ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A fan walked out of Highmark Stadium Saturday night holding a sign with the faces of Matthew Judon, Dont’a Hightower, J.C. Jackson, and Kyle Van Noy under the word, “MISSING.”
New England’s defense was nowhere to be found in their highly anticipated wild-card matchup against the Bills. The unit that ranked second in scoring defense in the NFL during the regular season got absolutely worked by quarterback Josh Allen and Buffalo’s offense, giving up 47 points — the most against coach Bill Belichick in postseason history.
The total could have been even higher had the Patriots not blocked two of Bills kicker Tyler Bass’s extra-point attempts.
”It sucks to end the season that way,” captain Devin McCourty said. “I don’t think we got a stop on defense tonight. Just not how you want to end any season, not how you want to play a game, a playoff game.”
McCourty is right: The Patriots didn’t get a single defensive stop. In fact, they didn’t even force a field goal. Buffalo scored a touchdown on each of their seven drives until backup Mitchell Trubisky checked in for the final three plays to kneel out the clock. No punts. No interceptions. No fumbles. No field goals. All touchdowns.
“Embarrassing,” McCourty said.
Things got off to a poor start early.
Judon, who started 16 games this season, was sidelined for New England’s first three defensive snaps. When he entered the game, he immediately lost the edge and Allen scrambled past him for 26 yards.
Five plays later, on a second and goal, Allen shook off a tackle attempt from Van Noy, stayed patient, and then found tight end Dawson Knox in the back of the end zone. According to Next Gen Stats, Allen had 9.64 seconds to throw — the longest time to throw on any touchdown pass in the last three seasons.
Allen continued to have his way the rest of the night. He completed 21 of 25 pass attempts (84 percent) for 308 yards and five touchdowns. His final quarterback rating was 157.6, a career-best.
”Damn near everything they did offensively was a good play for them. You have no shot to win a game like that,” McCourty said.
The Patriots simply had no answer.
Knox caught all five of his targets for 89 yards and two touchdowns. The speedy Isaiah McKenzie, who torched the Patriots in Week 16, caught all three of his targets for 45 yards. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs proved to be Jackson’s kryptonite, breaking free for a huge 45-yard gain in the second quarter.
Allen hit a total of nine pass catchers, including offensive tackle Tommy Doyle for a TD. Running back Devin Singletary added two touchdowns and 81 yards on the ground.
The Patriots looked slow, uninspiring, and incredibly overmatched.
”It wasn’t only one drive, it wasn’t only one play, it wasn’t one single player, it was everything,” Judon said. “It was the whole game. Everything was kind of frustrating, honestly.”
There was at least one matchup where the Bills had the clear advantage.
With cornerback Jalen Mills on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, 2019 second-round draft pick Joejuan Williams got the start. That news must have been music to Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s ears. Williams has been a healthy scratch on multiple occasions, including a three-week stretch in which the Patriots elected to go with practice-squad players over him.
The Bills obviously attacked Williams.
In the second quarter, wide receiver Gabriel Davis beat him on a 22-yard gain that advanced the Bills into Patriots territory. Then, in the third, Williams was burned again, this time by Emmanuel Sanders for a 34-yard touchdown.
Belichick tried to replace Williams and second-year defensive back Myles Bryant with D’Angelo Ross and De’Vante Bausby — both temporarily elevated to the active roster off the practice squad — but the Patriots were cooked.
When the Bills scored their fourth touchdown in the first half, Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones had completed four passes. Belichick always preaches the importance of playing complementary football, and the defense did absolutely nothing to help the team in that regard.
”It was their night tonight,” Judon said. “They were just hitting on all cylinders. Sometimes you just have to give credit to the other team. It just sucks when you can’t play anymore.”
More Patriots-Bills coverage
▪ Bills 47, Patriots 17: It’s a stampede: Josh Allen, Bills embarrass Patriots in all phases of 47-17 rout
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.