The Patriots put forth their best performance of the season on Sunday, using a last-minute drive — after falling behind for the first time late in the fourth quarter — to defeat the Buffalo Bills, 29-25, at Gillette Stadium.
Quarterback Mac Jones found tight end Mike Gesicki in the end zone with 12 seconds left for the game-winning score. The Patriots got the ball back with less than two minutes to go, and Jones led an 11-play drive that included a 34-yard pass to Rhamondre Stevenson, a 14-yard completion to Hunter Henry, and a 1-yard toss to Gesicki for the score.
“We all knew how to do the situation, knew we just had to get into the drive,” Patriots center and captain David Andrews said.
New England (2-5), which led for more than three-and-a-half quarters, picked up its second win of the season and snapped a three-game losing streak. It was the highest point total of the season for the Patriots, who entered the game ranked 31st in the NFL in scoring at 12.0 points per game.
“This is one of those wonderful feelings, because you put in a lot of hard work during the week,” Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. said.
It was also coach Bill Belichick’s 300th career regular-season victory.
“It’s great,” Belichick said. “I’m really more focused on our team and this year. I’ll worry about that later.”
The Patriots defense held the dynamic and high-scoring Bills offense in check for much of the game before Buffalo rallied in the fourth quarter.
Jones completed 25 of 30 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Jones connected with nine receivers, led by Kendrick Bourne’s six receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Demario Douglas added four catches for 54 yards.
“He had a tremendous game,” Wise said of Jones.
The Patriots took a 22-10 lead with 7:36 left to play in the fourth quarter, but the Bills scored 15 points in about six minutes. Quarterback Josh Allen connected with Stefon Diggs to make it 22-17, then Allen plunged into the end zone and found Dawson Knox for the 2-point conversion to give Buffalo its first lead, 25-22, with 1:53 to play.
The Patriots received the opening kickoff and drove 63 yards on nine plays for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
On Buffalo’s ensuing possession, Jabrill Peppers intercepted Allen’s pass intended for Knox. The Patriots then drove 45 yards for a touchdown, capped by Elliott’s 2-yard run into the end zone, to take a 10-0 lead. It was their first opening-quarter touchdown this season.
The Bills are 4-3.
The Patriots face the Miami Dolphins in South Florida next week.
Below are updates, commentary, and analysis from the Globe’s reporters posted throughout the game.
Belichick not focused on career milestone — 5:47 p.m.
Moments after cementing his 300th career regular-season victory, Patriots coach Bill Belichick stayed true to form and deflected the credit.
“It’s great,” Belichick told reporters. “I’m really more focused on our team and this year. I’ll worry about that later. Thank you.”
Belichick notched No. 299 against the New York Jets on Sunday, Sept. 24, and waited nearly a month to reach the round number. He steered New England to its biggest win of the season Sunday – a 29-25 triumph over the Buffalo Bills.
A few comments from Mac Jones — 5:16 p.m.
Before Mac Jones led the Patriots on their game-winning drive in Sunday’s 29-25 victory over the Bills, he was approached by defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. The veteran Godchaux, whom Jones considers one of his close friends on the team, kept things light-hearted, telling Jones to be like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
It was that easy confidence that helped propel Jones to one of his signature moments as a Patriot. Jones hopes he can keep rewarding teammates who trust in him.
“I know [Godchaux] has confidence in me, and it means a lot to me, as a younger player, compared to him, who’s been in the league for a little bit,” Jones said. “He’s done a great job, and I want to continue to do that and make people believe.”
Instant analysis: Jones shows his resiliency — 5:03 p.m.
A handful of teammates mobbed Mac Jones at midfield. Center David Andrews found Bill Belichick at midfield, gave his coach a hearty smack and followed it up with a big handshake. It was a rewarding day for Belichick and Jones, after weeks of constant criticism and speculation about their jobs.
The Patriots’ dynasty of 2001-19 was built on resilience and fighting through adversity. And with Mike Vrabel, Dante Scarnecchia, and a host of other team legends on hand, Jones and Belichick delivered a victory Sunday that must have made the old guys proud.
The Patriots had every reason to fold in the fourth quarter, with the Bills threatening and the Patriots coughing up a fumble with five minutes left. But twice the Patriots authored gutsy drives in the fourth quarter that have been sorely lacking since Tom Brady left four years ago.
