The Buffalo Bills were the top punching bag for the New England Patriots throughout the Tom Brady era. The Patriots went 32-3 against Buffalo under the legendary quarterback, preventing the Bills from having much success. Since Brady left for Tampa Bay in 2020, though, the Bills have flipped the script.
Buffalo has won six of seven games against New England since Brady’s departure, including an absolute beatdown in the 2021 playoffs. The Bills continued their recent domination of the Patriots with a 24-10 win on Thursday night, their third straight win in Foxborough. The Patriots may have looked good in their red throwback uniforms, but their play certainly didn’t match their looks.
Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs led Buffalo’s offense well enough to win, racking up over 350 total yards and holding the ball for over 38 minutes. However, Buffalo’s defense was the star of the show, holding New England under 250 total yards. The Bills have become a team known for high-flying offense, but they proved they can win with a stout defense, too.
But how well did each individual unit play on Thursday night? Let’s go through each unit and grade their performance against the Patriots.
Buffalo may have an outstanding air game with Allen and a plethora of star pass-catchers, but the ground game has been effective as well. The Bills are averaging 136.3 rushing yards per game this season, good for eighth in the NFL. They don’t have a single star running back, but their running back by committee approach has served them well.
Against the Patriots, the Bills stuck with what worked, finishing the night with 132 rushing yards. Rookie running back James Cook was the leading rusher with a season-high 14 carries for 64 yards. Devin Singletary added 51 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries to form a strong one-two punch.
Allen had a quiet rushing game with just eight carries for 20 yards, his third-lowest total this season. Trade deadline acquisition Nyheim Hines has still yet to find his groove in Buffalo, as he had just two carries for -3 yards on Thursday.
Buffalo’s run game wasn’t perfect, but the top two backs did enough to earn a high grade.
The Bills finished Thursday’s game with 223 passing yards, well below their season average of 274.5 yards. That’s not to say the passing game was bad—far from it, in fact. In such a low-scoring defensive contest, Buffalo did more than enough through the air to win.
In addition to his 223 yards, Allen threw two touchdowns, one to Diggs and one to Gabe Davis. He also avoided the turnover bug, which had been a problem recently with seven interceptions in the last four games. Allen finished with a QBR of 90.2, his highest mark of the season.
Diggs was the workhorse receiver with seven catches for 92 yards and a score. Davis had a quiet night with two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown, but Isaiah McKenzie picked up the slack with five catches for 44 yards. Cook also had an impact on the passing game with six catches for 41 yards, both career-highs.
Buffalo’s passing game may not have put up eye-popping stats, but it was efficient and effective when it needed to be.
If Mac Jones’ words are anything to go by, Buffalo did a good job of shutting down the New England run game. Given that the Patriots only had 60 rushing yards all game, it’s hard to disagree with Jones’ assessment.
Mac Jones to Matt Patricia:
THROW THE F*CKING BALL
F*CKING RUN GAME SUCKSpic.twitter.com/EhtEDkQr9F
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 2, 2022
Rhamondre Stevenson was actually fairly effective when he got the ball, with 54 yards on 10 carries. However, much like their Thanksgiving game against the Vikings, the Patriots largely abandoned the run game as the clock wound down.
Still, the Bills deserve credit for forcing the Patriots into such a one-dimensional game plan down the stretch.
After Mac Jones hit Marcus Jones for a 48-yard touchdown on New England’s second drive, it could have been a long night for the Buffalo secondary. Instead, the Bills locked down from that point on and didn’t allow another 20-yard play. Aside from that one play, the Bills’ pass defense was great on Thursday.
Mac Jones finished with 195 passing yards, just over half of the 382 yards he threw for against the Minnesota Vikings. Aside from Marcus Jones, no Patriots receiver reached 35 yards on the night. The pass rush also made a big play late, as A.J. Epenesa sacked Mac Jones for a 13-yard loss to shut down New England’s final drive.
The Bills forced the Patriots to throw to win, and New England couldn’t do it.
The Bills’ special teams unit had a very standard performance overall. Tyler Bass made all four of his kicks (one field goal and three extra points), Sam Martin had a solid punting game and Hines didn’t have to do much in the return game. A solid showing all around, but Bass’ perfect accuracy boosts the grade up a notch.
Whenever the Bills can beat their hated rival in convincing fashion, it’s a good day in Buffalo. The Bills not only hurt the Patriots’ playoff chances, but took another step towards securing their own playoff spot as well. It doesn’t get much better than this in Buffalo.