Last December, the Bills’ thunderous Monday night win over the Patriots in Foxborough seemed to herald a whole new era in the AFC East. New England was a forgotten dynasty, a relic of an earlier era. This was now Buffalo’s time.
What a difference a year makes.
The Patriots emerged with a wild victory Monday against the Bills in windswept Buffalo that saw quarterback Mac Jones attempt just 3 passes on the way to a 14-10 win.
In the process, the Patriots, who won their seventh in a row, cemented their place at the top of the AFC standings, and dealt a serious blow to the hopes of their divisional rivals when it comes to the race for the AFC East.
Jones, who set a new franchise record for fewest pass attempts in a game (breaking Steve Grogan’s mark of five in a 3-0 win over the Dolphins in 1982), guided the New England offense on three scoring drives on the way to the win. Damien Harris (111 yards) and Rhamondre Stevenson (78 yards) provided the bulk of the offense for the Patriots.
Josh Allen and the Bills fell to 7-5 with the loss. The Patriots are 9-4 entering the bye week.
While it was a narrow game, New England never trailed. The Patriots took an 8-0 lead midway through the first when Harris delivered a 64-yard touchdown run.
Buffalo cut that to 8-7 late in the first quarter after N’Keal Harry muffed a punt, setting the Bills up with excellent field position. Allen made the mistake a costly one for the Patriots, as he delivered a 14-yard scoring strike to Gabriel Davis. A 41-yard field goal from Nick Folk gave New England an 11-7 halftime edge.
The wind — which reached 40 to 50 mph — made it tough for teams to throw the ball, so New England relied on its ground game down the stretch. Harris and Stevenson came through time and again for the Patriots, who added a pair of second-half field goals from Folk and held on down the stretch.
More Patriots-Bills stories
- Instant Analysis: Playing it safe was the way to go, and now the Patriots are in the driver’s seat in the AFC East
- Patriots 14, Bills 10: Patriots, on quite the run, ground out a historic victory over division rival Bills
- How the Patriots’ gritty win over the Bills unfolded
Patriots win — 11:10 p.m.
That’s seven straight for New England.
Bills can’t convert on fourth down — 11:04 p.m.
Buffalo will turn the ball over on downs. New England ball.
Wide right, and Pats get the ball back — 10:41 p.m.
Wild sequence there -- the Bills put together a really impressive drive, but a Judon sack of Allen and an incomplete pass forced Buffalo to go for a field goal ... and the Bills missed. New England gets the ball back at its 23-yard line with 7:24 to go in regulation and a 14-10 lead.
Folk stretches Pats’ lead — 10:29 p.m.
Really, you can’t say enough about the New England offensive line and the work of the running backs so far. You would have liked to have finished that drive with seven instead of three (a 34-yard field goal), but given the fact that the Bills will now be driving into the wind, it’s better than nothing. It’'s 14-10 with 13:01 left in regulation.
One more note: “How would Mac Jones fare in a tough road environment?” was one of the biggest questions I had coming into this game, and so far, he’s done well. He hasn’t been asked to throw the ball, but he’s done everything else necessary to give his team a lead in a big game. The latest example came when he rushed one back-to-back plays on that drive into the wind, allowing New England to (eventually) pick up the first down. Those are tough yards in a big situation, and he was able to execute.
End of the third, but Pats are driving — 10:24 p.m.
New England is up 11-10 after three, but the Patriots are on the cusp of scoring again.
Bills benefit from dicey call, cut lead — 10:10 p.m.
The Bills get a 35-yard field goal to cut the margin to 11-10 with 6:35 to go in the third quarter. That Myles Bryant penalty on the third-down play that kept the chains moving for Buffalo was dubious at best. At best. Regardless, New England has the lead and the ball. There’s 6:35 to go until the Patriots get the wind at their back again.
Pats holding firm — 10:03 p.m.
There’s 9:15 left in the third quarter, and the Bills will take over on their own 37-yard line. The Patriots are up, 11-7, despite the fact that Mac Jones has just one — one — pass attempt. I have never seen a New England game like this one.
