ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Does anybody believe that the Buffalo Bills are truly as good as they looked on Saturday night?
The Bills had to struggle to beat the Jets last week to clinch a division that was already handed to them by the Patriots, who lost their regular season finale at Miami. The Patriots, once 9-4 and the top AFC seed, fell flat as a pancake after their bye week in Week 14 and lost four of their last five games. Their 2021 season came to an end as the Bills slaughtered the Patriots, 47-17 at freezing cold Highmark Stadium.
The loss is one of the biggest postseason beatdowns in franchise history. The 30-point loss isn’t quite as bad as the Super Bowl XX loss to Chicago or the mauling the Patriots suffered in San Diego in 1963 against the Chargers in the AFC Title Game. But the Bills completely obliterated the Patriots, as they scored touchdowns on all seven of their drives and have now gone two games in a row against the Patriots without punting. The eighth drive doesn’t count as it was all kneeldowns. This one was all Buffalo, and it was over early.
The Patriots won the coin toss and deferred, and predictably fell behind early. Josh Allen led the Bills on a 70-yard drive, 41 of those yards on Allen scrambles. With nine seconds to throw the ball, Allen rolled to his right and lofted an eight-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Knox to make it 7-0. When the Patriots got the ball back, Hunter Henry caught a 30-yard lob pass to put the ball at midfield, but on first down Mac Jones found Brandon Bolden all alone in the right seam, but Bolden dropped the ball.
That was pretty much the game right there. After Jones scrambled for 16 yards to the 34, he lofted a deep ball to the left corner of the end zone. Nelson Agholor was right there and the ball was laid perfectly into his hands. But out of nowhere came Micah Hyde to snatch the ball from Agholor and end the drive. Allen then took the Bills 80 yards, hitting Knox for 24 yards, Isaiah McKenzie for 19 yards, then found Knox in the end zone from 11 yards out with Adrian Phillips in futile pursuit.
With each successive drive, the defense pretty much gave up the ghost. It looked towards the end of the first half that the defense had stopped competing. The cold weather and the total inability to stop the Buffalo offense was too much to handle.
The last scoring drive for Buffalo in the first half pretty much encapsulated the evening for the Patriots. Starting at their own 11, Allen hit McKenzie for 19 yards, then hit Stefon Diggs for 45 yards with interception leader J.C. Jackson making only a half-baked effort to defend him. Allen scrambled for nine yards, then Devin Singletary ran off tackle for the final 16 yards through a tired Patriot defense and a 27-0 lead. They covered the 89 yards in four plays, and you had to be a stout Patriot fan to watch the rest of the beatdown.
Jones would throw a second pick on the first drive of the third quarter, as he tried to hit Henry in the left flat but instead a deflected ball landed in the arms of Levi Wallace. Allen would find Emmanuel Sanders six plays later for a 34-yard touchdown pass with Joejuan Williams in futile pursuit. The rest of the game was trying to give Jones as many playoff reps as possible with the game out of hand, and Jones did respond with two touchdown passes and 232 passing yards on 24 of 38 passing.
The Patriots can look back at how awful they finished the season after their bye week after the first 13 weeks. Like Miami, the Patriots had a midseason seven-game win streak which disguised the true talent level of this team. But despite enjoying a brief stay at the top seed in the conference, with Las Vegas calling a Tampa Bay-New England Super Bowl the most likely matchup, the Patriots finished flat, sloppy and exposed as a team that was not as good as we thought they were, especially on defense.
The Patriots will have some work to do as they try and improve on a playoff season that ends with a 10-8 record. The front seven either ran out of gas or made their hay against mediocre teams or good teams with missing players. The secondary will soon lose Jackson to free agency, and who is left is not nearly close to Jackson and Stephon Gilmore when the two were together and one of the best cornerback tandems in the league. Dont’a Hightower is showing his age, and one has to wonder what happened to Matt Judon, who was a ball of fire until the bye week, then a no-show thereafter.
Allen and the Bills now can look forward to the Divisional round, either at home against Cincinnati but more likely on the road at Kansas City. Allen finished 21 of 25 passing for 308 yards, five touchdowns and a passer rating of 157.6. He also chipped in with 66 yards rushing on six carries. Knox led the Bills with 89 receiving yards on five catches. Singletary led the Bills with 81 yards on 16 carries. But Allen once again stole the show and proved to be an insurmountable foe for the Patriots. Allen grew up in California’s Central Valley but attended a high altitude/freezing cold University of Wyoming, where he honed his cold weather skills and showed it Saturday night.
Jones finished with a rating of 75.8. Kendrick Bourne caught both of Jones’ touchdown passes and finished with 77 yards on seven catches. The running game, which was considered critical in the Patriots possibly winning the game, had 89 team yards and a 4.5 yard average, but that final total was skewed by Bourne rushing for 14 yards on a jet sweep.
Jones does represent a bright future for the Patriots, as they seem to have found their quarterback of the future. Bill Belichick needs to get more weapons for him, especially at the wide receiver position. If James White can make a comeback and Bolden stays a special teams gunner instead of the number three back, the running back position is good. The offensive line might be due for a little help with run blockers to prevent Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson from having to do too much on their own.
But Buffalo moves on, and the Patriots head home. The Bills became the first team in the Super Bowl era to score touchdowns on their first seven possessions. Fixing the defense might be the top priority in the offseason. It had a good midseason stretch against mediocre teams, but in the end it is far from elite and while making the playoffs represents a nice upgrade from last year, more work needs to be done.
This beatdown might be a blessing. Belichick might fix more and do more upgrading now that he sees what he really has out there. Jones will have a better year next year, but it won’t matter if the other team never punts.
Enjoy the rest of the playoffs before you start thinking about training camp in Fort Myers. It should still be fun.
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Postseason