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Unconventional Review

In the ultimate compliment, the Bills put on a Patriot-like performance

The Bills easily handled Mac Jones (195 passing yards) and the Patriots.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Welcome to the Unconventional Review, an instant reaction to standouts, stats, and story lines from the Patriots’ most recent game . . .

This is the highest compliment a lifelong Patriots observer can pay, I think.

Watching the manner and method in which the Bills methodically dismantled the Patriots Thursday night reminded me of how the dynasty-era Patriots often would take apart lesser opponents.

They dominated the time of possession — Buffalo had the ball for more than 38 minutes in their not-as-close-as-the-score-claims 24-10 win. They seized upon mistakes and limited their own. They were spectacular when they needed to be. And they allowed little room for suspense even though the score was close for a decent portion of the game.


The Bills, behind talented, tough quarterback Josh Allen, are the superior team. And they proved it the way superior teams often do — methodically and relentlessly, until a relatively close score has the ache of a blowout and the loser is left to reconsider what they are and where they are going.

Some further thoughts, upon immediate review . . .

Three players who were worth watching

Players suggested in the Unconventional Preview: Stefon Diggs, Kyle Dugger, Rhamondre Stevenson.

Stefon Diggs: Jonathan Jones is having a fine year, but he’s had a rough couple of weeks against two of the best receivers in the league. On Thanksgiving, he was in coverage for several of Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson’s nine receptions for 139 yards and a score, and he also picked up a pair of facemask penalties for his troubles. Thursday night, Diggs didn’t quite match Jefferson’s production — he grabbed seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown — but it seemed like he made a play in Jones’s face every time the Bills needed one. The Bills scored their first touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter, when Diggs toasted Jones with a dazzlingly sharp route and capped a nine-play, 82-yard Buffalo drive with an 8-yard catch in the corner of the end zone. That touchdown, his 10th of the season, gave the Bills the lead for good at 10-7. He was also especially impressive on a 15-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that ended with a Devin Singletary 1-yard scoring run 29 seconds into the fourth quarter. Diggs converted a third-and-4 early in the possession with an all-hands 19-yard grab, added another 19-yard catch two plays later, and came through on another third down with a 9-yard catch to set up first and goal at the 9. Let’s look forward to the day when the Patriots have a receiver who can do what he does.


Marcus Jones: The most exciting thing that occurs with the insomnia-curing Patriots offense these days is, oh, one of those Rhamondre Stevenson runs where he breaks three tackles near the line of scrimmage because the blocking stinks and then picks up 8 or 9 yards. No, Matt Patricia doesn’t exactly have a playbook full of thrill rides. But the Patriots did manage one clever, unexpected, and truly spectacular play Thursday night. With 4:46 left in the first quarter, Mac Jones took the snap, faked right, threw left . . . and his receiver caught the ball and took off like he’d been fired out of a slingshot for a 48-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead. The receiver? Actually, it wasn’t even a receiver. It was kick returner extraordinaire and reserve cornerback Marcus Jones, who is the most exciting player on the roster by far right now.


Josh Uche: While Matthew Judon remained stalled at 13 sacks for second straight game — maybe Andre Tippett’s franchise single-season record of 18.5 sacks from 1984 isn’t in jeopardy after all — Uche continues to ascend as a pass rusher, sacking Allen twice. On the Bills’ first possession, he hauled down Allen on a second-and-15 at the Patriots 33-yard-line in a drive that ended with a Tyler Bass 48-yard field goal. His second sack, with 1:20 left in the first half, was even more impressive. He took a sharp left turn around Bills left tackle David Quessenberry, drilled Allen with a blind-side hit, and knocked the ball loose, with Judon recovering at the Patriots 41. Uche, who had seven tackles, has seven sacks this season — all in the last five games.

Grievance of the game

For a while, I thought I’d go with the miscommunication between Jones and Stevenson that resulted in a fumble on a third-and-1 on the Patriots’ first possession, a sign if there ever was one that the offense’s habit of sloppy play had not been broken.

But the final choice is easy, because this grievance was an effort thing rather than a physical mistake. The Bills scored their second touchdown when Allen, pursued by Mack Wilson Sr. on third and goal, jumped just before he reached the sideline and hit Gabriel Davis with an 8-yard TD pass with 5:27 left in the first half for a 17-7 lead.


It was a spectacular play by Allen, but replay revealed that Jones had tapped his brakes and stopped running when Allen appeared to be heading out of bounds. Jones is a good player who had a bad night, but that was an inexcusable effort, or lack of it.

Three notes scribbled in the margins

Predicted score: Bills 31, Patriots 23

Final score: Bills 24, Patriots 10

Stevenson finished with 10 carries for 54 yards and 6 catches for another 24. The numbers aren’t spectacular, but he never stopped trying to bust through Bills’ tackles . . . Does it count as a moral victory that the Patriots forced the Bills to punt three times after not forcing a single punt in either of their previous two meetings? What’s that? It doesn’t? I’m with you . . . The Patriots offense in a nutshell: Jones running around behind the line of scrimmage for several seconds — Al Michaels joked that he’d run to Providence — then throwing a short pass to Kendrick Bourne, who dropped it. Thud.

Read more about the Patriots-Bills game:

McBride: A closer look at how the Bills completely overwhelmed the Patriots

Sullivan: The Patriots couldn’t hang with the new beasts of the AFC East

Volin: A lame loss to the Bills exposed the Patriots’ flawed offseason

Mac Jones explains his sideline rant

The Patriots turned to defensive back Marcus Jones to score their only TD


Finn: In the ultimate compliment, the Bills put on a Patriot-like performance

Gasper: The Marcus Jones touchdown was a neat trick, but it also showed the Patriots’ offense is a disaster

How it happened: Bills dominate Patriots once again, roll to convincing victory

Chad Finn can be reached at chad.finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.