When Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen found backup offensive lineman Tommy Doyle on a touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter Saturday night to make it 47-10, it was evident the beating Bills were putting on the Patriots was about more than just one playoff game.
The truth of the matter was that Saturday night was for years of dominance, for blowout losses and New England laughers and consistently serving as the punchline for a Patriots’ team that gleefully hammered the Bills time and again for the better part of two decades.
Saturday’s wild-card thrashing of New England can’t make up for all of that, of course, but Allen and the rest of the Buffalo offense came awfully close in their 47-17 win over the Patriots.
Allen finished 21 for 25 with 308 yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions, leading the way in a game that will go down as one of the worst losses in Patriots’ franchise history.
Mac Jones was 24 for 38 with 208 yards on the way to a loss in the first postseason start of his career. Kendrick Bourne had 77 yards on 7 catches and Damien Harris added 30 yards on 9 carries for New England, which saw its season come to an end with the playoff loss.
This one was over early, as Allen and the Bills shot to a quick 14-0 lead after one quarter and never looked back. The quarterback found 9 different targets on the evening on the way to a 27-3 halftime lead.
It was more of the same in the second half, with Buffalo’s parade of scoring only broken up by a Jones touchdown pass for Bourne with 4:12 left in the third quarter.
Here’s how the game unfolded:
Patriots lose — 11:11 p.m.
It’s Trubisky time — 11:09 p.m.
The Bills’ backup QB is in, and the Buffalo faithful are cheering as they celebrate their eventual advancement to the next round of the NFL playoffs.
Patriots avoid the worst loss of the Belichick era — 11:06 p.m
Mac Jones connected with Kendrick Bourne with under two minutes to play, bringing the score to 47-17. With the TD, New England avoids the worst loss of the Belichick era ... for now.
Big man touchdown — 10:50 p.m.
The Bills are laying it on thick now. That big man touchdown is payback for decades of New England dominance, a chance to really run it up on Belichick and the Patriots. It’s now 47-10 with 8:37 to go in regulation.
Bills piling on — 10:38 p.m.
Now, it’s Allen to Gabriel Davis, and the Bills have made it 40-10 with 13:22 left in regulation. At the start of the evening, I was a big believer in the idea that no matter what happened in this one, the year has to be considered a success for the Patriots. Now? I’m not so sure. This is the sort of loss that will leave a mark that’ll last for some time.
Three quarters done — 10:32 p.m.
It’s 33-10 Bills at the start of the fourth quarter.
Jones, Bourne keep fighting — 10:22 p.m.
Good drive there by the Patriots, one that was sparked by a nice floater from Allen to Kendrick Bourne that went for 43 yards and got New England to the Buffalo 28. Bourne added 14 more yards on an end around, and was the guy who came through with the fourth-down touchdown catch to make it 33-10 with 4:12 left in the third quarter.
There’s not a lot to like about what the Patriots have done this evening, but Bourne has been a feisty presence all night long.
Bills keep rolling — 10:08 p.m.
Just an awful display there by Joejuan Williams, who never had a chance on that touchdown pass from Allen to Emmanuel Sanders. It’s 33-3 midway through the third quarter.
Bad company — 10:02 p.m.
Potentially unpopular take: The loss to the Ravens was one of the worst on-field moments of the Belichick Era for a few reasons, including the fact that it was a home game. There are still two quarters to go, but that was worse than what we have seen so far tonight.
Patriots’ worst playoff losses:— Katie McInerney (@k8tmac) January 16, 2022
19 pts: 33-14 loss to the Ravens in 2010
36 pts: The 46-10 loss to the Bears in Super Bowl XX
41 pts: The Boston Patriots lost to the Chargers 51-10 in the 1963 AFL championship game
Tonight: 24 points … and we still have another half to play
Jones picked again — 10:00 p.m.
And it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse. A Mac Jones pass for Hunter Henry is tipped, and picked off. The Bills will get the ball at their own 42-yard line. Wonder if the league would consent to a running clock over the last two quarters?
