The Buffalo Bills are 9-3 after beating the New England Patriots, 24-10, on Thursday Night Football. The two-score point differential shows that Buffalo dominated the game, but realistically, these two teams are on much different levels in terms of talent and potential success. The score was misleading — and if not for a wild catch-and-run, 48-yard touchdown by Patriots return specialist Marcus Jones on his first offensive snap of the season, or a late field goal on the final drive of the game against Buffalo’s pack-it-in-ice prevent defense — this game could have easily been 24-0.
Buffalo has started off slow the last few weeks, but that wasn't the case this time around, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal on its first three possessions in jumping out to an early 17-7 lead. The Bills’ defense was without edge rusher Von Miller, but still played at an elite level all game long despite the one-play hiccup that led to New England’s lone touchdown.
Last week versus the Detroit Lions, ESPN Analytics showed that it could’ve been one of those games the Bills let slip away late after being heavily favored for the entire game prior — but that was not the case in Foxborough, MA. The game was never once in doubt, and the win probability metrics were in Buffalo’s favor from the moment the ball was kicked off to the moment quarterback Josh Allen took his final kneel-down to win the game. Buffalo even fell to an early 7-3 lead, and were still favored by +11.9%.
Let’s take a look at some key moments that solidified the Bills’ first divisional win of the season, and why the metrics were in favor of them by a much more significant percentage.
1st quarter, 4:31 remaining — BUF with a 61.9% win probability: This would be the lowest win probability percentage the Bills would have all game. The Patriots’ offense wasn't looking great, but quarterback Mac Jones threw a quick screen pass to Marcus Jones and he took it to the house, capping off the five-play, 75-yard drive lasting for just over three minutes. New England led 7-3 at this point, but the Bills’ offense refused to be stopped on the following two drives.
2nd quarter, 5:17 remaining — BUF with a 87.7% win probability: Here, the Bills had just capped off a 15-play, 56-yard drive that lasted nearly eight minutes with a Gabe Davis touchdown catch following some Josh Allen magic. This play was just absurd, and was the beginning of the domination for the Bills. The Patriots had Allen locked up running towards the sideline, but he did Allen things and somehow found Davis for the touchdown, so the morale and defensive confidence was likely at its lowest.
3rd quarter, 9:17 remaining — BUF with a 85.2% win probability: The score was still 17-7 here after the Bills faced some offensive lulls, including two punts and an Allen fumble on a strip-sack. The Patriots were driving a little bit. Jones was starting to find his rhythm, but safety Jordan Poyer had other plans. He came out of absolutely nowhere to pick Jones off, but the referees said the ball “didn’t survive the fall,” so it was overturned. Nonetheless, this completely stalled any momentum the Patriots had, and the Bills got the ball back right after this.
4th quarter, 14:31 remaining — BUF with a 97.8% win probability: This was arguably one of the best-looking drives of the season thus far. The Patriots pinned the Bills on their own six-yard line, but that didn’t phase Allen and the offense. After a 15-play, 94-yard drive lasting 8:55 was capped off by a Devin Singletary goal line touchdown run, the Bills found themselves in near-complete favor of the win-probability metrics. Even if the Patriots had suddenly found offensive success, the game was too far gone at this point, simply because of the length of the drive.
The Bills have had their fair share of disappointments this season, but they're 9-3 while facing one of the hardest schedules in the league. This game was never once close, and hopefully the Bills can carry this momentum into their game against the New York Jets next week after losing to them earlier in the season. Time for a revenge game?