The Buffalo Bills fell to the New England Patriots on Monday night, dropping a 14-10 contest that put a rather large dent in not just their hopes of winning the AFC East, but of qualifying for the playoffs. Buffalo has a 77 percent shot of making it to the postseason, but after yet another disappointing conference loss, they’ve essentially burned any wiggle-room they had.
Some our players to watch showed out on Monday, some were underutilized, and one logged a DNP. Here’s how the group fared.
QB Josh Allen
The good: Allen was able to fire some absolute dimes in cartoonish winds, including a gorgeous touchdown strike to Gabriel Davis that drew the Bills within one point when head coach Sean McDermott elected to kick an extra point after the Patriots had converted a two-point try on their first score. Allen looked poised, taking what the Patriots gave him on a night where the big play was all but impossible to hit.
The bad: Allen didn’t use his legs nearly enough in a game where the team struggled to move the ball against a stout New England front seven. He threw two consecutive passes—one to Emmanuel Sanders and another to Stefon Diggs—that easily could have been caught and returned for a touchdown by Patriots defenders. Finally, on the team’s last offensive play, Allen chose to throw across the hashes to the outside against a cover-zero blitz rather than taking what was right in front of him—a crossing route to Cole Beasley that probably leads to at least a first down. The middle is always open in a cover-zero look, and when you have one of the league’s best slot players who specializes in making people miss, you need to look for him in that situation rather than your fourth wide receiver.
Allen can’t control the fact that his offensive coordinator seemed to forget that he has an elite running quarterback in a game with sustained 35 mph winds. He can’t control the fact that his offensive coordinator repeatedly thinks it’s a good idea to ram Zack Moss into the line of scrimmage on first downs inside the red zone when it never works and no one is ever fooled. Allen can’t control the fact that he threw some straight-up gorgeous passes that were dropped, whether because of the weather (a rainbow to Stefon Diggs that he just couldn’t track) or because of god-knows-what (any of the balls that glanced off of Dawson Knox’s hands). He can control the reads he makes, though, and far too often this year, he has not made the right read when faced with pressure.
Ultimately, Allen was the best player on the field for the Bills. It just wasn’t enough.
WR Gabriel Davis
It felt like Davis was on the field more than he actually was, as he appeared for only 16 snaps on the evening. He did catch Buffalo’s only touchdown, adding one other grab to bring his total to two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown on the night. He was the target on the game’s final offensive play for the Bills, as well—a 4th & 14 pass that was deflected by Myles Bryant.
G Jon Feliciano
Buffalo’s starting left guard remains on injured reserve. Ike Boettger once again started in his place.
DT Star Lotulelei
In his return from a bout with COVID-19, Lotulelei was out snapped only by Harrison Phillips at defensive tackle, appearing on 53 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. His presence didn’t help much against the run, as New England managed 222 yards on 46 carries in a game where they essentially came out and said, “Hey guys, we aren’t going to throw. Do with that information what you’d like.” Speaking of Phillips, he had a fine evening, as he played New England’s traps quite well more often than not. As for Lotulelei, he did not make a tackle.
CB Dane Jackson
We’ll have to wait for next week when Tom Brady, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin are the opponents for Jackson to see his first real test at defending actual passes in place of Tre’Davious White. Mac Jones threw it not once, not twice, but thrice on the evening—and his one incomplete pass came on a nice breakup by Jackson. The ESPN booth kept talking about running Jackson’s way to test his willingness as a tackler, and Jackson held up fairly well, as his strengths really are the physical game more so than the double-move, long game. Jackson had five tackles on the night.