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As it happened

Late Cam Newton fumble paves way for Bills to hand Patriots fourth straight loss

Damien Harris breaks a tackle as he looks upfield in the second half of Sunday's game.Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

Instant analysis: Bad teams find ways to lose, and loss to Bills shows the Patriots are definitely a bad team

A fourth-quarter fumble from Cam Newton stopped what would have been a game-winning drive for the Patriots, allowing the Bills to come away with a 24-21 win.

Newton and New England were knocking on the door of the Buffalo end zone with less than two minutes to go in regulation, but the quarterback lost the handle on a running play, giving the ball back to the Bills.

The Patriots lost their fourth straight game and fell to 2-5. The Bills improved to 6-2 with the victory.


Newton finished 15-for-25 for 174 yards, as well as nine carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. Damien Harris has 16 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown, and Jakobi Meyers finished with a career-high six catches for 58 yards.

On the other side of the ball, Josh Allen was 11-for-18 for 154 yards and an interception.

The Patriots offense struggled out of the gate — New England was held out of the end zone until late in the third quarter. (It also marked the seventh straight game where the Patriots failed to score in the first quarter.) In the meantime, Buffalo certainly wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard, but Allen and the Bills did enough to build a 14-6 lead midway through the third.

New England started its comeback in the third when it scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives for the first time all season. First, a 22-yard touchdown run by Harris (and two-point conversion) tied the game at 14. After the Bills took the lead again, the Patriots responded with another scoring drive — that ended with a 2-yard run from Newton — to knot the game at 21.

After a 28-yard field goal from Buffalo’s Tyler Bass, a stage was set for the dramatic finish. On New England’s last drive, Newton had a big 19-yard carry that got the Patriots inside the Buffalo 30, but he’d end up fumbling the ball away a few plays after that.


Here’s how the game unfolded:

3:53 p.m.: That’s it. Buffalo wins, 24-21.

3:51 p.m.: Newton fumbles. Buffalo ball.

3:45 p.m.: Two minutes left. The Patriots are down three, but they have the ball at their own 45-yard line -- they also have all three timeouts.

3:37 p.m.: The Patriots' defense yielded big yardage early, but stiffened in the red zone, making sure Buffalo only came away with three instead of seven. The Bills hold a 24-21 lead with 4:06 to go in regulation, but the Patriots will be getting the ball.

3:30 p.m.:

3:28 p.m.: It’s the first time all year the Patriots have come away with touchdowns on back-to-back drives.

3:27 p.m.: The Patriots answered with an impressive seven-play, 72-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard dash on the part of Newton. But the drive was really powered by Damien Harris, who did an excellent job powering the ground game. That included an 18-yard burst that helped get New England into the red zone. Great response here for the Patriots, who will now have to get some stops down the stretch to have a chance at winning this thing. It’s tied at 21 with 9:36 left in regulation.

3:17 p.m.: Allen keeps it himself for the touchdown. That’s an impressive answer on the part of the Bills, who take the lead on the Patriots once again. For New England, the onside kick was a bold move, but it out more pressure on the defense, and it couldn’t hold. It’s 21-14 with 13:12 left in regulation.


3:11 p.m.: End of the third quarter and the Bills are knocking on the door. It’s 14-14, but Buffalo has the ball on New England’s 5-yard line.

3:07 p.m.: Lot of respect for calling for a surprise onside kick there. Have to get the stop here, though.

3:05 p.m.: And just like that, the Patriots are right back in it. A drive that was powered by the ground game was capped with a 22-yard run from Damien Harris to make it 14-12, and the two-pointer makes it 14-14 with 3:03 to go in the third quarter. Harris now has 8 carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. An excellent starting spot for a New England offense that had gone six-plus quarters without a touchdown.

2:59 p.m.: Great stick by Uche there on Allen’s third-down run. That forces the punt, and New England will get the ball in Buffalo territory -- the Bills' 37-yard line, to be precise. Another great opportunity for the offense -- we’ll see if they can capitalize.

