch are good. So....?

Take what they give you

The Patriots tried to keep Buffalo from breaking a big play throughout the first half, leading to a bunch of underneath throws that chunked yardage down the field. All you have to do is be accurate and patient to take what they give you and you can be incredibly effective, and that’s just what Josh Allen did. Only 6.5 yards per attempt on their first two drives with four completions to Devin Singletary, three to Isaiah McKenzie, and one to Reggie Gilliam (plus a nice toss to Jake Kumerow). But 78 yards through the air plus a nice ground game was enough to move the ball down the field for two scores. On the next drive, a flip to Moss went for 11 on their way to another red zone trip. We don’t need Hero Josh all the time and this was great to see. Allen finished at just 6.7 yards per attempt but with three touchdowns and a huge win. But who cares? With 314 yards and three touchdowns, it was a solid day for Buffalo.

Offensive line game ball

This unit has been so maligned this year, but against the Patriots they were legit awesome and more often than not, they have stepped up this season. This week, they lost Dion Dawkins, Jon Feliciano, and Cody Ford to COVID-19 positive results but they stepped up! While Spencer Brown, Ike Boettger, Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates, and Daryl Williams started the game, Boettger left with an Achilles injury. So what did they do? They completely blew up the offensive line. Again. Dawkins returned but was less than 100 percent. When Boettger was injured, a now-healthy Dawkins came into the game at left tackle and they switched three positions with Brown back at right tackle and Williams to right guard. And they played GREAT.

Micah Hyde and the defense are underrated

The Patriots were 1-of-10 on third downs today. Mac Jones finished 14-of-32 for 139 yards and zero touchdowns. I don’t know how to tell you 4.5 yards per attempt is terrible for a quarterback. Hyde finished with two picks (but isn’t a Pro Bowl player, apparently).

End of the first half kerfuffle

After Jerry Hughes placed his hands on Mac Jones, escorting him out of bounds a little bit late but trying to keep him from falling down, the refs picked up the flag. That did not sit well with several Patriots, including right tackle Trent Brown who said something as the teams were lining up before the next snap. Brown was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving back the Patriots. That’s 30 yards in penalties and non-penalties that helped the Bills at the end of the first half. It was a net-zero because neither team scored, but the way it was adjudicated felt... strangely fair in a Bills/Patriots game.

Brian Daboll, Matt Haack, and expectations

Did you notice the Bills didn’t punt today? Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was masterful calling Buffalo’s offense. The Bills had the ball nine times. If you take out the end of both halves, when the Bills weren’t trying to score, Buffalo had seven drives. They scored on six of them with a turnover on downs (barely). Punter Matt Haack did a great job of holding for Tyler Bass on field goal and extra point attempts.