Shaughnessy: What’s the deal? — 4:42 p.m.
Hours before the Patriots and Bills kicked off at Gillette Stadium Sunday, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that (according to “sources”) New England’s ownership signed Bill Belichick to a “lucrative multi-year new contract’' during the offseason.
Media folks and fans never know anything about Belichick’s contract status. Within the walls of Fort Foxborough, Bill’s deal is guarded like the nuclear codes. A gameday thunderclap about his new contract predictably triggered rampant speculation regarding the timing and motivation of this news.
Who dropped the dime? Belichick or Bob Kraft?
Patriots back in front — 4:01 p.m.
Patriots 29, Bills 25 | :12 fourth quarter
Mac Jones just logged the signature drive he needed, and the Patriots are on the doorstep of victory.
Rhamondre Stevenson made the play of the game so far for New England, taking a screen pass 34 yards to put the Patriots near field goal range.
Mac Jones hit Hunter Henry over the middle for 14 yards to convert on 3rd & 8 before the Patriots called timeout. Then Jones connected with his ninth receiver of the afternoon in DeVante Parker, followed by a 10-yard pass to Stevenson.
Demario Douglas brought a pass down to the 1-yard line, and though New England declined the defensive pass interference penalty, the Bills had to call timeout. On the second pass attempt, Jones found Mike Gesicki for the touchdown.
Bills have the lead — 3:50 p.m.
Bills 25, Patriots 22 | 1:58 fourth quarter
The Bills have taken the lead after a crucial and controversial short drive.
On fourth down from the 8-yard line, Buffalo very nearly got hit with a delay-of-game penalty but called timeout, much to the dismay of the Gillette Stadium crowd. The Bills converted the first down on the next play.
Then, after yet another lengthy discussion, the officials penalized Jack Jones for illegal contact after he held Gabe Davis on first and goal. That brought the ball to the 1-yard line and Josh Allen snuck it in for the touchdown.
Allen then completed the two-point conversion attempt to Dawson Knox. New England needs a field goal to tie and has 1:58 to get it.
Turnover kills Patriots drive — 3:38 p.m.
Unforced errors are popping up for the Patriots.
Vederian Lowe was penalized as an ineligible man downfield, which negated another big gain from Pharaoh Brown. Mac Jones nearly threw a bad interception.
And then Kendrick Bourne fumbled after turning to take a catch up the field. The Bills have the ball at the Patriots’ 16-yard line.
Bills cut the lead to 5 — 3:31 p.m.
Patriots 22, Bills 17 | 5:32 fourth quarter
You can’t count Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs out of a game.
Allen hit a sliding Diggs near the Patriots’ 5-yard line and Diggs, who was not touched, got up and then fought off two Patriots to reach the end zone on a 25-yard score.
The Patriots also announced that Trent Brown is questionable to return with a knee injury.
Jones to Bourne for a TD — 3:22 p.m.
Patriots 22, Bills 10 | 7:36 fourth quarter
Mac Jones threw perhaps his two best passes of the day on the Patriots’ latest possession. Jones linked up with Pharaoh Brown for 26 yards and Demario Douglas for 19 yards, with both throws falling in perfectly against solid coverage. Kendrick Bourne capped off the six-minute drive with a 4-yard touchdown catch.
New England got three attempts at a two-point conversion because of Buffalo penalties, but could not add two points. But 22 points is still their highest output of the season.
Defense comes up big — 3:14 p.m.
The Patriots nearly had the Bills on the ropes twice late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. Buffalo running back Latavius Murray shook off Kyle Dugger to pick up 17 yards on third-and-15. Soon after, Josh Allen used a quarterback sneak to move the chains on fourth down.
But Ja’Whaun Bentley broke up a second fourth-down conversion attempt to keep the Patriots up six.
Third-quarter analysis: Patriots are hanging in there — 3:06 p.m.
Three quarters are done here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots are up, 16-10.
• The Bills benefited from a questionable roughing the passer call on their first drive of the second half. Josh Allen made some spectacular throws to help move the chains, but the flag on Jack Jones — who delivered a clean hit on the Buffalo quarterback - certainly didn’t help matters. Allen hit James Cook on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 9:53 left in the third quarter to make it 13-10.
