The weather was supposed to play to New England’s advantage.
It did not.
The coaching matchup was supposed to play to New England’s advantage.
It did not.
What a beating!
A season in which the Patriots returned to the playoffs expired on the frozen tundra of Orchard Park, N.Y., Saturday night as Bill Belichick’s unprepared team was demolished by the Buffalo Bills, 47-17, in the sub-zero freezer that is Highmark Stadium.
A surprise season that peaked when the same Patriots beat the same Bills in a crossfire hurricane Dec. 6 collapsed in spectacular fashion over the final five weeks. In a stunning stretch of 42 days, the Patriots went from top seeds in the AFC (with visions of a Tom Brady showdown in Super Bowl 53) to a line of frozen Tomato Cans in a discount freezer.
You be the judge. After a 2-4 start, the Patriots beat a string of mostly bad teams, then flopped at the finish, losing four of their last five, falling behind by whopping margins in each loss. New England’s only win over the final five weeks was a home blowout of the 3-14 Jacksonville Jaguars. Cam Newton could have won that one.
The Full Rochie Federation will insist this was a successful season because “nobody expected anything,” and the Pats were able to identify Mac Jones as their new franchise quarterback.
Swell. But we like to think we have a higher standard around here. Belichick is supposed to be the greatest coach of all time and rarely has he featured a team that played more embarrassingly than what we saw over the last month. Bill kept talking about “playing better,” and “coaching better,” but it only got worse.
The bottom came Saturday.
The Pats were 4½-point underdogs in the wild-card playoff and a lot of us thought they’d win. We’d laughed at Sean McDermott and the Bills when Hoodie beat ‘em with a Leather Helmet game plan in the wind in early December.
It was all downhill after that. And the patterns were the same. The Pats would fall behind early, play with little discipline, feature poor specials teams and a defense that was never able to get the other team off the field when it mattered.
Oh, and here’s a thought: I am no expert on football, but it occurs to me that it might be time for Bill to abandon his favorite practice of making the opponent take the ball at the start of the game. This is great when you have Brady and can execute the late-first-half, early-second-half “double score.” It is not effective when you have an offense that can’t play from behind and a defense that allows the other guys to march down the field.
After New England won the toss and kicked off Saturday, Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who dominated when Buffalo won in Foxborough Dec. 26, took the Bills 70 yards in nine plays, capping the TD drive when he floated a short touchdown pass to Dawson Knox to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead. Allen had runs of 26 and 15 yards on the drive.
It looked as if the Patriots were going to answer with their own touchdown when Micah Hyde made the play that changed the game — a Willie Mays-like, over-the-shoulder, end zone catch (think Vic Wertz, 1954 World Series) on a ball aimed for Nelson Agholor.
“Not a very good throw,’’ said Jones.
“It was one of the many good plays they made, and we didn’t,’’ said Belichick.
After the turnover, Allen needed 10 plays to take the Bills 80 yards and made it 14-0. The first quarter wasn’t over yet and it felt like the Pats season was over. The Belichickmen were not masters of playing from behind in 2021-22.
It kept getting worse. When Jones was intercepted on the first series of the second half, Allen took the Bills to their fifth consecutive TD to make it 33-3.
With 4:12 left in the third, Jones finally connected with Kendrick Bourne on a fourth-down play to cut the margin to 33-10.
The Bills came right back with another long TD drive to make it 40-10. At this juncture, the Bills had played seven consecutive quarters against New England without punting. Somewhere, Lawrence Taylor must have been rolling over in his penthouse. And Brady was no doubt smirking in Tampa as he drank some overpriced water.
“Obviously, you don’t want to go out like this,’’ said Patriot captain Devin McCourty. " . . . Embarrassing.’’
The Bills flat-out punked the Pats in the fourth quarter, with rookie tackle Tommy Doyle catching a touchdown pass to make it 47-10 with just under nine minutes to play. Too bad Doug Flutie wasn’t available to come out for a drop-kick conversion. McDermott had to love rubbing it in the face of his nemesis.
Ordinarily, this is when we would be telling you how many days until pitchers and catchers report. Not this year. Baseball is mired in a ridiculous labor lockout. Meanwhile, most everybody in Boston hates the Celtics.
Belichick was in vintage, hostage-tape mode after this one.
“They played well and we didn’t,’’ he mumbled a couple of times. “They deserved to win.’’
So . . . Boston sports fans . . .
. . . how ‘bout those Bruins?
More Patriots coverage
▪ Tara Sullivan: Josh Allen has emerged as an elite quarterback, and the Patriots can only hope to get the same from Mac Jones
▪ Patriots’ defense simply overmatched and overwhelmed by Bills
▪ It was a rough ending, but it’s only just the beginning for Patriots quarterback Mac Jones
▪ Just how bad was the Patriots’ loss to the Bills? Here’s where it ranks in the history books.
▪ ‘They were too much for us tonight.’ Bill Belichick praises Bills after rout of Patriots in playoffs
▪ As it happened: Patriots lose to Bills, 47-17, in one of the worst playoff defeats in franchise history
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.