FOXBOROUGH — The Bills brought the fight to the Patriots before the opening bell and kept throwing haymakers throughout, stunning New England with a 16-0 knockout at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
It was the first time the Patriots had been shut out since 2006, when Nick Saban’s Dolphins pulled the trick in Miami and it was the first whitewashing at home since 1993, when the Jets blanked them, 6-0.
With rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett starting his second straight game in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots’ offense was stagnant from the get-go. New England nearly scored on its first play from scrimmage — a 90-yard catch-and-run from Julian Edelman — that was called back for a penalty on Chris Hogan. From there, the highlights were few and far between for the home team.
Asked when he was informed he was getting the start, Brissett said, “When you found out, I think.’’
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was at his improvisational best, completing 27 of 39 for 246 yards and a touchdown. Many of his completions came milliseconds after he escaped a Patriot’s grasp. Taylor also scrambled his way to 28 yards on five carries.
“He makes you rush differently,’’ said defensive end Chris Long. “He makes you a little more tentative. He made some plays, extended some plays, and we knew that was something we had to stop.’’
Taylor’s partner on this day, LeSean McCoy, was his usual shady, shifty self, rushing for 70 yards on 19 carries and collecting six passes for 38 yards and the TD.
Brissett, meanwhile, came back to earth after his sterling start against the Texans. He finished 17 for 27 for 205 yards and missed several open targets at big times. Brissett, who injured his right thumb against Houston, played with a wrap on his wrist and thumb.
Brissett, who was sacked three times for 18 yards, said the thumb wasn’t an issue.
“Just didn’t play well, didn’t make some of the throws,’’ said Brissett. “Hat’s off to them.”
The Bills arrived at Gillette fresh off a beatdown of the Cardinals and full of a week of Rex Ryan’s normal antics.
During the pregame, as Brissett and fellow rookie Malcolm Mitchell were doing sprints along the sideline, Bills safety Robert Blanton shoved Brissett. Mitchell jumped to Brissett’s defense and a minor brouhaha ensued. Several Bills joined in the jawing. As quickly as it escalated, it was broken up by some New England assistant coaches.
“I don’t even remember [the scuffle],’’ said Brissett. “It didn’t bother me at all.’’
Mitchell also downplayed the incident, but did defend his actions to stick up for his quarterback.
“At the time I did what I thought was best,’’ said Mitchell. “Am I right or wrong? I don’t know. I just did what I thought was best at that particular time.’’
Martellus Bennett, who turned in his fourth straight standout game (five catches, 109 yards), said he would have had something to say had he been on the field at the time of the scuffle.
“It would’ve been different if I was out there,’’ he said. “I don’t let that [stuff] happen.’’
The Patriots made a ton of mental mistakes — committing nine penalties for 74 yards — and their third-down efficiency was abysmal — converting just 1 of 12. The Bills converted 7 of 15 third-down attempts.
“Obviously we didn’t do much of anything well enough to win today, so we’ve just got to do a better job, turn the page here,’’ said coach Bill Belichick. “We think we’re a better team than we showed today but we just didn’t do anything well enough.’’
Despite the obvious disappointment in the New England locker room, nobody was folding up their tent.
“We’re 3-1. Nobody’s panicking,’’ said Bennett. “We’re still the Patriots.’’
Some other observations as the Patriots prepare to welcome back Tom Brady for next week’s game in Cleveland.
Watch: Postgame analysis with Ben Volin and Jim McBride
■ Not a lot of happy returns.
Rookie Cyrus Jones took his first two kickoffs out of the end zone with poor results. He returned the first one 12 yards, to the 9-yard line, and the second one 18 yards, to the 14-yard line. He took a knee on subsequent kickoffs — and received a loud mock cheer from a rather antsy crowd on the first kneeldown.
Additionally, Jones and Danny Amendola each had a muffed punt that they recovered.
■ The defense couldn’t set the edge.
After completely stuffing the Texans in Week 3, the Patriots had trouble stifling the Bills’ ground game — 32 carries for 134 yards. McCoy and Taylor consistently gained the corner and made positive plays.
■ The Patriots receivers were virtually nonexistent.
Edelman had one catch, and Hogan and Amendola had zero. Bennett and running back James White had five catches.
“We just got outplayed . . . we couldn’t execute today,’’ said Edelman. “As far as the offense, we didn’t help anybody out . . . we didn’t help the defense out.’’
■ It was a slow day through the air.
New England accumulated just 187 net yards passing. The only recent game that can compare was a 25-17 loss to Pittsburgh in 2011 when it had 170.
■ The Wildcat was toothless.
Edelman took two direct snaps — rushing once for 1 yard and handing off to LeGarrette Blount on the other.
■ Robert Woods was immense.
The focus all week had been on the absence of electric Bills receiver Sammy Watkins, but Woods proved he’s no slouch, collecting seven catches for 89 yards. He gave both Logan Ryan and Jones fits.
“I forgot [Watkins] was missing,’’ said Bills coach Rex Ryan, when asked about Woods.
■ Ryan Allen was the Patriots’ most consistent player.
Fresh off being named AFC special teams player of the week, Allen blasted the ball afternoon. He punted six times for a 52.2-yard average (49.2 net).