The Buffalo Bills put a bit of a beating on the New England Patriots on Sunday, winning 33-21 to put themselves into first place in the AFC East with two games left to play. Buffalo controlled the action from the start, forcing New England to go three-and-out on their opening possession before methodically marching for a touchdown of their own.
Buffalo dominated time of possession, holding the ball for a touch over 35 minutes. They dominated in total yards, outgaining the Patriots 428-288. They dominated third downs, converting 6-of-12 as opposed to a 1-for-10 showing from New England. They didn’t punt. They didn’t trail. They didn’t give New England the ball with the chance to take the lead or tie in the second half. It was a very good day.
Our players to watch all showed up big on Sunday, though one was overshadowed by a teammate who plays his position. Here’s how our players to watch performed on Sunday.
QB Josh Allen
Whoa. It wasn’t his best career game statistically, but that might have been the best game I’ve watched Allen play in his career. Considering the stakes and what the defense gave him, Allen essentially made all the right decisions. “Hero Josh” wasn’t there, but he was instead replaced by “MVP Josh,” who looks very similar with one key difference: He makes huge plays without trying to force huge plays. Allen does things on a football field that you shouldn’t be allowed to do, whether by the laws of physics or the fundamentals of football, but he is so uniquely talented that it works. Throw late while targeting your sixth wideout back across the middle while rolling to your right? Sure, why not!? Do a shoulder-shimmy and pick up eight on a bootleg on 4th & 1? Easy! Thread a straight-up missile through an eight-man coverage to a guy bracketed by two defenders with two more lurking in the end zone for a touchdown on 3rd & 11? Yep, that’s fine. Many have compared Allen to contemporaries like Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger, but I see a lot of another stud quarterback in his play: John Elway. That was another player with great athleticism and a rocket arm who broke many of the conventional rules, but his talent mitigated the risks. Not many players carve up a Bill Belichick defense to the tune of 30-for-47, 314 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, 12 rushes, and 64 rushing yards. If not for a drop by Emmanuel Sanders and another by Kumerow (though I’ll give Allen 25 percent of the blame for overthrowing it a hair), this could easily have been a five-touchdown day. If this is regression, then I’d hate for the rest of the league to see Allen’s progress.
WR Isaiah McKenzie
Whoa. If you had the stones to start Isaiah McKenzie in your fantasy lineup this week, allow me to congratulate you on making it to your league’s championship game (unless you’re in one of those leagues with a last-game Super Bowl, in which case, I’m sorry). We expected that McKenzie would have a big impact on the game, and we even thought he’d have a good day. But I don’t think anyone expected that he’d catch 11 of the 12 balls thrown his way, gaining 125 yards along the way. He hauled in the game’s first score, as well—a two-yard touchdown grab on 4th & GOAL that was a much more difficult catch than he made it look. Four of Buffalo’s seven longest plays on the day went to McKenzie. All of those catches came in the second half, and three came in the fourth quarter. So not only was McKenzie making plays, he was making clutch plays. When Cole Beasley returns from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the Bills are going to have a good problem in determining how to manage their talented wide receiver grouping. McKenzie earned himself more time with Sunday’s huge performance, however.
The Offensive Line
This was the biggest matchup of the game, in my opinion. Could Buffalo give Allen time to operate against a stout New England front? The answer was a resounding yes. The Patriots chose to play coverage for most of the game, relying on their front-four (or three, at times) to generate pressure against a battered offensive line. The Bills were already missing Jon Feliciano and Cody Ford, and while Dion Dawkins was active, he did not start the game after missing every practice this week thanks to a COVID-19 diagnosis. After Ike Boettger ruptured his Achilles tendon, though, Dawkins was pressed into service. Ryan Bates made his first start of the year, and he was fantastic at both right guard and left guard. The line allowed zero sacks to a New England squad that has totaled 33 on the season. We’ve been dogging these guys all year, so let’s give them some credit: When the rubber met the road, the offensive line answered the call on Sunday.
DT Ed Oliver
Big Ed notched the game’s lone sack on the opening drive, setting the tone for the kind of day Mac Jones was going to have. Oliver played more snaps than any defensive lineman for the Bills, appearing on 67 percent of the game’s snaps. Oliver was disruptive throughout, and while the Patriots managed another solid day running the football, it mattered a whole lot less when the quarterback actually had to throw the ball a little bit to keep up with Buffalo’s scoring. Oliver totaled four tackles, one for a loss, and two quarterback hits to go with his sack.
S Jordan Poyer
Right position, wrong player! Poyer had three tackles on the day, one of which went for a loss. He would have had his sixth interception of the year if teammate Micah Hyde didn’t steal it from him when Mac Jones launched an underthrown prayer late in the fourth quarter. Speaking of Hyde, he was all over the field on Sunday, totaling six tackles, two passes defended, and two interceptions. That first pick was the game-changing turnover I called, except it happened in the second quarter and not the third. A.J. Klein made a great play to drop into his zone off a play-action fake, tipping a pass in the air that then ricocheted off Siran Neal before landing in Hyde’s waiting arms. Neither Hyde nor Poyer is worthy of a Pro Bowl nod, though, so I suppose their stellar play must have been a fluke.