The New England Patriots entered Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills looking for their seventh win. Given the way the week went, that win would have put the Patriots in prime position for the final playoff spot in the AFC. However, the Bills dominated the contest, winning 24-10 in a game that wasn’t even as close as that score would suggest.
Buffalo was able to control New England’s top players, and aside from a big play that led to a first-quarter touchdown, the Patriots basically never threatened in the game. Here’s how our five Patriots to watch performed last week.
RB Rhamondre Stevenson
The big running back made a few great old-school football plays, dragging piles of defenders for extra yardage and otherwise proving to be a difficult man to tackle. However, those good moments were few and far between, and they were countered with plays that went absolutely nowhere. When it was all said and done, Stevenson carried 10 times for 54 yards — an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. Of those yards, 16 of them came on his long for the day, and he wasn’t much of a factor in the second half when the Patriots were down three scores. He added six receptions for 24 yards on his eight targets, but that was as much a function of his receiving ability as it was quarterback Mac Jones’ refusal to push the ball down the field (or perhaps it was offensive play caller Matt Patricia’s inability to call plays that attacked that area of the field, if Jones’s late-game outburst is any indication). Stevenson is a good player who I’d love to see in a Bills uniform—seriously, imagine him as the thunder to James Cook’s lightning!—so it makes it hard to hate him even though he wears a Pats uniform. The Bills contained him just enough to make his contributions irrelevant to the game’s result.
WR DeVante Parker
For the first time in the last seven games, Parker failed to have at least five receptions in a game against Buffalo. He only had two catches for a total of 16 yards. For a guy who normally plays very well against the Bills, this was a huge disappointment. Of Parker’s 361 career receptions, 65 of them have come against Buffalo. The last time Parker played this poorly against the Bills was the 2018 season finale, when he was targeted three times and held without a reception. Parker and his fellow wideouts were unable to do much — in fact, the Pats’ biggest play was a 48-yard catch-and-run from cornerback/punt returner Marcus Jones. Aside from that play, the Patriots gained just 147 yards on 35 other pass attempts.
EDGE Matt Judon
The matchup was not in Buffalo’s favor, as starting left tackle Dion Dawkins was out, replaced by David Quessenberry — and right tackle Spencer Brown has been iffy at best this year. Then, Quessenberry injured his ankle on the first series of the game, and things didn’t look promising. However, the offensive line kept quarterback Josh Allen pretty clean, and they kept Judon out of the backfield more often than not. He had three tackles, one quarterback hit, and a fumble recovery after Quessenberry whiffed on linebacker Josh Uche just after the two-minute warning in the first half. It was not a banner day for Judon in what has been an outstanding season.
DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
Similar to Judon, Buffalo was able to control Wise pretty consistently throughout the game. In fact, it was Uche who did most of the damage among New England’s front-seven defenders. Uche had seven tackles, three quarterback hits, the aforementioned strip-sack, and two sacks in total. He was a handful. Wise, like Judon, had a quieter day. Wise totaled four tackles without a sack, quarterback hit, or tackle for a loss.
CB Jonathan Jones
Here I was thinking that Jones would be on wide receiver Gabe Davis, with the patented Bill Belichick double-team/bracket of wide receiver Stefon Diggs on the other side of the field. Instead, there were plenty of times where Jones and Diggs were matched up, and the advantage went to Diggs this week. According to the ESPN broadcast, Jones was the primary cover man on Diggs for five of the passes Allen threw his way. Diggs caught four of those passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. In all, Allen completed 22-of-33 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Diggs caught seven passes on nine targets for 92 yards and a touchdown. Buffalo didn’t need to avoid New England’s top corner on their way to their ninth victory of the season.