• Allen bailed out the Buffalo offense on multiple occasions, including one third-and-15 play where he kept things alive after the pocket broke down, evading would-be tacklers like a madman and completing a pass to Murray that went for 17 yards after Murray put a nifty little shake on Kyle Dugger.
• That being said, the Patriots cornerbacks have been much more competitive over the last couple of weeks. The return of Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones, as well as the arrival of J.C. Jackson, has provided New England with some good cornerback depth. We’re a long way from Myles Bryant having to defend Cee Dee Lamb. (The pass defense did dodge a bullet late in the quarter when a Allen deep ball attempt for Stefon Diggs was overthrown.)
• We also need to make sure we acknowledge the New England offensive line. Right now, these are the five best offensive linemen on the roster, from left to right: Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Sidy Sow, and Mike Onwenu. (It’s the sixth different starting lineup up front in seven games.) Jones has had time to throw, and he’s only been sacked once by a team that was tied for the league lead in sacks coming into the game.
• Anfernee Jennings appeared to suffer a shoulder injury with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter. He jogged off under his own power, and later returned to the game. It’s another blow for a team that was already missing end-of-the-line defenders in Matt Judon, Keion White, and Josh Uche.
• Chad Ryland connected on a 49-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. It was his third field goal of the afternoon, a career-high for the rookie. However, the Patriots had to take a timeout before the field goal because the line wasn’t set, something Bill Belichick wasn’t happy about.
Patriots add field goal — 2:44 p.m.
Patriots 16, Bills 10 | 4:30 3rd quarter
Mac Jones has now connected with eight different receivers. He added Hunter Henry on this drive, as well as Jalen Reagor, who recorded his first catch as a Patriot on an 11-yard grab.
Demario Douglas logged another big play on a 20-yard run, but the drive stalled shortly afterward. Chad Ryland booted his third field goal of the day, this one from 49 yards.
Bills find the end zone — 2:44 p.m.
Patriots 13, Bills 10 | 9:53 3rd quarter
The Bills got everyone involved in their first drive out of the half, culminating in an 8-yard pass from Josh Allen to James Cook to cut the gap to a field goal.
Stefon Diggs, Deonte Harty, and Dawson Knox all caught passes of 10 yards or more from Allen. Cook broke off a 20-yard run in addition to his touchdown.
• Bills first-round pick Dalton Kincaid had just 11 catches for 118 yards coming into today’s game. He leads the Bills with five catches (on five targets) for 52 yards today. – Finn
Halftime analysis: A solid start for Patriots — 2:25 p.m.
Two quarters are done here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots are up, 13-3. Here are a few quick notes:
• Stats leaders: Mac Jones: 11-for-14, 123 yards; Ezekiel Elliott: 6 carries, 19 yards, 1 TD; Kendrick Bourne: 3 catches on 4 targets, 45 yards; Pop Douglas: 3 catches on 3 targets, 35 yards; Josh Allen: 9-for-16, 99 yards, 1 INT; Stefon Diggs: 1 catch on 3 targets, 6 yards
• It wasn’t a perfect couple of quarters, but it was maybe the most complete two quarters of football this season for New England. The Patriots scored a touchdown early, and while they stalled in the red zone on a couple of occasions, the special teams picked them up with a pair of field goals.
• The defense held the Buffalo offense — which was averaging 28.8 points per game — to just three points through the first half. We’ll see what the second half has in store, but for a team that’s struggled mightily for the last month, it’s been a good start to the day.
• The Patriots scored their first first-quarter touchdown of the season, and their first first-quarter touchdown since last year’s regular-season finale against Buffalo. The 10-point advantage also marked their largest lead since Week 3, when they carried a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter against the Jets.
• The Patriots utilized a bootleg rollout to limited success earlier in the season — including at least once for a big gain last week against the Raiders — and they used it in the early going against the Bills. Mac Jones found Pharaoh Brown with a 25-yard gain in the first quarter. It was the second-longest gain of the first half for the Patriots, trailing only a 33-yard pickup from Bourne midway through the second quarter.
• One other offensive note; there were multiple quick passes from Jones that ended up going for anywhere between four and seven yards. Emphasis was clearly on getting the ball out quickly against a powerful Buffalo pass rush.
