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Observations From the Patriots Loss 24-21 to the Bills On a Late Fumble

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
9 months ago at 9:00 pm ET
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Season

Observations From the Patriots Loss 24-21 to the Bills On a Late FumbleRich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We wrote a while back that the Patriots were going to be in a bunch of rock fights this season. There wouldn’t be those cruising to victories like we’ve been all accustomed to for the past two decades. And as we said then, and it is even more true now, how those rock fights turn out will determine what kind of a team this is. 

The Patriots have been in three games where they had opportunities to pull games out late… in Seattle, against Denver, and today in Buffalo. Had they made a couple of plays in each, this team could easily be 5-2 despite the wide receivers being held together by all undrafted free agents and the rush defense unable to stop a stiff breeze lately. That’s how close, the razor-thin margin is between winning and losing. 

But in those three games, the Patriots didn’t make the plays and they lost all three. That’s why their 2-5 and losers of four in a row. It was just another frustrating finish for a team that is used to making the plays to win. 

So, when Jordan Zimmer made an excellent play and knocked the ball loose from Cam Newton as he crossed the 10-yard line of the Bills, the excitement of the team perhaps knocking off the Bills and making the division a true race was put to bed.

However, truth be told, even at 5-2, there wouldn’t be a lot of buzz of them going on a deep postseason run.  But this year, they won’t have to worry about that. In January, they can start booking vacations down in the Caribbean and get out of the cold. While they aren’t eliminated (yet) from playoff contention, let’s be honest here… it isn’t happening this year. 

The Bills, like the Chiefs, Broncos, 49ers, absolutely gashed the Patriots on the ground. Buffalo was averaging about 97 yards per game on the ground. On Sunday, they ran the ball 38 times for 190 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per rush. While teams continue to gash them on the ground, the coaching staff has tried to adjust and schemed up ways to make it happen. But the execution and especially the tackling has been very uncharacteristically poor. 

Cam Newton was better today than he was the past two games but that isn’t saying much. He still isn’t playing good enough. Newton finished 15-25 for 174 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INTs. He added 54 yards rushing and had a couple of nice runs, especially in the fourth quarter. 

That being said, the offense seemed to find a little bit of something and scored touchdowns on two straight possessions and seemed to primed for a third one when he took off from the 19-yard line and was stripped of the ball on the Patriots final offensive play. They were in great position to at least tie the game with a field goal, but they were going for the win, which is the right move. 

For those who are calling for Newton to be benched or even released…that isn’t happening next week, Bill Belichick has already said that Newton is the starter here. 

We look forward to watching the tape again but the tackling, especially at linebacker appears to be really bad right now. Ja’Whaun Bentley has really struggled the past couple of games but the defensive line was getting pushed around by the Bills OL.  Both Zach Moss and Devin Singletary had 14 carries and had 86 and 81 yards respectively. 

Speaking of linebackers, Chase Winovich is continuing to see his playing time slashed. He was only on the field for two snaps in the first half. Josh Uche played for the first time now that he’s finally healthy. We expect him to see more of him moving forward. 

The coaches made a curious and (in retrospect) bad decision by inexplicably attempting an onside kick after tying the game at 14. And it cost them. The Bills scored easily by relying on their running game. 

Some of the play calls were suspect. A third and two call where they tried to sell a pass play and have James White run a delayed draw was awful. Buffalo had eight men in the box and were playing run all the way. And having your offensive line not firing off the ball trying to sell a pass was awful. 

So was going for a field goal on 3rd down with 12 seconds left in the half. It showed a lack of confidence in Newton’s ability to protect the ball and the clock. 

However, the running game and the running backs have to be a bright spot for the team. Damien Harris ran for 102 yards on 16 carries and scored his first NFL touchdown where he showed good vision and cut back nicely to score. He’s probably going to be the #1 back in the offense, even when Sony Michel returns. The coaches need to feed him more and ride the hot hand. 

Rex Burkhead had a very good game running the ball six times for 26 yards and hauling in a pass for five more. But both he and James White had excellent blitz pickups in pass protection. 

Not everything was bad with the defense. Once again the secondary made Josh Allen appear pretty ordinary. Allen finished 11-18 for 154 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT. The defense had the big third-down stop holding Buffalo to a field goal which gave the team a chance to win the game. 

Jakobi Meyers had a very nice game with six catches for 58 yards and is already enjoying the trust of Newton. He’ll definitely be seeing more and more of the field in the near future, regardless of whether Julian Edelman and/or N’Keal Harry return soon or not. The former QB turned WR is dong a good job of getting open and staying there. 

But the big question is now with the trade deadline approaching on Tuesday, will the Patriots be sellers or buyers? Without meaning to sit on the fence… I believe they stand pat. They’ll listen to offers for just about anyone, but I think they’ll stick with who they have for the remainder of 2020. 

Next week it is on to the Jets in the Meadowlands. What appeared to be a layup when the schedule came out no longer seems the case…Just another rock fight in 2020.


Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Cam Newton Damien Harris Devin Singletary James White Josh Allen Julian Edelman New England Patriots Stefon Diggs Zach Moss

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