The New England Patriots needed a win over the Buffalo Bills to secure a playoff berth. They led the game 17-14 in the second half; however, Buffalo pulled away, winning 35-23 to eliminate New England from playoff contention. Well, the elimination wasn’t all Buffalo — it took a win from the Miami Dolphins to make it official, and the Dolphins obliged, winning an 11-6 barnburner over the New York Jets.
The Bills did just enough on offense to prop up their suddenly stellar special teams unit, and their defense woke up in the second half to limit New England’s top players. Here’s how our five players to watch fared this weekend.
QB Mac Jones
In the first half, things were looking problematic for the Bills, and it was due in large part to the efficiency of one McCorkle Jones. He was 13-of-16 at the break, throwing for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Really, the Patriots’ offense looked as good, if not better, than it had all season. Then, Buffalo did what it’s done so well throughout this season: they adjusted. New England moved the ball a bit in the second half, to be fair, but Jones was much less efficient. He completed 13 passes after halftime as well, but those came on 24 attempts. In a show of the universe doing things in Buffalo’s favor given the week they had, he also threw three interceptions: one to Tre’Davious White, one to Matt Milano, and one to Tremaine Edmunds. Jones finished 26-of-40 passing for 243 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions.
WR Jakobi Meyers
Buffalo did a nice job on New England’s top wideout, holding him to just three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown on the day. And boy, was the touchdown ever a good one, as Meyers made a leaping grab combined with a toe-tap routine that a ballerina would envy. It was old nemesis DeVante Parker who killed the Bills, not Meyers. Parker grabbed six receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
LB Josh Uche
After Uche tallied two sacks, three quarterback hits, and a forced fumble in the first meeting, he was clearly a priority this week. And in making him a priority, the Bills were able to erase the talented pass rusher from the stat book — literally — this time around. Uche played on 24 defensive snaps and didn’t register an official statistic other than those snaps that he played. Job well done by Dion Dawkins up front.
LB Matt Judon
Similar to Uche, the Bills were able to contain Judon, New England’s leader in sacks with 15.5, for most of the game. He did register some statistics, notching three tackles overall, but for the second time this year, he failed to sack Allen at all. New England’s pass rush was able to do some damage, but most of it came on pressures coming right up the middle from defensive linemen like Deatrich Wise Jr.
S Kyle Dugger
Dugger was banged up early in the contest, but he did return to play the rest of the way. Dugger had five tackles, but just one of them was a solo stop. He didn’t have a sack, pass deflection, or an interception. Dugger did serve as an in-the-box deterrent for Josh Allen as a runner, though, and it was effective. Allen rushed nine times for just 16 yards, so Dugger’s presence helped in that regard. Ultimately, though, Buffalo adjusted offensively and exploited the fact that New England was playing one of its better defensive players in a position where he was unable to help out on deeper passes.