The New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, winning 29-25 in what turned out to be a wild affair featuring two late lead changes and a come-from-behind game-sealing score with mere seconds remaining in regulation. After New England opened up a two-score lead with under eight minutes to play, it looked like it would be a walk-away; however, the Bills managed to score two touchdowns in under six minutes, and it seemed like yet another missed opportunity for New England, a team on the brink of collapse.
Instead, quarterback Mac Jones led an eight-play, 75-yard drive in 106 seconds of game time, the Patriots scored a go-ahead touchdown, and they cemented their second victory of the season. In the process, they handed Buffalo their third defeat overall, second divisional loss, and third conference loss of the year.
Here’s how our five Patriots to watch played in Week 7.
RB Ezekiel Elliott
The veteran running back didn’t have a huge day — he carried 11 times for just 31 yards and couldn’t haul in his only target — but he made some big plays when the Patriots needed them. Elliott scored the game’s first touchdown, finding pay dirt on a two-yard run just one play after he’d run for eight yards. That made it 10-0 Patriots after an opening-drive field goal and an interception by quarterback Josh Allen that gave New England the ball right back. After he’d been stuffed for a one-yard loss in the fourth quarter with the Patriots driving, he immediately followed it up with his longest run of the day, a ten-yard gain to give the Pats a 3rd & 1 rather than a 3rd & Long. As with most of the day for New England, Elliott didn’t do anything flashy. What he and his teammates did, though, was execute consistently and when it mattered most.
WR Kendrick Bourne
Honestly, shoutout to Mac Jones here. The beleaguered quarterback played easily his best game of the season, finding receivers open on swing passes and crossing patterns, as well as over the middle on play-action, all throughout the day. He completed 25-of-30 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns went to Bourne, who found open space to haul in a four-yard touchdown that, for the moment, gave the Patriots a lot of breathing room in the fourth quarter. The score put New England up by 12, and even though the Patriots didn’t convert the two-point attempt, the game felt close to over at that point. Bourne was once again Jones’ top target, seeing seven passes thrown his way. He caught six of them for a total of 63 yards and the one score. All of those totals led the team on the day.
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
So, I know that fellow Buffalo Rumbler “NJT34” was joking when they said that linebacker Matt Judon still might pressure Josh Allen from Injured Reserve... but man, the offensive line was atrocious for Buffalo. The Patriots’ defensive front and combination blitzes flummoxed them all day long. Bentley did some mirroring of Allen, as we expected, and he also fired off on some blitzes and kept QB17 under pressure. When Buffalo isolated Bentley in coverage, it worked to their favor, as evidenced by a big third-down grab by running back James Cook early in the game where he shook Bentley off in the open field before making a 28-yard grab. Bentley finished with a team-high nine tackles for New England, seven of which were of the assisted variety. He added one pass breakup on the day.
CB J.C. Jackson
The veteran had five tackles and a pass breakup, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of the game. The Patriots were able to control wide receiver Stefon Diggs for much of the game, as he finished with six catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. The yardage total is his lowest of the season, and the reception total tied for the lowest number in a game this year, too. Diggs caught just half of his targets, too, which is the lowest catch percentage he’s had all year. Jackson did a really nice job on Diggs, as did New England’s defense as a whole. Jackson was the man in coverage on Diggs when he made a sliding catch, stood up, and broke a tackle to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The coverage on the play was good, but Diggs just made a fantastic play. Jackson had a good day overall.
S Kyle Dugger
The versatile safety had seven tackles — all solo — and one tackle for loss on the day. He nearly had an interception, too, as Allen lofted a ball that went right to him in the fourth quarter. However, the Bills had called timeout prior to the play, so the interception was for naught. Allen subsequently hit tight end Dalton Kincaid to pick up the first down, and the Bills ultimately scored a touchdown on Allen’s one-yard quarterback sneak to give them a 23-22 lead. That lead went to 25-22 after converting the two-point try. However, Buffalo’s defense was unable to make a play, rendering all of it moot. Dugger was part of a Patriots defense that flustered Allen and the Bills’ passing attack all afternoon.