• Trying to figure out if it’s the absence of Buffalo defensive tackle Ed Oliver or just some generally leaky run defense, but the Patriots called an awful lot of inside runs through the first half. They’ve found some success there with both Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson — it’ll be interesting if they keep going back to it throughout the afternoon.
• Jabrill Peppers remains one of the real bright spots of this team. Smart, tough, and a great leader, he set the tone with a first-quarter interception of Josh Allen on a ball intended for Dawson Knox. It was his first takeaway of the season, and the third interception for a team that has struggled with takeaways all season long.
• For a team without Matt Judon, Josh Uche, and Keion White, New England has been getting good pressure on Allen. Christian Barmore and Sam Roberts shared a second-quarter sack of the Buffalo quarterback.
• Love the heavy use of Douglas in the early going. Terrific short-area quickness, and he’s getting some really good matchups.
• From this viewpoint, not going for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield early in the second quarter was a questionable decision, especially after finding some success on the ground in the early going. (Not to mention punting on fourth-and-2 late in the second quarter.) In a game where there’s going to be little margin for error, it’ll be interesting to see if it comes back to bite the Patriots.
• That being said, it was a typically excellent punt from Bryce Baringer, who pinned Buffalo deep in its own end. That, a pair of field goals from Chad Ryland (from 30 and 24 yards) and a 25-yard punt return from Douglas made it a very good first half for New England’s special teamers.
• The Bills will get the ball to start the second half.
Bills’ kick goes wide right — 2:09 p.m.
Patriots 13, Bills 3 | 1:51 2nd quarter
The Bills had a chance to close the gap coming out of the two-minute warning, but Tyler Bass’s 42-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right against the wind. Buffalo had worked a 12-play drive that lasted nearly six minutes.
• Christian Barmore’s stats aren’t spectacular – he has one tackle and shared a sack with Sam Roberts – but he has been everywhere today. – Finn
Patriots add 3 points — 1:59 p.m.
Patriots 13, Bills 3 | 7:36 2nd quarter
Mac Jones found his favorite target for the first time today. Kendrick Bourne caught a short pass running left-to-right, then took it along the sideline for a 33-yard gain that brought New England to the Bills’ 10-yard line.
Bourne also added a 7-yard catch, though the Patriots had to live with another short field goal from Chad Ryland.
Demario Douglas continues to shine; his 25-yard punt return helped the Patriots start the drive in Bills territory.
Third Patriots possession goes nowhere — 1:47 p.m.
Not much there for the Patriots on their third possession. Mac Jones missed Kendrick Bourne on a screen pass, then found Rhamondre Stevenson for eight yards before New England punted away.
• Heck of a punt by Baringer after the Schooler false start. Sixty-four yards to the Bills 6, returned for just 7 yards to 13. (I’m a believer in both Baringer and Chad Ryland and don’t have an issue with Belichick using draft capital on them.) – Finn
• Curious whether Stefon Diggs starts to get frustrated. He has one catch for 6 yards on three targets. – Finn
Bills kick field goal — 1:40 p.m.
Patriots 10, Bills 3 | 14:52 2nd quarter
The Bills slowly grinded away on their second drive, using 13 plays and more than seven minutes of clock to work their way close to the end zone before settling for a 36-yard field goal by Tyler Bass.
James Cook caught a 28-yard pass from Josh Allen on third down to keep the possession alive. The Bills also had a Dawson Knox touchdown catch wiped away by an offensive pass interference call.
First quarter analysis: Pretty good start for New England — 1:37 p.m.
One quarter is done here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots are up, 10-0. A few quick notes:
• The Patriots scored their first first-quarter touchdown of the season, and their first first-quarter touchdown since last year’s regular-season finale against Buffalo. The 10-point advantage also marked their largest lead since Week 3, when they carried a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter against the Jets.
• On their initial drive, if the Patriots had been able to convert on that third-and-4 in the red zone, they had a chance to finish off what would have been their best and most compete drive of the season. (That bootleg rollout pass from Mac to Pharaoh Brown picked up 25 yards, and was one of the most well-executed offensive plays of the season.) Either way, they finished it with a 30-yard field goal from Chad Ryland to make it 3-0 with 10:02 left in the first quarter. It marked their first lead at home all season.