Harris with a hamstring — 9:52 p.m.
Halftime analysis — 9:34 p.m.
Two quarters are in the books in Orchard Park, and the Patriots hold an 11-7 lead. Here are a few quick stats and notes:
Mac Jones: 1-1, 12 yards
Damien Harris: 9 carries, 89 yards, 1 TD
Jonnu Smith: 1 catch, 12 yards
Josh Allen: 6-10, 46 yards, 1 TD
Stefon Diggs: 2 catches, 14 yards
• The wind is the story here. If you have it at your back, your chances of scoring increase exponentially. (Unless Harris provides another burst like he did in the first quarter.) If you are heading into the wind, all bets are off. The Bills will have it at their back in the third quarter, and the Patriots will get it for the fourth.
• Jones has just one pass attempt on the evening. Matt Cassel holds the record for a Patriots quarterback under Bill Belichick with the fewest pass attempts in a game: He was 6-for-8 for 78 yards in the 2008 Wind Bowl game in Buffalo. Steve Grogan went 2-for-5 for 13 yards and an interception in a Dec. 1982 win over the Dolphins in Foxborough (The Snow Plow Game!).
•In that same vein, the Patriots went 10 plays out of the gate without throwing the football. That’s a record under Belichick, according to the ESPN broadcast.
• Work with me here — N’Keal Harry as a tight end next season? The big receiver has shown an affinity to get dirty in the blocking game over the course of the last month-plus. He’s got size and strength, and a willingness to do it. He did it again in the first quarter on Harris’s touchdown run, and on the two-point conversion. Just some food for thought.
• The New England defense was helped by the Buffalo offense failing to execute in key moments — Dawson Knox had a pair of drops and the Bills fumbled the ball away early. But even with the Buffalo touchdown, which started with ridiculously good field position thanks to the Harry muff on the punt, I can’t really find much fault with their play so far. Allen and the rest of the Bills’ offense hasn’t been able to gain any sort of traction. You have to think part of it is because of the conditions, but Diggs has been largely erased here in the early going.
• A 15-yard punt for Jake Bailey right out of the gate and Harry muff on a punt (why was he back there?) have been the unquestioned lowlights of the evening for the special teamers. Folk delivered a 41-yard field goal to offset things, but in a close game, you hope those aren’t the sort of gaffes that come back to haunt you.
• The Bills will get the ball (and the wind) to start the second half.
Back and forth — 9:24 p.m.
Patriots are still up 11-7 with 3:02 to go in the first half.
Folk delivers — 9:04 p.m.
You don’t want to be kicking field goals with the wind at your back, but New England just had to settle for three right there, as Folk delivered on a 41-yard field goal attempt to make it 11-7 with 11:28 left in the first half. Mac Jones is 1-for-1 with 12 passing yards, while Damien Harris has five carries for 76 rushing yards and a touchdown.
End of first quarter — 8:57 p.m.
Patriots lead 8-7 after one quarter. New England will have the wind at its’ back for the second quarter.
Harry fumble leads to Buffalo TD — 8:52 p.m.
The Bills have had the wind at their back for the entire first quarter, and after that N’Keal Harry fumble on the punt, they finally cashed in with that 14-yard pass play to Gabriel Davis. The extra point was good, and it’s 8-7 New England with 2:02 left in the first quarter.
Did anyone just have a flashback to Chris Harper in Denver there? Just me? OK.
Pats take command — 8:39 p.m.
What’s that we said about taking advantage of their chances? Great burst through the hole there from Harris for the 64-yard touchdown. Really, that’s why having so many guys in the box against the run can be a risk — when someone breaks through (as Harris just did), there’s no one deep to try and take down the runner. The two-point conversion is good, and New England takes an 8-0 lead with 5:18 to go in the first quarter.
Pats get the ball back — 8:29 p.m.
