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Buffalo Bills 10, New England Patriots 14: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills took a close loss on a windy night in Orchard Park

In a hotly contested matchup between two teams atop the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills fell to the New England Patriots in a 14-10 decision. On a night with gusting winds, the Bills weren’t able to overcome a relentless Patriots rushing offense with their own attack, and they lost yet again on Monday Night Football. The Patriots are now the top seed in the AFC.

As the game started, the Patriots began things with a three and out. With an early sign of things to come, they ran the ball three times, and fumbled the ball on a toss play (but recovered it), and punted. Buffalo responded with a three and out of their own, and the Patriots would punt it right back to them four plays later. It was that kind of game.

With the crazy wind, the Bills had outstanding field position after New England’s second punt, starting their drive at the Patriots’ 40-yard line. They brought the ball to the 29-yard line, but on 1st & 10, Josh Allen’s handoff was dropped by Matt Breida, and the Patriots recovered it.

Three plays later, the Patriots hit paydirt. Damien Harris ran left, set a perfect cutback, and burst to daylight with no Bills defenders there to stop him. After a 64-yard run, and a two-point conversion by Brandon Bolden, the Patriots led 8-0.

Buffalo took over after the kickoff but punted after only five plays. In a pivotal play, though, Matt Haack’s punt bounced off the head of the Patriots’ returner, only for Siran Neal to fall on it. The end result: a turnover, with the Bills picking the ball up at the 14-yard line. On the next play, Josh Allen hit Gabriel Davis on the slant for the touchdown. Buffalo kicked an extra point, but brought the score to 8-7 nonetheless.

The Patriots responded with their own statement drive, including Mac Jones’s first pass of the game. Over nine plays, and five-and-a-half minutes, the Patriots drove from their 25-yard line to the Buffalo 23-yard line. With the aid of the second-quarter wind, they kicked a 41-yard field goal to extend their lead to 11-7.

Buffalo tried, but failed, to make something happen on their next drive. Allen hit a couple passes, they crossed midfield, and were looking sharp. But they were called for a delay-of-game penalty (that had head coach Sean McDermott furious), then Allen took a sack, then Dawson Knox dropped a 3rd & 19 pass that would’ve converted a first down. The Bills ended up punting. From there, a punt-fest kicked off, and neither team generated any offense before halftime.

The weather didn’t turn for the better after halftime. Both teams traded punts to start the third quarter, forced to rely on runs and quick passes (in Buffalo’s case). On Buffalo’s second drive, Allen started on the right foot with a 19-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders. Aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty, Allen was able to run the Bills down to the red zone, where the Patriots ultimately stopped the drive. That was enough to give the Bills a field goal chance, and they scored to make the game 11-10.

The Patriots responded with their own impressive drive, one-upping Buffalo’s effort. Over 14 plays, New England gained 59 yards and consumed 8:34 of clock. They had runs of 22 yards, 11 yards, and ten yards. Sean McDermott tried to end the drive with a challenge on 4th & 1, but it was a terrible decision, with no camera evidence to overturn the decision. With help from Matt Milano, the Bills ultimately stalled the drive in the red zone, but New England still converted their field goal to extend the lead to 14-10.

Buffalo did their best to flip the script, on a night where they trailed practically from the beginning. Allen and Zack Moss drove the Bills from their 36-yard line to the New England six-yard line, aided by a horse-collar penalty. But after a timeout, Josh Allen was sacked for a nine-yard loss, and Buffalo wasn’t able to do anything with their third-down play. Tyler Bass attempted a 33-yard field goal, but the swirling winds seized the kick and threw it aside.

With only half a quarter remaining in the game, the Bills needed a defensive stop to come away with a win. Luckily the defense stood firm, even when Mac Jones started throwing the ball for real. They forced a three and out, giving Buffalo the ball back with five-and-a-half minutes left in the game.

Buffalo made a valiant attempt to take the lead, starting with a tremendous toe-tapping catch by Stefon Diggs for 28 yards. Aided by a 17-yard Devin Singletary run, the Bills made their way down the field to New England’s 13-yard line. But Allen’s pass to Stefon Diggs was wide, Dawson Knox was called for a false start, and Allen couldn’t find a target on third or fourth down. They were forced to concede without any points. New England ran the clock down and kneeled on fourth down, and that was the game.

Now 7-5, the Bills drop way down the conference rankings. They’ll have a chance for revenge in a couple weeks, but first they need to face the 9-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This loss will leave a bad taste in their mouths.

Injury report

  • Daryl Williams trotted off the field near the end of the first quarter. Cody Ford, who was questionable tonight with a bicep injury, came into the lineup to replace him. Williams was back by the middle of the second quarter.

Quick hits

  • Patriots QB Mac Jones really showed off his arm talent with all those handoffs in the first half. Here’s a highlight replay of his first throw of the night.
  • Points off turnovers? The Patriots claimed the slight lead in the first quarter. Buffalo lost a fumble on a botched handoff, and New England turned that into eight points with a breakaway touchdown run and a two-point conversion. The Bills recovered a muffed punt, and Josh Allen hit Gabriel Davis for six, but the team opted for an extra-point kick instead.
  • Dawson Knox had a night he’ll regret, dropping both of his targets in the first half. Each pass would’ve extended the drive on third down. Instead, the Bills punted both times. On “third and win the game” in the fourth quarter, he dropped a potential touchdown pass.
  • In the “playing with fire” ledger, let’s add Sean McDermott’s decision to call timeout with seven seconds left in the first half. He wanted to force the Patriots to run a punt before halftime, even though he had no intent to return the kick. Maybe it’s just me, but you should never challenge Bill Belichick to a special teams duel like that. Luckily, the play ended uneventfully.
  • Add to the list of things I’ve never seen in a football game before: “The chains broke” in the fourth quarter.
  • It’s hard to make many takeaways from a weird weather game like this one. But the difference in run-pass ratio is tremendous. Mac Jones: three passes. Josh Allen: 30.
  • Similarly, it’s hard to make judgements about the Bills’ defense in this game. They faced more than 40 rushing attempts, and the Patriots had 5.4 yards per carry. But it was definitely elevated by Damien Harris’s 64-yard touchdown run. Overall, they did their job, but the difference in this game was the Patriots’ defense managing to avoid giving up a similar big play in a low-scoring night.
  • Props to Matt Milano, who had six tackles and two tackles for a loss in this game.
  • Props to Mac Jones, who had a tremendous two-for-three passing night against the Bills. That rookie-of-the-year resume keeps growing.
  • It’s definitely not a great look that the Bills carried 25 times for 99 yards on a night when the wind told everyone “run the dang ball.” But that’s how this team was built.
  • Buffalo hasn’t won when hosting a game on Monday Night Football since 1994. That streak continues.

Next week

A 4:25 p.m. showdown in the Gulf Coast against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa is 9-3, undefeated at home, and on a three-game winning streak. Their latest victim: the Atlanta Falcons, who fell 30-17 on Sunday.