• Jabrill Peppers remains one of the real bright spots of this team. Smart, tough, and a great leader, he set the tone with a first-quarter interception of Josh Allen on a ball intended for Dawson Knox. That set up a 2-yard plunge from Zeke Elliott at the 6:58 mark of the quarter, the 70th touchdown of his career.
• The Patriots are doing some mixing and matching when it comes to working against Stefon Diggs, using Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, and others. Diggs left Myles Bryant all alone on one play and was racing for the end zone, but Josh Allen didn’t see him. Diggs was the beneficiary of a questionable call on J.C. Jackson that bailed out the Bills’ passing game and helped keep a drive alive,
• Trying to figure out if it’s the absence of Buffalo defensive tackle Ed Oliver or some other matchup, but the Patriots have called an awful lot of inside runs through the first quarter. They’ve found some success there — it’ll be interesting if they keep going back to it throughout the afternoon.
• Love the heavy use of Pop Douglas in the early going. Terrific short-area quickness, and he’s getting some really good matchups.
– Chris Price
Elliott punches it in — 1:21 p.m.
Patriots 10, Bills 0 | 6:58 1st quarter
Ezekiel Elliott got the carries for the Patriots on their second possession and excelled. The veteran running back tallied 19 yards on four carries and finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to give New England a surprising double-digit lead early.
• Demario Douglas, back from missing a game with a concussion, continues to show that he can be an exciting piece for the future. The Patriots are still using him sparingly — his most playing time came in Week 1 with 41 percent of the offense’s snaps — but Douglas always manages to do something positive when he’s on the field. – Yang
• It’s the first first-quarter touchdown for the Patriots since last year’s regular-season finale against the Bills. The 10-0 lead matches the largest lead of the season for the Patriots. (They were up by 10 in Week 3 against the Jets.) – Price
Patriots intercept Allen’s first pass — 1:15 p.m.
One Bills offensive play, one turnover: Josh Allen throws to the far right side and Jabrill Peppers is all over it for an easy interception. Patriots get the ball and great field position from Buffalo’s 45-yard line.
• Well, through two drives, it appears these two teams have “Freaky Friday-ed.” – Yang
Patriots score first — 1:09 p.m.
Patriots 3, Bills 0 | 10:02 1st quarter
That was the best first possession we’ve seen from the Patriots in a while.
Quarterback Mac Jones hit Pharaoh Brown for a 25-yard catch and run, and also connected with Demario Douglas and Tyquan Thornton. Rhamondre Stevenson picked up 22 rushing yards on four carries. The drive ends with a 30-yard field goal from Chad Ryland, but it’s a solid start for the offense.
• Ryland – the biggest Phillies’ fan in the New England locker room – bangs home a 30-yard field goal. It’s 3-0 with 10:02 left in the first quarter. It’s the first lead at home this year for the Patriots. – Price
• Not a fan of the play-calling to end that first drive for the Patriots. They actually had success moving the ball, but then called back-to-back runs on second and third down to stall inside the red zone. On fourth-and-2 from Buffalo’s 12-yard line, they decided to kick. Given the potential of the Bills’ offense, it would have been nice to see the Patriots be more aggressive. That being said, I also understand settling for points in order to just get on the scoreboard. – Yang
• Look at that, a functional NFL offense. – Finn
• With that 25-yard reception, Pharoah Brown’s YPC with the Patriots actually dropped from 28.7 to 27.8. He’s not compared to Randy Moss often enough. – Finn
Finn’s players to watch and prediction — 12:55 p.m.
Patriots player to watch: Rhamondre Stevenson. The Patriots’ best (only?) chance to pull off the upset is if their running game, which showed some signs of life against the Raiders, gets in gear. The Bills have the league’s 25th-ranked run defense (133.7 yards per game) and are without linebacker Matt Milano and defensive tackle Ed Oliver.
Bills player to watch: Stefon Diggs. Obvious choice, but the Bills’ star receiver has made a habit of tormenting the Patriots. He’s had at least 85 receiving yards in five of his seven career regular-season games against the Patriots, with five total touchdowns. This is another reason why it’s a bummer that Christian Gonzalez got hurt – this would have been a fun matchup to watch.
Prediction: Bills 26, Patriots 16. This counts as an optimistic outcome at this point.