2:53 p.m.: Roughly midway through the third quarter, and it’s a simple proposition for the Patriots -- they have to keep it a one-score game. They can always steal a touchdown here or there on defense, especially in these conditions against this quarterback. But the way they’re playing on offense, anything more than an eight-point deficit will just be too much to overcome. Buffalo gets the ball back with 7:36 to go in the third and a 14-6 lead.


2:48 p.m.: Guy is apparently headed for the locker room. Meanwhile, the Patriots' offense has moved into Buffalo territory.

2:44 p.m.: An ex-Patriots' LB with a pretty frank assessment of that Buffalo drive:

2:42 p.m.: So much for making a statement to start the third quarter. The Bills went 75 yards on five very efficient plays to make it 14-6 with 12:09 to go in the third quarter. The big play was a 41-yarder from Allen to Diggs that set up Moss' second rushing touchdown of the day. Bad opening series for the New England defense.

2:23 p.m.: Two quarters are done in Buffalo. The Bills hold a 7-6 lead. Here are a few takeaways from the first half.

Newton: 5 carries, 23 yards, 7-for-14, 93 yards

Damien Harris: 5 carries, 17 yards

Jakobi Meyers: 4 catches, 41 yards

Nick Folk: Two field goals (43 and 33 yards)

Josh Allen: 7-for-12, 75 yards, 1 INT

-Other than the drive that ended with a 43-yard field goal — a series that was eight plays and 44 yards — the Patriots' offense has been relatively inconsistent through the first two quarters. There have been big gains here and there, including a really nice 28-yard catch and run by James White — but for the most part, New England has failed to find any sort of rhythm on offense. That being said, if New England can keep it a one-score game, it certainly has a chance, especially when you are talking about an occasionally wild young quarterback in Allen. A pick-6 between now and the end of the game certainly isn’t out of the question.


-Dating back to last year, the Patriots have now failed to score a first-quarter touchdown in their last nine games. That’s remarkable.

-The Patriots' offense has been good at avoiding penalties, but as a group, they really shot themselves in the foot at some key moments in the first half. They committed four penalties over the first two quarters. For a team that has very little margin for error on offense, those sorts of infractions can be absolute drive killers.

-The defense has had its share of nice stops, including a J.C. Jackson interception of Allen with just under two minutes to go in the first half that gave the offense good field position. Buffalo’s opening drive — which ended with a touchdown — was impressive. But on the ensuing drives, the New England defense was mostly up to the task. Certainly not perfect, but not bad as last week.

-One bright spot? As jittery as people were about Nick Folk early in the season, he’s kicked really well lately, at least when it comes to field goals. He’s made his last 10 — if it wasn’t for Folk over the last 10-plus quarters, the Patriots wouldn’t have much offense to speak of.

-The Bills will get the ball to start the second half.

2:15 p.m.: Excellent takeaway for the Patriots, who will get the ball at the Buffalo 49 with 1:38 to go in the half. Great scoring opportunity here.

2:02 p.m.: Nothing from New England on that drive, but the carry from Olszewski was a good sign when it comes to some offensive creativity. The Patriots are going to have to dip into their bag of gadget plays to try and jump start the offense. It’s still 7-3 Buffalo with 5:30 to go in the first half. (A reminder that the Bills will get the ball to start the second half.)

1:58 p.m.: A few signs of life for the Patriots, including a nice third-down PBU by Jason McCourty that’ll force the punt. New England will get the ball at their own 23-yard line with 7:43 to go in the first half. Let’s see if the Pats can put together a sustained drive.

1:48 p.m.: The 43-yard field goal from Nick Folk is good, making it 7-3 with 10:50 to go in the half. Not ideal to settle for three instead of seven, but with this offense looking sluggish, it’s certainly better than nothing. A really nice catch-and-run from James White that went for 28 yards was likely the highlight of the drive for the Patriots. White remains the best offensive option for New England — get him the ball in space and have him make plays. On that series, the offense committed its fourth penalty of the day. The type of penalties are worth mentioning — pre-snap penalties like false starts and delay of game calls. Those are particularly maddening, given the minuscule margin for error the Patriots are facing this afternoon.

