To say that the wind was a factor on Monday night in Buffalo is probably one of those understatements of the year type of things. It was a huge factor and took away a lot from what would have played out in a normal night game.
But all things being equal, it was almost a “normal Monday night” in Buffalo in December and the teams had to deal with the awful weather conditions that made every pass, toss, and kick an adventure.
But the Patriots to their credit (and chagrin from the fans on social media), stuck to their game plan and ran, ran, and then ran some more…grinding out 222 yards on the ground, with most of them coming against a stacked box by Buffalo and were able to grind out a hard-nosed, tough 14-10 win over Buffalo.
Other than the curious decision by STs coach Cam Achord to put N’Keal Harry back as the deep PR for the first time in his career in the bad wind conditions that resulted in the ball glancing off his facemask that gave the Bills the ball on the NE 13 and a horrible 15-yard penalty on Myles Bryant, the Bills had no scoring drives.
While it wasn’t pretty or stylish the win improved New England to 9-4 and now they own the best record and the #1 seed in the AFC. They have the next 11 days off before they play the Colts in Indianapolis. It is a bye well-deserved and needed. Other observations include:
Return to 1950’s Football: With wind gusts reaching 50 mph, the Patriots returned to the old style of power football, throwing the ball just three times and running 46 times, and grinding out 222 yards on the ground. Vince Lombardi and George Halas are smiling looking down at this one.
Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels stuck to their guns and played six offensive linemen on nearly 65 percent of their offensive snaps. They didn’t waver and the smash-mouth football style got them the win.
The Patriots played it close to their vest and played field position, and mirrored their game plan to the conditions. They ensured they had the lead in the 4th quarter, which forced Buffalo to throw into the wind late.
Offensive Line Gets High Marks: As mentioned above, the Patriots added an extra offensive lineman on 65 percent of their snaps. Buffalo stacked the box with 9 and sometimes 10 men determined to stop the run. When you stack the box, if the RB gets to the second level bad things can happen and it did in the first quarter when Damien Harris broke off a 64-yard touchdown run to give the Patriots an 8-0 lead that they’d never relinquish.
The talk before the game was that the Patriots were the more physical team and Buffalo a more finesse team. That was a sore spot after the game with Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde but it was also confirmed.
Running against stacked boxes, the Patriots ran 26 times for 141 yards (5.4-yard average) and a touchdown. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson ran the ball 34 times for 189 yards (5.5-yard average) and a score. The offensive line was outstanding putting forth its will on the Bills. On every big run, it seemed like Jakob Johnson paved the way with some big blocks.
Belichick/McDaniels Adapted…McDermott/Daboll Did Not: There were some eyebrows raised when Bill Belichick was thought to take a shot at Bills’ HC Sean McDermott when he said that the Bills were essentially (paraphrasing here) that Buffalo was a “do as they do” team.
The Patriots adjusted to the conditions on the field, Buffalo did not. That was the difference in the game. Facing 6 offensive linemen all night, the Bills never adjusted and added any extra DL. They stayed in the same defense for the majority of the game and it cost them in the end. Belichick doesn’t care about style points or storylines.
The Bills threw into the wind, attempted field goals into the wind, and had Josh Allen drop back a total of 38 times on 57 offensive snaps (30 passes, 6 runs, 2 sacks), and despite his cannon for an arm was still impacted negatively by the wind.
Next-Gen Stats published that on throws downfield (10-yards or more), Allen was 3-13 for 59 yards and a TD. The Patriots chose the wind in the 4th Quarter and 2-pt conversion going into the wind.
So, when the sports radio hosts talk non-stop for the next 11 days about “the lack of arm strength of Mac Jones” (2-3 19 yards), remember that arm strength didn’t do any favors for Allen.
Defense Makes Buffalo One-Dimensional: On the flip side, the Patriots defense stuffed the Bills’ limited rushing attack and other than Allen’s scrambles held all other Buffalo rushers to just 60 yards on 19 carries.
Davon Godchaux had his best game as a Patriots and was huge in the middle making 10 tackles while Ja’Whaun Bentley and Dont’a Hightower chipped in 8 and 7 respectively. That put the onus on the Bills to rely on the passing game.
The Patriots played more man coverage than expected and designed their looks well when in zone. It seemed like they were using Kyle Van Noy as a spy in the event that Allen would scramble. Allen finished 15-30 for 145 yards with a TD. The Bills were just 1-4 in the red zone. J.C. Jackson had a strong game against Stefon Diggs, while Adrian Phillips and Myles Bryant had huge pass breakups in the back end.
This was a huge win for the Patriots, who ran their winning streak to seven in a row (6-0 on the road), and outright lead the division by a game and a half with a head-to-head win. They enter their bye week with 11 days to prepare for a tough Indianapolis team.
Buffalo meanwhile heads off to another tough matchup when they travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers. It is entirely possible that the Patriots could find themselves up two games in the division by Sunday if Tampa holds serve at home.
After that, the Patriots and Bills will meet again in Foxboro, where the game should look quite different than the wind tunnel game we witnessed Monday night.
Posted Under: 2021 NFL Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Brian Daboll Buffalo Bills Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Josh Allen Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones N'Keal Harry New England Patriots NFL Patriots Sean McDermott Stefon Diggs