The New England Patriots couldn’t defeat the Buffalo Bills for a second time, falling 27-21 in a game that easily could have been much worse on the scoreboard. As has been the case all year, the Patriots’ defense held strong when placed in bad situations by their moribund offense. As has been the case of late, though, that offense was able to string together some plays and keep the game close.
Wide receiver Jalen Reagor wasn’t among our five players to watch this week, although I suppose he should have been given the game he had. Reagor returned the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, and he also caught the Patriots’ longest pass on offense, a 39-yard strike to set up their third and final score of the day. Aside from a few big plays, Buffalo’s defense held strong, though, and the Bills were able to make enough plays on offense to emerge with a hard-fought win.
Here’s how our five Patriots players to watch played on Sunday.
QB Bailey Zappe
Just one week after playing a great game against the Denver Broncos, Zappe could not possibly have started this one off worse. He threw an interception on his first attempt of the game, as cornerback Rasul Douglas jumped a slant and batted a ball in the air that was ultimately snared by a diving Ed Oliver. Two possessions — and two attempts — later, Zappe once again threw at Douglas, and was once again intercepted, as Rasul picked this one himself. When Zappe finally did complete a pass, tight end Pharaoh Brown lost a fumble after securing the grab. Two drives later, Zappe fired a ball right into Douglas’ hands, and the newest of Buffalo’s corners returned the interception 40 yards for a touchdown. To that point, Zappe had thrown nine passes. He had completed three of them to his own teammates for a total of 19 yards. Three of them were completed to Bills players. One of the balls his own players caught resulted in a lost fumble. It looked as if the Bills were going to win this one running away, yet Zappe and New England’s offense settled down and played much better from that point onward. Given that Zappe endured that awful start, to finish his day 16-of-26 for 209 yards, adding five rushing attempts for 37 yards and a touchdown, is solid. The dreadful start, however, was too much to overcome. Zappe was constantly under pressure, as well, and he was sacked three times and hit eight times in the game.
RB Ezekiel Elliott
The veteran made some plays this time around, but he was held to a pretty modest line overall. He carried 14 times for just 39 yards, a paltry 2.8 yards per attempt. He was targeted twice in the passing game, securing one of the targets for six yards. His backup, second-year man Kevin Harris, had two explosive plays on the day, breaking a 15-yard run on one of his two carries, and turning a screen pass into a 49-yard gain on one of his two catches. Given New England’s lack of explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball, it’s a bit surprising that the 23-year-old back didn’t see a few more touches on the game. Elliott looks every bit the part of a veteran running back with 2,400 professional touches on his resume.
WR DeVante Parker
The big wideout left the game early thanks to a ribs injury, and as a result, he only was able to play 15 snaps on offense. He saw two targets, making one catch for 15 yards on a second-down play. New England’s top receiver was tight end Mike Gesicki, who led the team in targets (6) and receptions (4), but was just third in receiving yardage (35). Jalen Reagor (39) and Kevin Harris (54) each finished ahead of Gesicki in yardage.
DL Christian Barmore
New England’s pass rush impacted quarterback Josh Allen tremendously in this one, as the MVP-candidate looked less like one of the league’s best players and more like he did against a Bill Belichick defense when he was a rookie. Barmore was extremely disruptive, totaling six tackles on the day. While he didn’t sack Allen, he was part of a defensive front that totaled four quarterback hits and a sack, and that also made Allen run for his life on multiple occasions. Barmore was also a big part of the reason that the Bills’ running game, which had been quite successful over the lats month, was stuck in neutral for much of the day. Buffalo averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in this one.
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
I love watching him play — I just hate that I have to watch him play for New England. Bentley is a tremendous athlete, and he was another big part of the reason why Allen was so uncomfortable in this one, especially during the first half. Defenders have so much to deal with when defending Allen, and the “worst” assignment of all is the “mirror” — the person that has to spy Allen throughout the day. Bentley plays that role as well as anyone, and he was great again. He uses his speed and his length to disrupt passing lanes in the middle, and he uses his closing ability to make sure that someone like Allen stays contained as best he can. Bentley totaled seven tackles on the day.