Halftime analysis — 9:43 p.m.
Two quarters are in the books in upstate New York, and the Patriots are down 27-3.
▪ Mac Jones: 2 carries, 18 yards; 10-16, 106 yards, 1 INT
▪ Damien Harris: 5 carries, 12 yards
▪ Hunter Henry: 1 catch on 2 targets, 30 yards
▪ Josh Allen: 5 carries, 63 yards; 12-16, 172 yards, 2 TDs
▪ Devin Singletary: 11 carries, 58 yards, 2 TDs
▪ Stefan Diggs: 3 catches, 4 targets, 60 yards
• Looking for positives? Pitchers and catchers report next month. The Bruins have won eight of their last 10 games. And the Patriots don’t have to face the Bills for another eight months or so.
• Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A slow start for the Patriots has them in big trouble. This was the exact sort of opening act the Patriots could not afford. Slow starts have dogged this team since the bye week, and we saw that again throughout the first two quarters this evening. On that first drive, Jones threw a pick, Jakob Johnson committed an early false start (the Patriots were hit with four penalties in the first half), and Brandon Bolden dropped a pass when he was wide open. There was more of that as the game continued, as errors and sloppy tackling doomed New England to an early deficit. There was some good in the early going — Jones showed a nice awareness on multiple occasions picking up extra yards when plays broke down. But those moments were few and far between.
• Not sure how much is scheme, personnel, matchup, or simply situational football (more of this, in all likelihood), but New England isn’t getting the sort of push when it comes to the overall ground game. Harris has gotten the bulk of the work — perhaps the Patriots will switch it up and get Rhamondre Stevenson more work in the second half. But the running attack needs a jump start if New England is going to put up some points in the second half.
• On the other side, the Bills are the ones who are bullying New England on the ground. Singletary has looked like the second coming of Thurman Thomas, while Allen has run wild through the New England defense. One of the points of emphasis all week was gap discipline against Allen. That didn’t work. Allen snapped off multiple designed runs in the first half, including a 26-yarder in the first quarter that was like something out of a “How not to defend Josh Allen” textbook. Allen shook off Christian Barmore on an eight-yard run in the second quarter. Just a bad start for New England’s run defense against the Buffalo quarterback.
• Not much to say about the state of New England’s special teams (other than to throw a kudos to Lawrence Guy for blocking the extra point), so let’s take this opportunity to say: How did this Buffalo team lose to Jacksonville?
• The Patriots will get the ball to start the second half. Not sure it’s going to matter.
Folk makes it 27-3 — 9:35 p.m.
A 44-yard field goal from Nick Folk makes it 27-3 with one second left in the first half.
Bills keep scoring — 9:31 p.m.
The Bills are playing the role of the Harlem Globetrotters right now. The only difference? The Washington Generals put up a better fight against the Globetrotters than the Patriots against Buffalo through the first two quarters. That’s a really roundabout of saying New England is getting its butt handed to them tonight. (You can only say the same thing so many different ways.) The latest embarrassment for the Patriots came on the most recent Buffalo offensive drive, where a 45-yard pass play from Allen to Diggs got the Bills into scoring position. Singletary then went in from 16 yards out. It’s 27-0 with 1:53 left in the first half.
Buffalo rolling — 9:12 p.m.
The Patriots punted the ball away on fourth and 1, and the Bills made them pay, putting together their third scoring drive of the night. The sequence was capped by a Devin Singletary plunge to make it 20-0 with 7:24 left in the first half. (The extra point was blocked by Lawrence Guy.) New England isn’t ready to play tonight, and the Bills are making them pay.
Compounding the problems?
Patriots injury update: LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (arm) is questionable to return.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 16, 2022
Bad sign — 8:55 p.m.
Patriots this year: 0-5 when getting outscored by at least 7 points in the first quarter.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) January 16, 2022
NFL teams this year in the regular season: 1-20 when getting outscored by at least 14 points in the first quarter
End of one — 8:52 p.m.