1:39 p.m.: First quarter is done, and Buffalo is up 7-0. The Patriots have now gone without an offensive touchdown in the first quarter in their last nine games, dating back to last year. New England will get the ball at its own 31 after that Buffalo punt.

1:32 p.m.: New England caught a break with a hands-to-the face penalty on Ed Oliver on a third-and-long play that kept the drive alive, but the Patriots couldn’t convert on the subsequent third-down opportunity. It’s the second consecutive series that has ended with a punt for New England. The Bills have the ball and a 7-0 lead with 1:30 left in the first quarter. Unless something crazy happens, this will mark the seventh consecutive game where the Patriots will go without an offensive touchdown. Not an ideal start for New England.

1:27 p.m.: This is the Bills' first lead at home against New England since 2016, per the CBS broadcast.

1:21 p.m.: A few things worth noting off that first drive: Good pressure from Wise, who has excellent penetration. A good open-field tackle from Jonathan Jones on Allen’s big gain on the ground. And a nice PBU for John Simon. But that was about it for the Patriots, as the Bills ground out a nice opening drive to take an early 7-0 lead — 10 plays, 78 yards for Buffalo, capped by a Zack Moss touchdown run. There’s 5:29 to go in the opening quarter.

1:10 p.m.: For the Patriots, that delay-of-game penalty when they got to midfield was a killer. The offense has been dynamite when it comes to avoiding those flags, but that made it too tough to overcome. On a day where you’re going to rely on your run game, you just can’t sputter on first down and hope to find offensive success. Buffalo will get the ball for the first time all afternoon -- it’s scoreless with 10:39 to go in the first quarter.

1:01 p.m.: Bills win the toss and defer. The Patriots will get the ball first.

12:48 p.m.: Every season, it feels like you can point to one (or maybe two) regular-season games that really define the Patriots that year. This is one of those contests ... at least, it feels like one of them. The Patriots have their backs against the wall, they are circling the wagons, etc. etc. Whatever cliche you want to use. The bottom line is they really need to win this game. They have to do a few very clear, very obvious things in order to do it: score an offensive touchdown in the early going, bottle up Josh Allen, and find a way to run the ball consistently against a spotty Buffalo run defense. Can they execute? That’s another matter altogether.

I’ve gone back and forth on this over the course of the week, and while I think we’re going to see a better effort than we saw the last two weeks, I’m not sure it’s going to be enough. My call: Bills 23, Patriots 20, in a game that’s decided late in the fourth quarter.

12:35 p.m.:

12:19 p.m.: Couple of interesting nuggets from Jason La Canfora on CBS a few moments ago, including the fact that no one seems to be sure if the Patriots will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. La Canfora also suggests that if the Giants are looking to move on from Dave Gettleman this offseason, they could target Nick Caserio.

12:05 a.m.:

12:00 p.m.: This one opened with the Bills as favorites at -3, and that has risen to either -3.5 or -4, likely in the wake of the news about both Gilmore and Edelman. As of this morning, most places have it at -4. As for the total, that began the week at 46.5, but because of weather and other factors, that has decreased to anywhere between 43.5 and 44.5, depending on where you look. As for me, I’m not sure the Patriots will be able to win this one -- more on that as we get closer to kickoff -- but I like their ability to cover, especially if they run the ball as much as I think they are capable of. Oh, and I also like the under.

11:55 a.m.: It’s supposed to be a miserable day, weather-wise. Winds are expected to top out around 20 MPH, and rain is in the forecast for most of the afternoon. After six games where weather hasn’t really been an issue, it should play a sizable factor in the outcome of this one against the Bills.

11:42 a.m.:

11:37 a.m.: The Patriots have announced their inactives. Here’s the list, and here’s what it all means:

•Defensive tackle Carl Davis has been suffering from a concussion, and was announced as out earlier in the week.

•N’Keal Harry has also been struggling with a concussion, and was also announced as out earlier in the week. This is a terrific opportunity for some of the other receivers like Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers to make an impact. (It’s also worth speculating as to whether or not we’ll see the annual “Matthew Slater gets reps at receiver” exercise.)

