ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Against the Bills on Monday night, Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones attempted just three passes — the fewest in a game in franchise history and the fewest by a winning team since 1974.
After New England’s 14-10 victory, a Buffalo reporter shared this factoid with Bills safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, and asked if the two were embarrassed by the fact that it’s been more than 40 years since a team has won in the manner that the Patriots did.
Poyer gestured in disbelief.
“I mean, what kind of question is that?” he responded.
When the reporter held his ground, waiting for an answer, Poyer scoffed and lowered his head into his hands. He rolled his eyes, shook his head, and sighed before delivering an answer.
“I think we gave up seven points?” he said. “Fourteen?”
When Hyde confirmed it was 14, Poyer reluctantly continued.
“We made stops when we had to,” he said, his voice filled with exasperation. “They had one big run. I mean, they got good backs. They kept coming back to a couple of runs. I mean, I don’t know how you want us to answer that question.”
As the pair left the press conference, Hyde had one more thing to say to the reporter.
“It’s all about respect, man,” he said on his way out. “I come here every single week, and I answer your questions truthfully and honestly. I appreciate you guys. Don’t do that.”
The Bills certainly aren’t hiding their frustrations.
With the AFC East and the top seed in the conference both in play, Buffalo couldn’t secure a much-needed win on its home field. After starting the season 4-1, the Bills are now 7-5 and in seventh place — the last wild-card spot.
“I think, frankly, we’re [ticked] off because we want to be great,” said quarterback Josh Allen, who completed 15 of his 30 pass attempts for a season-low 145 yards and a touchdown.
“We’re [ticked] off for greatness. We expect so much out of ourselves. When we don’t play the way we know how we can play, it could be angering at times. But with the makeup of the guys that we got, I’ve got no doubt in our ability,”
Battling strong wind gusts close to 50 m.p.h. and chilly temperatures, the Patriots managed to grind out their seventh straight victory thanks to 46 carries for a season-high 222 rushing yards and a touchdown. They ran on 93.8 percent of their offensive plays.
Sean McDermott, in his fifth year as Buffalo’s head coach, was in no mood to tip his cap to Bill Belichick for his successful game plan.
“Let’s not give more credit than we need to give credit to Bill Belichick in this one,” McDermott said. “You sit here and you tell me when we start with an average starting field position of the 40-yard line and he starts with the 23-yard line — I’m rounding up in both cases — and we were 1 for 4 in the red zone and they were 0 for 1 in the red zone?
“You give me that ahead of time? I’d say I like my chances. I like my chances.”
Buffalo’s postgame message was clear: The Bills thought they should have won this game. They definitely had their chances.
In the first quarter, after the wind affected Jake Bailey’s punt, the Bills started at New England’s 40-yard line. They converted for a new set of downs at the 29, but then running back Matt Breida fumbled. The turnover resulted in New England’s lone touchdown, a 64-yard run by Damien Harris.
In the third quarter, the Bills strung together an eight-play, 46-yard drive to New England’s 17-yard line before settling for a field goal.
Their two fourth-quarter drives both reached the red zone, even when playing against the wind. But the first ended with a missed field goal from the 15-yard line and the second resulted in a turnover on downs, effectively ending the game.
McDermott attributed the loss to his team’s inability to capitalize in those moments.
“I don’t think — with all due respect, it’s not a Bill Belichick-type thing,” McDermott said. “It’s, what are you doing with the opportunities you got? What are you doing with the opportunities you got? We turned the ball over on the plus-30-something yard line. Sloppy football.”
Buffalo’s pass catchers also dropped a couple of impressive throws, including a 44-yard heave intended for Stefon Diggs, who beat cornerback Joejuan Williams to the end zone, as well as multiple third-down attempts intended for tight end Dawson Knox.
“I think if you ask everyone on this team, there’s plenty that they could have done to come out with a win, which we didn’t do,” said center Mitch Morse.
While the Bills can avoid praising as much as they would like, Belichick and the Patriots, particularly the offensive line, deserve credit for executing their game plan.
Nine of Buffalo’s tackles went for a loss, but the Patriots remained committed to the run game and, at one point, rushed 32 straight times.
“We played kind of the way we felt like we needed to play to win,” Belichick said. “In the end, we scored enough points.”
With the win, New England’s chances of winning the division jumped to 74 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight, and its chances of securing the No. 1 seed rose to 44 percent.
But Buffalo, despite its recent struggles, can still make a run at the AFC East crown. If the Bills win their next three games — at Tampa Bay, vs. Carolina, and at New England — then their chances of winning the division balloon to 93 percent.
For now, though, it sounds as though this loss stings.
“This can be one that can rip us apart or bring us together,” Allen said. “Everything’s in front of us. We kind of get to control our own destiny. We got to find a way to start winning games here.”
More Patriots-Bills stories
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- Extent of injuries to Damien Harris, Adrian Phillips unclear after Patriots’ win over Bills
- What Bill Belichick said about his unorothodox game plan after Patriots’ win over Bills
- How the Patriots’ gritty win over the Bills unfolded