Compounding the issues created by the wind is ball security. The Bills, possessors of good field position, fumbled that one away at the New England 34, and the Patriots will take control at the 31 with 6:55 to go in the first quarter. Each team is only going to get so many chances tonight, and it’s all about taking advantage of those opportunities. So far, Buffalo hasn’t done that.
4 early thoughts on this game — 8:29 p.m.
•Patriots haven’t attempt a pass on their first two offensive drives.
•New England has lost yardage on its’ two third-down chances.
•Under the circumstances, I understand. But not sure I’ve ever seen a worse punt there from Bailey. It went 15 yards, and the Bills will get the ball at the Patriots’ 40 yard line with 9:09 to go in the first quarter.
•At this rate, the game will be over by 10:30.
Points at a premium tonight — 8:23 p.m.
Looks like we’re going to be in a battle of field position, at least in the early going. There’s no score with 11:16 left in the first quarter -- the Pats will take over at their own 20.
Pats punt it away — 8:20 p.m.
A less-than-ideal start for New England, as Damien Harris nearly loses a fumble on third down. The Patriots go three-and-out, and punt it away. It’s scoreless with 12:46 to go in the first quarter — the Bills take over with the wind at their backs.
Pats will get the ball first — 8:15 p.m.
Patriots lose the toss, and will get the ball first. Time for football!
Official Price Prediction — 8:05 p.m.
Patriots 21, Bills 14
What’s at stake tonight? — 7:43 p.m.
A New England win would establish the Patriots as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. While it wouldn’t completely shut the divisional door on the Bills — the two teams will meet again later this month in Foxborough — it would come close to securing the AFC East for New England.
A New England loss would drop the Patriots into second place in the AFC East, and fifth overall in the conference. Again, the ramifications are minimized slightly because of their meeting later this month, but a loss to the Bills would really blunt the surge that resulted from the six-game winning streak.
Buffalo inactives — 7:22 p.m.
David Andrews is ready — 7:19 p.m.
Can Pats’ keep cover streak alive? — 7:11 p.m.
I have been so all over the place with this game all week. My initial thought was that the Patriots and Bills were going to split these two games that have with each other over the next three weeks, with the home team each winning one. But as the week has gone on, I’ve started to believe more and more in New England when it comes to tonight. I think it started after speaking with some people in upstate New York about the anxiety level for this one — the Bills had thought they had completely vanquished the Patriots after the thrashing they put on them last December, but suddenly, New England is in first place … again.
Anyway, Buffalo has stayed the favorite over the course of the week, holding as anywhere between a 2- and a 3.5-point favorite. I think the Patriots win this thing — just barely — and cover. A Nick Folk field goal at the buzzer? A big defensive stand? Who knows. Regardless, I think New England finds a way to win. When it comes to the over/under, it’s been anywhere between 39 and 41. I think this is going to be a rare under for the Patriots. Bad weather, snow, and wind … it’s all going to play a factor in keeping the score down, in my opinion:
Here are a few other betting notes:
New England is 6-0 against the spread in its last six games.
The total has gone over in six of New England’s last eight games.
New England is 6-3 against the spread in its last nine games against Buffalo.
New England is 8-1 straight up in its last nine games when playing on the road against Buffalo.
Buffalo is 15-5 straight up in its last 20 games.
Buffalo is 10-2 straight up in its last 12 games at home.
New England is 3-8 against the spread in its last 11 prime-time games.
Buffalo is 15-6-1 against the spread in its last 22 games.
The over is 3-0 in the past three meetings between these two teams.
No surprises when it comes to Pats’ inactives — 7:03 p.m.
The following players have been ruled inactive for tonight’s game against the Bills:
•LB Ronnie Perkins (illness) had been on the injury report over the course of the week, so it’s no surprise he shows up here. It’s the first non-healthy scratch of the season for the first-year defender, who is the leader in the race for the Shane Vereen/James White Redshirt Award.
•TE Devin Asiasi has played one game and has two catches for 39 yards. Another healthy scratch for the youngster, who is behind veterans Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith on the depth chart.
