Well that was fun. The Buffalo Bills diced, minced, shredded, and julienned the New England Patriots, picking them apart in every way possible on their way to an invigorating 47-17 victory. Whatever the Bills wanted to do on offense, they did. Whatever the Bills didn’t want New England to do on offense, they prevented them from doing. In short, Buffalo thoroughly dominated the game from the start. Perhaps the only thing that went right for New England was winning the coin toss.
Buffalo’s top players all turned in great performances, but one of our players to watch in particular was especially electric. Here’s how our group of five fared in Buffalo’s Wild Card win.
QB Josh Allen
A friend of mine who roots for the Miami Dolphins texted me in the third quarter. The message read: “Josh Allen. My God.” That’s about the most accurate way to describe the performance from Buffalo’s 25-year-old quarterback, making his fifth playoff start and third in the friendly confines of Highmark Stadium. Against the vaunted Bill Belichick defense, Allen continued his dominance. When the two teams last played on Boxing Day, the Patriots tried to contain Allen to the pocket, forcing him to make plays with a “mush rush” instead of bringing pressure. Allen obliged them, throwing for 314 yards and three touchdowns. We were constantly reminded that Belichick always has a plan, so there was no way that he’d try the same thing again given how well Allen beat it. Alas, whatever plan Belichick had this time around certainly didn’t work, as Allen was even better last weekend. Allen threw more touchdown passes (5) than incomplete passes, going 21-for-25 for 308 yards, adding 66 rushes on six carries. There was never a point in the game where Allen wasn’t fully in control. Perhaps the best throw of the game was the biggest “**** you” shot the Bills called. Leading 40-10 in the fourth quarter, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll rolled Allen out on first down from the Patriots’ 39-yard line. Allen threw a missile to Dawson Knox while on the run, and Knox narrowly missed catching his third touchdown pass of the night. Instead, two plays later, the Bills rubbed it in by calling for Allen to hit rookie Tommy Doyle on a tackle-eligible play. Allen’s other touchdown passes included a ball that he tried to throw away, but instead turned Knox into Dwight Clark to open the scoring, then two skinny-post darts to Knox and Gabriel Davis thrown to the right and left sides, respectively. In between, he hit a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders for a 34-yard touchdown—the first career postseason TD for Sanders. After the game, Allen said there were still a few things to clean up, and he’s certainly correct. A perfect passer rating is 158.3; Allen clocked in at only 157.6 for the night. Likewise, a perfect QBR is a 100, and Allen came up short at 98.5. It’s great when the quarterback is a perfectionist, and it’s even better when he’s not satisfied with a performance that made him look like he came from Krypton. That was some game.
RB Devin Singletary
In two regular-season games against New England, Singletary struggled to do much on the ground, rushing 22 times for just 75 yards. This time around, Singletary did not struggle at all. He ran angry, dragging tacklers and breaking through holes to give himself 81 yards rushing on 16 carries. It was the fourth time he’s broken the 80-yard mark in the last five games overall. Singletary also scored two first-half touchdowns that broke the Patriots’ will. The first was a three-yard plunge to make it 20-0 with 7:24 left in the first half. The second was a 16-yard scamper just over five minutes later. On that second touchdown, Singletary beat two Patriots to the edge, and it looked like both players just gave up while he still had around five yards to go for the end zone. Fifty-eight of his rushing yards came in the first half. Singletary also added three receptions for 13 yards.
WR Stefon Diggs
Allen targeted Diggs four times in the first half, and that was all for the game. He was the recipient of the game’s first pass, a nine-yard strike. He caught a six-yard pass on Buffalo’s next drive to bring them even closer to a touchdown. It was his third and final catch, though, that was the most impressive. Diggs was one-on-one with J.C. Jackson as the lone man to the offense’s right side. There were three receivers lined up to the left. Allen pumped left, which caused Jackson to bite just a bit. He then lofted a gorgeous ball down the sideline that Diggs caught for a 45-yard gain. A Buffalo drive that started on their own 11-yard line was on the New England 25-yard line on just the second play of that drive. ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky broke the play down beautifully. Diggs did exactly what he was asked to do when he was asked to do it.
DT Harrison Phillips
Phillips wasn’t the defensive tackle to make the splash play—that was Star Lotulelei, who sacked quarterback Mac Jones in the second quarter, but Phillips was the defensive tackle who played 71% of the defensive snaps, more than any defensive lineman for the Bills. He had three tackles on the night and continued to cement himself as an integral part of the defense. Buffalo held New England to just 89 rushing yards on the night.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
One look at Mac Jones’s pass chart from Saturday night shows you that the plan was to force him to throw it outside the numbers. A big part of why the Bills can take away an entire area of the field is the ridiculous athleticism of Edmunds, who patrolled the middle beautifully and once again helped the Bills limit New England’s high-priced free-agent tight ends in the passing game. As a run defender, Edmunds was decisive and ready to bring the lumber, laying big hits on Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson to limit their own gains. He had a game-high eight tackles, adding a hit on Jones to his ledger, as well.