Buffalo holds a 14-0 lead after one quarter.
• Mac Jones 2-6, 39 yards, 1 INT; 1 carry, 16 yards
• Josh Allen: 3 carries, 46 yards, 9-12, 86 yards, 2 TDs
Buffalo makes it 14-0 — 8:46 p.m.
Another week, another slow start for the Patriots. The Bills have now had two possessions, and Allen has led them to a pair of scoring drives. The quarterback has a whopping 46 rushing yards. The first quarter isn’t done, but New England is just checking off all the boxes on the “What not to do” list this evening.
Buffalo picks off Jones — 8:36 p.m.
Lots of optimism at the start of that drive … that just went out the window on that interception from Micah Hyde. Ugh. The Bills take possession at their own 20-yard line with 5:40 left in the first quarter.
A few quick notes:
-Bourne slipped at the end of that 9-yard completion. As we said before, footing is going to be an issue this evening.
-Bad start for Jakob Johnson on that false start. With such a small margin for error, penalties have to be eliminated, or at least minimized.
-GREAT throw-and-catch on third down from Jones. Terrific pocket awareness on the part of Jones, and a good job by Henry not giving up on the play — a 30-yard connection. Another dynamite job of pocket awareness later in the drive when he scrambled for 16.
-An ugly drop by Bolden on a ball that would have gone for a first down right after that.
Buffalo takes 7-0 lead — 8:24 p.m.
A few early thoughts after Buffalo’s fast start:
-That 26-yard gain from Allen is the exact sort of thing the Patriots can’t afford to happen this evening. Extremely dangerous stuff. On the 15-yard pickup later on the drive, Dont’a Hightower was one of a few guys who missed Allen on the tackle.
-Patriots have to match the Bills score for score here. They simply cannot afford another slow start.
-I’m not sure why Ian Eagle keeps saying this is Bill Belichick’s first wild-card game. Maybe it’s the cold weather.
Pats win the toss, defer — 8:13 p.m.
Time for football.
Official Price Prediction — 8:03 p.m.
Gone back and forth on this one over the course of the week, and I feel like Buffalo is just a little better than New England, at least at this stage of the calendar. The Patriots will hang in and make it a close one, but I’m going to say Bills, 20-17.
Bengals win, 26-19 — 7:53 p.m.
The Bengals hold on to beat the Raiders, 26-19, to kick off wild-card weekend.
What’s the spread? — 7:45 p.m.
The latest line has Buffalo as a 4.5-point favorite, and the over/under at 43. I think the Bills win but fail to cover. Given the conditions, I’ll also take the under. A few more stats from Odds Shark:
Buffalo is 6-1-1 against the spread in its last eight games against an opponent in the AFC East.
The total has gone under in seven of Buffalo’s last 10 games played in January.
Buffalo is 13-3 straight up in its last 16 games at home.
New England is 8-3 against the spread in its last 11 games.
The total has gone under in four of New England’s last five games on the road.
Three things from inside the stadium — 7:40 p.m.
-Kyle Dugger has his right hand wrapped so it looks like an old-school, Oakland Raiders’ style club. Going to be interesting to see the impact that might have on this game.
-The specialists were scraping at the turf during field-goal attempts. Footing could be an issue.
-The following offensive line grouping was together during warmups: Justin Herron-Ted Karras-David Andrews-Shaq Mason-Trent Brown.
What’s cooler than being cool? — 7:20 p.m.
Some random thoughts, Part 2 — 7:10 p.m.
-Mac Jones was three when Tom Brady played in his first postseason game. (The Snow Bowl against the Raiders.) He’ll be the first rookie quarterback to start a playoff game in franchise history.
-Tonight marks the first road wild-card playoff game for head coach Bill Belichick.
-According to ESPN Stats and Information, this will be the first time the top two scoring defenses have met in the wild-card round, and only the fourth time in the last 20 postseasons in any round.
Patriots inactives include Wynn, Winovich — 7:00 p.m.