•QB Jarrett Stidham is sidelined again, another healthy scratch. Unless something unforeseen happens, I’d expect him to continue in the role of No. 3 quarterback the rest of the way.
•OL Yasir Durant is a healthy scratch as well. The 23-year-old guard has played in six games this year, but hasn’t been active since the Oct. 17 loss to the Cowboys. His absence is a good sign when it comes to the overall health of New England’s offensive line.
•CB Shaun Wade has struggled with injury at times this season, but wasn’t on the injury report this week. He’s been a good depth piece when he’s been healthy, and could still have a key moment between now and the end of the season. But the rookie out of Ohio State will sit tonight against the Bills.
•LB Jahlani Tavai is also a healthy scratch — like Durant, the fact that he’s down tonight means the Patriots feel pretty good about their available depth at that position … namely, Jamie Collins, who returns to game action this evening after missing the last month.
Throwback to the 2008 Wind Bowl — 6:40 p.m.
It’s going to be a little breezy for this one, but that’s nothing new for Buffalo. There was the Bills-Patriots 2008 regular-season finale when winds topped out at anywhere between 30 and 40 mph, and it wreaked havoc on the goalposts. Check out a recap of that one, which includes a weird mashup of highlights and a 57-yard punt from Matt Cassel(!!!):
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow — 6:35 p.m.
Looks like we are in for our first snow game of the season. Our guy Jim McBride took these videos earlier in the evening, and more snow has fallen since then. It’s going to be interesting to see how rookie Mac Jones fares in the snow.
As for how things might look for the rest of the evening, our pals at WBZ-TV have us covered.
Some numbers to keep an eye on tonight — 6:30 p.m.
•This one is from our buddy Mike Giardi: Josh Allen could be the first quarterback to defeat Bill Belichick in three straight games since Eli Manning did it from 2007-2011. Three straight wins against Belichick is the longest streak by any quarterback since 2000, and has been done by Manning, Peyton Manning, Jay Fiedler, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Brees and Jake Plummer.
•The Patriots will look to improve to 6-0 on the road this season. The Patriots have finished undefeated on the road twice in franchise history (2007 and 2016).
•Kendrick Bourne enters this week with 42 receptions for 623 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. He needs 8 catches at Buffalo to establish a single-season high. He had 49 receptions in 2020 with San Francisco.
•If Jakobi Meyers completes one more pass in 2021, he will be the first Patriots WR to complete more than two passes in a single season. Julian Edelman completed two passes in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and Harold Jackson completed two passes in 1980.
•Mac Jones has completed over 70 percent of his passes in eight of his first 12 NFL games. Jones can tie the rookie record this week against Buffalo. Dak Prescott completed 70 percent of his passes in nine games as a rookie in 2016.
•If J.C. Jackson gets an interception this week, he will be the only Patriots player with at least two seasons with 8 or more interceptions.
•Matthew Judon increased his 2021 sack total to 11½ with an 8-yard sack of Ryan Tannehill last week. With a sack this week, he will join Chandler Jones (12½ in 2015) & Mike Vrabel (12½ in 2007) for the most sacks in a season by a Patriots player under Bill Belichick. It’s also worth noting that Judon’s current pace could allow him to at least threaten the franchise record. He has 11.5 sacks through 12 games, which could get him close to 17. Andre Tippett has franchise record for a 16-game season with 18.5.
Predict the game — 6:22 p.m.
Pregame reading list — 6:15 p.m.
Best way to get started for tonight’s game:
Let’s get it started — 6:12 p.m.
Hey everyone! Hope everyone enjoyed the Sunday away. We’ve got a fun one on tap for tonight — Patriots and Bills, live from Orchard Park at 8:15 p.m. Keep it here for all the updates you need, all night long. When it comes to pregame, we’ll have the usual: game-day reading list, updates from the stadium, weather news, inactive analysis, betting information, and much more. CUE THE THEME SONG.
Christopher Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.