•Devin Asiasi is a healthy scratch — the team said he didn’t make the trip because of “personal reasons.” He hadn’t figured much in the offensive game plan for the first six games. And a week after making his NFL debut, rookie tight end Dalton Keene is out because of a knee injury that left him limited all week. In their absence, the Patriots have to hope that Ryan Izzo can go wire-to-wire.

•Stephon Gilmore has been dealing with a knee issue, which will sideline him for the first time since 2017. Losing the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is always a massive hit, but the Patriots are deep at cornerback. Expect J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones to become the No. 1 and 2 CBs in Gilmore’s absence this afternoon.

•Kyle Dugger has been playing well, but an ankle injury will leave him out of action against the Bills. Veteran Terrence Brooks, who saw an uptick in playing time last week against the Niners with Dugger out of action, will be asked to see significant snaps in place of the rookie.

•Brian Hoyer is down, which means Jarrett Stidham will again be the primary backup to Cam Newton.

•It’s also worth mentioning in the context of this conversation that Julian Edelman (knee) was downgraded to out earlier in the week, with Edelman going on IR to open up a roster spot. Could we see Gunner Olszewski get some work in the slot in place of Edelman? We’ll see.

•One bit of good news -- looks like linebacker Josh Uche has been cleared to make his debut today.

11:20 a.m.: There are a few things offensively really worth keeping an eye on today, but for me, I have to imagine the Patriots are going to try and rely heavily on their ground game for a few reasons: the weather is supposed to be miserable all day, the Patriots are without a lot of key options in the passing game, and the Buffalo defense is in the bottom-third of the league when it comes to run defense, allowing 126.9 rushing yards per game. Two totals that are worth watching: the franchise record for most rushing attempts in a game is 62, established on Nov. 28, 1976 against Denver. And the highest number of rushing attempts in a game for the Patriots in the Belichick era is 54, set on Oct. 7, 2012 against the Broncos. Just some food for thought.

11:12 a.m.:

11:08 a.m.: We talk a lot about just how good Stephon Gilmore is, but we rarely discuss his durability. Since he joined the Patriots, he’s been one of the sturdiest cornerbacks in the league -- he hasn’t missed a game since 2017. The fact that he’s out today is big news on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it snaps one of the longest consecutive games played streaks on the team. As of last week, Gilmore was second on the NFL’s list of consecutive regular-season games played and regular-season games started (among active players) at cornerback with 46. That’s second to Casey Hayward of the Chargers (102).

11:03 a.m.:

11:00 a.m.: Welcome back to football, everybody! This week, the Patriots face another tough test as they meet the Bills in upstate New York. New England is angling to break a three-game losing streak – the Patriots haven’t lost four in a row since 2002. If they want to get off the skids today, they’ll have to do it without Julian Edelman and Stephon Gilmore, both of whom are out. Meanwhile, the Bills have had an impressive start to the 2020 season, as they sit at 5-2 and in first place in the AFC East. We’ll have all the updates you need throughout the day, but when it comes to pregame, we’ll provide the latest news from the stadium, weather updates, the latest betting information, inactive analysis, and much more. As always, we’ll start things off with our pregame reading list:

Nicole Yang: Patriots place Julian Edelman on injured reserve

Jim McBride: With Julian Edelman out, who will be the Patriots' slot receiver Sunday?

Tara Sullivan: Cam Newton ready to put a difficult week behind him

Patriots' Stephon Gilmore out for Sunday’s game against Bills

Ben Volin: How did it get so bad? Patriots haven’t invested in their skill positions

Chad Finn: Can the Bills send the Patriots into rebuilding mode?

Christopher Price: Which other teams have reached the playoffs after a 2-4 start? And what can the Patriots learn from them?

Andrew Mahoney: What to know about the 5-2 Bills: Josh Allen has cooled off, the defense is banged up, and more

Chad Finn: What would be the Patriots' record right now if Tom Brady had stayed?

Ben Volin: The Buccaneers and Tom Brady are adjusting to each other, and now they’re rolling

Christopher Price can be reached at Follow him @cpriceglobe.