The following players are inactive for the Patriots this evening:
LT Isaiah Wynn (hip/ankle): As we wrote earlier, its going to be interesting to see how the Patriots make up for his absence; will they move Trent Brown to left tackle and have either Mike Onwenu or Justin Herron on the right side? Or will a Herron/Onwenu combo play left tackle against Buffalo tonight?
TE Devin Asiasi and RB J.J. Taylor: Two youngsters who have grown accustomed to healthy scratches, particularly because they both play positions where New England is particularly deep.
QB Jarrett Stidham: Another healthy scratch — the signal-caller hasn’t seen a snap of game action this season.
NT Carl Davis: The young defensive lineman is a healthy scratch. A good sign when it comes to Christian Barmore — not that there’s a whole lot of positional redundancy there, but it could be a sign New England feels OK about depth along the interior of its defensive front.
DE Chase Winovich: A healthy scratch, which is a bit of a surprise for the youngster out of Michigan who led the team in sacks last season. In all likelihood, this could be tied to personnel elsewhere; namely, getting as many defensive backs on the field as possible.
WR Kristin Wilkerson: Another healthy scratch, his appearance among the inactives is likely tied to more depth at another position. I’d guess that N’Keal Harry will end up taking the bulk of his reps/targets.
In addition to Harry, some of the notable actives tonight including defensive back Kyle Dugger, who has been such a key part of the New England secondary this year; Christian Barmore, a talented defensive lineman who was dinged up at the end of the Miami loss; and Dont’a Hightower, who missed the Dolphins’ game with a knee issue but is apparently good to go this evening.
One other note: No Jalen Mills, who remains on COVID reserve.
The Bills inactives are as follows:
Is this the start of a new rivalry between the Pats and Bills? — 6:50 p.m.
One of the things that I’ve felt over the last month-plus is the fact that we could be on the cusp of a great new rivalry between the Patriots and Bills. The two regular-season games were bitterly contested affairs, and the fact that they’re meeting in the postseason this evening with everything on the line takes everything to another level. Buffalo appears like they could be constructed for some semblance of long-term success, which has the potential to make things awfully spicy down the road.
Look, it’s never going to be Patriots-Jets, but it’s worth noting that the last time New England faced an opponent three times in one year, it was about the same time as the most recent peak of the Pats-New York rivalry of 2006-2011. It’s going to be interesting to see how things play out this evening, but again, if this game unfolds like I think it could, it could set the stage for bigger and better things to come.
Why games in Buffalo can be fun — 6:40 p.m.
Consider this a personal post: Over the years, I had the chance to cover a dozen or so games in Buffalo. It was always one of the most distinctive trips of the year. Here are a few reasons why:
There’s an old-school vibe to the press box. I love it because it feels like something out of 1983 — small and homey and sort of intimate. Different than anything you see across the league these days. It feels like they just took out the ashtrays three months ago. There are probably more Xerox machines than WiFi routers in the place. The people are great and the facilities are really pleasant and the pre- and post-game spread is good. It’s just that while the whole league went wireless a few years ago — metaphorically speaking — the press box is still relatively analog.
The place I used to do the Sunday morning radio show remotely was right next to the stadium. This is super-specific, but bear with me here — I used to do a Sunday morning radio show, and when I was on the road, I’d usually do it from a station relatively close to the stadium. That was nice, but it would still take me a while to sign off the air and get to the actual stadium before kickoff. (I drove like a maniac a few times through Northern New Jersey to get from Manhattan to the Meadowlands before kickoff, but I digress.) Anyway, the remote studio for Bills’ games was right next door to the stadium, located in the press building. It was, like, a five-minute walk from that studio to my seat in the press box. They had a small studio, great headphones and an awesome hook up. Made my gig so much easier.