Pregame observations — 12:45 p.m.
• Patriots OL in warmups, left to right: LT Trent Brown, LG Cole Strange, C David Andrews, RG Sidy Sow, RT Mike Onwenu
• Looks like Dante Scarnecchia is at the top of the lighthouse ready to ring the bell to get things started shortly.
• Former Patriots star Richard Seymour is talking to New England’s defensive linemen during warmups.
• As has been the case for most of the time since his injury, linebacker Matt Judon is a very visible sideline presence, both during the game and beforehand. Walking the field this afternoon in a red hoodie. Other pregame on-field visitors include Seymour and Mike Vrabel.
– Chris Price
Pregame scenes — 12:30 p.m.
A few glances in and around Gillette Stadium:
Power has shifted in Patriots-Bills rivalry — 12:10 p.m.
The Patriots once dominated this AFC East rivalry, but power has shifted to the Bills in recent years.
Buffalo has won four consecutive matchups and six of the last seven contests. That includes a 47-17 thumping in the AFC wild card game on Jan. 15, 2022. Most recently, the Bills beat the Patriots in Week 18 of last season, 35-23.
New England won a whopping 30 of 33 head-to-head games from Dec. 27, 2003 through the end of the 2019 season. The Patriots hold a 77-49-1 record in the all-time series, including postseason games.
Price’s players to watch and prediction — 11:50 a.m.
Patriots player to watch: Mac Jones. Fair or not, the quarterback remains in the crosshairs. Can he find a way to rebound and give the offense a jump-start? Will he be benched for the third time? In a league where each and every team rises and falls on the arm of the quarterback, that’s especially the case with Jones and New England.
Bills player to watch: Leonard Floyd. I really want to pick every member of the Buffalo pass rush, but in this case, we’ll go with the Bills’ sack leader. The beleaguered New England offensive line needs to figure out a way to keep Jones clean, and that starts with holding Floyd and the rest of the Buffalo pass rush at bay.
Prediction: Bills 24, Patriots 17. I think New England keeps it relatively competitive for two-plus quarters, but Buffalo’s offense is just too much for the Patriots.
Inactives: Malik Cunningham won’t play — 11:30 a.m.
After a week of speculation that Patriots quarterback/receiver Malik Cunningham might be in for a more involved role with the Patriots this week, it turns out Cunningham is not part of the game plan on Sunday. He was listed among the inactives for the Patriots on Sunday after making his NFL debut last week and being on the field for six snaps.
Bailey Zappe is the backup quarterback to Mac Jones, and Will Grier is inactive but has the third QB designation, which allows him to play if both players ahead of him are injured or leave the game. In last week’s loss to the Raiders, Cunningham was the backup QB and Zappe was the third QB.
Patriots: QB/WR Malik Cunningham, OL Calvin Anderson, LB Josh Uche, WR Kayshon Boutte, DE Keion White, QB Will Grier (3rd QB designation), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Bills: S Damar Hamlin, LB AJ Klein, OL Germain Ifedi, OL Alec Anderson, TE Quintin Morris, DT Ed Oliver.
Chris Price’s analysis
New England’s backup quarterback carousel continues.
One week after he was the backup quarterback against the Raiders, rookie Malik Cunningham was among the inactives. Cunningham had six snaps against Las Vegas, with most of them coming at quarterback. Bailey Zappe will serve as Mac Jones’s primary backup, while Will Grier will be the emergency third quarterback.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion) will also be sidelined this afternoon against the Bills. The veteran receiver will miss his second consecutive game, which should create opportunities in the passing game for rookie Demario Douglas, among others. Kayshon Boutte (healthy scratch) will also sit today. The first-year receiver out of LSU has the inside track when it comes to the rookie redshirt award — he’s been healthy most of the season, but hasn’t been active since the opener.
Josh Uche (knee/ankle) and Keion White (concussion) were both downgraded on Friday. With Matthew Judon also on the shelf, the Patriots’ pass rush will have to be powered by the likes of Deatrich Wise, Jr. and Anfernee Jennings this afternoon against the Bills.
Along the offensive line, tackle Calvin Anderson takes another healthy scratch, which will thin the depth up front. Riley Reiff (knee) was also downgraded on Friday. While the veteran was on IR to start the year, he’s struggled with health and worked mostly as a backup since he’s returned.
