Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Bills vs. Patriots score: New England leans heavily on the run, grinds past Buffalo for seventh straight win

New England moves to 9-4 on the season

By Tyler Sullivan  & Jared Dubin

The Patriots have moved to 9-4 on the season, extended their winning streak to seven games and remain the No. 1 seed in the AFC thanks to a 14-10 win over the Bills in Buffalo on “Monday Night Football.” 

The weather was massive factor in this divisional matchup, particularly the high-speed winds that were present throughout the contest. That drastically altered the play-calling for both clubs, especially the Patriots who leaned heavily on the run. At one point, New England had 32 straight running plays. Naturally, that meant a quiet night for Mac Jones, who finished with a franchise-record three passing attempts as he completed two throws for 19 yards. 

Defensively, the Patriots continued to come up in the clutch, including a key a red-zone stand in the final minutes of the fourth quarter where they forced three-straight incompletions by Josh Allen that resulted in a turnover on downs that effectively eliminated any chance of comeback for the Bills. Allen finished his night completing 50% of his throws for 145 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 39 yards as well. This loss now pushes the Bills down to the No. 7 seed in the AFC. 

Why the Patriots won

With the wind a big obstacle in this game, Bill Belichick simply elected to not test Mother Nature and deployed his running game heavily throughout Monday’s contest. Of the Patriots’ 49 total plays on the night, 46 were running plays that were spearheaded by Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. That duo combined for 189 yards rushing on 34 carries. Specifically, the Patriots were winning on power runs to the outside that helped move the chains. In all, 10 of their 11 first downs came on the ground. 

Harris was also able to help New England get on the board first with an 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The Patriots’ altered play-calling due to the weather was evident immediately following that score as they opted to go for the two-point conversion rather than kicking the extra-point attempt into the wind. 

On the defensive side, the Patriots were able to apply pressure on Allen in timely situations, which helped keep the Bills from capturing the lead late. Naturally, that late red zone stand at around the two-minute mark was a pivotal moment to ensure victory (more on that below), but the prior drive was arguably just as high-pressured for both sides. As the Bills advanced the ball to the Patriots’ 9-yard line at the 9:04 mark of the fourth quarter, a Matthew Judon 9-yard sack on Allen set up a third-and-long attempt that eventually fell incomplete to Dawson Knox. On fourth down from the Patriots’ 15, Tyler Bass would then miss the 33-yard attempt to keep the Bills trailing by four. 

Why the Bills lost

Buffalo largely got in its own way in this matchup. The Bills turned the ball over on their second possession of the contest on a toss to Matt Breida at the New England 29-yard line, which the Patriots were able to capitalize on with a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Knox also had an night to forget as he recorded a number of key drops that would have moved the chains for a first down and was called for a critical false start during the Bills’ final possession of the game that turned a third-and-9 attempt into a third-and-14. 

While the wind was certainly a factor throughout the evening, Buffalo did seem to miss a golden opportunity for what would have been the biggest passing play of the game. With just over eight minutes to play in the third quarter, Allen launched a first-and-10 throw from the New England 44-yard line to an open Stefon Diggs that would have gone for a touchdown, but the receiver couldn’t come up with the grab. 

Later in the game, the Patriots elected to go for it on a fourth-and-1 attempt from the Buffalo 33-yard line with 3:09 to play in the third quarter. A Jones sneak seemed apparent to the naked eye, but the Bills were unable to get set and line up on top of the Patriots quarterback, who eventually moved his way for the first down. Not only did that move the chains, but that took precious time off the clock where the Bills’ offense would have been moving with the wind, which proved to be extremely important in this game.     

That’s also another second guess on the part of Sean McDermott. Due a rule change a few years ago, the Bills — because they had won the coin toss to begin the game and elected to defer — they had the option to receive the second-half kick or decide which way to kick. While teams almost automatically decide to receive the ball, there was an option to dictate when the Bills would be going with the wind. 

McDermott could have decided to give his offense the wind in the fourth quarter, making a potential comeback attempt easier as the game moved on. Bass’ missed 33-yard field goal attempt in the fourth also likely would have connected had he not been booting into the wind. Again, that’s very much an out-of-the-box second guess, but given the elements on Monday, it was certainly worthy of consideration. 

The goal-line stand by the Patriots in the final minutes of the fourth quarter effectively ensured they’d earn a seventh-consecutive win. After starting on its own 20, Buffalo was moving the ball well down the field and seemed poised to take the lead late. With his team down 14-10, Allen was able to rush for a first down and put the Bills on the Patriots’ 14-yard line with just 2:30 to play in the game. After that rush, the New England defense started to tighten. Devin Singletary rushed for a yard and then it was three-straight incompletions by Allen, including a missed throw to Gabe Davis that forced a turnover on downs immediately following the two-minute warning. From there, the Patriots simply ran the clock out.  

Play of the game

Harris’ 64-yard run was the most electrifying play of the game by far. He took a handoff by Jones up the gut and was able to break loose thanks to two key blocks by N’Keal Harry and Jakob Johnson. According to Next Gen Stats, Harris reached a top speed of 21.01 mph on that run, which is the fastest speed by a Patriots running back in the site’s history. 

That was also the longest rushing touchdown by a Patriot since Hall of Famer Curtis Martin ripped off a 70-yard score in Week 4 against the Chicago Bears during the 1997 season. 

What’s next

From here, the Patriots will enter their bye in Week 14, while the Bills will gear up for another big matchup against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers down in Tampa on Sunday. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Connect With Us

Stay Connected Everywhere With Us