The fans are bananas. In a good way. I mentioned the press box — the back end of the stands is right against the first row of the press box, and fans can turn around and face you. You’re separated by glass, of course. But there have been multiple occasions where I’ve had my view blocked by a guy in a Bruce Smith jersey and Zubaz pants. That part isn’t great, but the fact that the fans are always loud and always into the game adds to the atmosphere. There are all sorts of stories of tailgating with the Bills’ Mafia that are too numerous to mention here. And they love to throw goofy stuff on the field. But for me, one of my favorite parts of covering a game in Buffalo remains the fan involvement.
The stadium itself is smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood. It’s not directly off the interstate, and without easy entry and exit. Really, the place is so neighborhoody that people who live down the street from the stadium charge people to park on their front lawns and in their driveways. You are driving through Orchard Park, and there are businesses and homes and fields, and all of a sudden SHAZAM … there’s a big stadium right in the middle of everything. You don’t see a lot of that these days. Green Bay is sort of like that, and Memorial Stadium in Baltimore had the same sort of feel. (Of course, that’s gone now.) But Buffalo is just on a whole different level, at least in this era. Gives it a fun, old-time, small-market vibe you don’t get anywhere else, really.
You can drive there and back from Boston. A lot of the places I traveled as a football writer, you’d have to pack up and fly. Not Buffalo. It’s a killer drive out there and back, but there was a masochistic badge of honor to have completed that round trip. I can remember the days when we would go out Saturday night, find a cheap hotel, wake up early Sunday, I’d go do radio for three-plus hours, cover the game, write, and then pile into the car for the drive back Sunday afternoon/evening. There was more than one time where we were driving toward Boston with the sun coming up listening to Tom Brady do his Monday morning radio interview. And there were plenty of other occasions where I spent some time questioning my career choices as we were wrung out after the first part of the drive, but still four hours away from home. But it was all worth it.
Some random thoughts, Part 1 — 6:30 p.m.
-With Isaiah Wynn not in the lineup, I’d hope New England thinks about using the versatile Mike Onwenu at one of the tackle spots, as opposed to Justin Herron. (Herron would then theoretically slide up the depth chart as the extra tackle when the Patriots wanted to offer a jumbo package.) In truth, I’d defer to Trent Brown — if he feels more comfortable at left tackle (which I’m pretty sure is the case), I’d use Onwenu at right tackle. If Brown wants to give right tackle a shot, I’d post him up there and move Onwenu into the starting lineup on the left side. Either way, that personnel grouping gives you a better shot at winning tonight, in my opinion.
-The Patriots absolutely have to win the special teams’ battle tonight. Whether that’s showing an ability to consistently tilt the field when it comes to punt and kick coverage, or get a big return, or force a fumble, New England has to show some special teams’ magic at the expense of the Bills if it has a chance of winning this game. At the very least, if the Patriots want to be competitive, they simply can’t afford to the make the sort of special teams’ errors we’ve seen from them over the course of the regular season. Big point of emphasis this evening.
-New England absolutely has to do a better job than it did a few weeks back when it came to gap discipline against Josh Allen. As odd as it sounds, given the conditions, I think the Patriots would be OK having him sit back there and trying to win the game with his arm. Allen has really been a his best against New England when he’s been able to make plays with his feet. Keep him bottled up in the pocket and make him throw. If they’re going to do that, they need big games from a defensive front 7 that has to get home -- particularly Matthew Judon. Not sure what has happened to him over the last few weeks, but he has to play well tonight if the Patriots want a shot in this one.
Mac is in the building — 6:20 p.m.
Predict the outcome — 6:15 p.m.
Weather update — 6:02 p.m.
Pregame reading list — 6:00 p.m.
Best way to get ready for the game? Start reading.
Live from (upstate) New York, it’s Saturday night! — 5:55 p.m.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The Patriots and Bills are set to take center stage when they meet Saturday night at 8:15 in a wild-card matchup that promises to be one of the most compelling of the weekend. We’ll have all the latest from Buffalo all night long, including updates from the stadium, the latest weather news, fresh betting information, and much more. So strap in -- put an extra log on the fire and get ready for a cold evening. It’s wild-card weekend, everyone! CUE THE BAND.
Christopher Price can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.