Among the notable actives include left tackle Trent Brown and tight end Hunter Henry, both of whom did not practice earlier in the week, as well as cornerback Jack Jones, who is set to make his season debut against the Bills.
Yang’s players to watch and prediction — 11:00 a.m.
Patriots player to watch: Malik Cunningham. After last week’s game — and roster mismanagement, in my opinion — it will be interesting to see how the Patriots handle the backup quarterback position. If they once again tap Cunningham over Bailey Zappe and Will Grier, I am curious to see if Cunningham’s overall offensive role expands beyond the six snaps he took last week. Coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien have been clear that Mac Jones remains the starting QB, but have been cagey regarding the backup position.
Bills player to watch: Stefon Diggs. Diggs leads the league in individual target share over the past month, a testament to his importance to Josh Allen and Buffalo’s offense. With a banged up Jonathan Jones (and Christian Gonzalez on injured reserve), the Patriots will be relying on old friend J.C. Jackson to contain Diggs — a matchup that has produced great theater in the past but hasn’t gone in Jackson’s favor. Buffalo’s receiving corps is not very deep, though, so shutting down Diggs would be big for the Patriots.
Prediction: Bills 27, Patriots 10. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Bills try to run up the score and use Sunday as a “get right” game, given their recent struggles, so 27 might be conservative. There’s no reason to give the Patriots a chance until they start to show some consistency.
Patriots injuries to watch — 10:45 a.m.
The list is long — again.
Linebacker Josh Uche (knee/ankle) and defensive end Keion White (concussion) have been ruled out for Sunday along with offensive tackle Riley Reiff (knee), who is headed to injured reserve.
The “questionable” players include: center David Andrews (ankle); guards Mike Onwenu (ankle) and Cole Strange (knee); offensive tackle Trent Brown (chest); tight end Hunter Henry (ankle); wide receivers Kayshon Boutte (hamstring), Demario Douglas (concussion), and JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion); defensive tackles Christian Barmore (knee) and Davon Godchaux (ankle); linebacker Trey Flowers (foot); and defensive backs Cody Davis (knee), Kyle Dugger (foot), Jack Jones (hamstring), Jonathan Jones (knee), and Shaun Wade (shoulder).
Running back Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) and defensive back Jabrill Peppers (knee) are listed as “unspecified.”
What’s the forecast? — 10:30 a.m.
The forecast calls for a crisp and cloudy fall day at Gillette Stadium. Wind could be a factor, with expected gusts of up to 40 miles per hour and sustained winds up to 22 m.p.h. Rain likely won’t arrive in Foxborough until the evening.
Care to wager? — 10:15 a.m.
Sports books believe New England has quite the hill to climb. Even at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots are 7.5-point underdogs vs. the Bills, with the money line hovering around +310. The over/under is at 40 total points.
Per The Action Network, that is the largest spread and slimmest odds of any Patriots game so far this season. It’s the fifth time in seven games that New England has entered as the underdog, including three out of four home games.
Do the Patriots have a chance? You can vote in Christopher Price’s social media poll:
What happens today?— Christopher Price (@cpriceglobe) October 22, 2023
Tale of the tape — 10:00 a.m.
A closer look at how the Patriots and Bills stack up in some key stat categories (NFL rank in parentheses):
AFC East standings: Bills 2nd; Patriots 4th
Points per game: Bills 28.8 (3); Patriots 12.0 (31)
Total yards gained: Bills 2,249; Patriots 1,696
Rushing offense: Bills 118.2 ypg (12); Patriots 83.7 (26)
Passing offense: Bills 256.7 (8); Patriots 199.9 (22)
Total defense: Bills 323.8 (12); Patriots 306.7 (10)
Points allowed: Bills 14.8 (3); Patriots 25.3 (24, tie)
Turnover differential: Bills plus-4 (10); Patriots minus-8 (31)
Patriots activate Jones, Davis — 9:45 a.m.
The Patriots activated cornerback Jack Jones and safety Cody Davis to the 53-man roster on Saturday.
Jones was on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, while Davis was on the physically unable to perform list.
The team also placed offensive lineman Riley Reiff back on injured reserve. Reiff, who began the season on IR, returned to play in Week 5 but then suffered a new knee injury.
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