ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Jamie Collins is developing quite the finishing touch.
For the second straight road game, the linebacker closed out a victory and emptied out a stadium with interception as the Patriots held on for a 16-10 rock-fight win over the Bills on Sunday afternoon at New Era Field.
Collins camped under a Matt Barkley pass after Kyle Van Noy disrupted the quarterback with heavy pressure, causing an errant throw. It was the fourth pick of the day for the Patriots, who harassed starting QB Josh Allen into three interceptions.
Allen, coming off perhaps his best performance of his career in a win over Cincinnati, looked wildly confused all game until he was knocked out of the contest early in the fourth quarter on violent hit from cornerback Jonathan Jones.
Allen completed just 13 of 28 passes for 153 yards and was sacked four times.
“Yeah, he didn’t know what we were doing,’’ said Van Noy. “He was shook back there.’’
Barkley came in and really played the best quarterbacking of the day on either side until Van Noy and Collins combined to close it out.
Barkley drove the Bills to the New England 3-yard line early in the fourth quarter and the hosts appeared poised to take their first lead of the game (they were trailing, 16-10) before the Patriots defense thwarted them.
Despite a first-and-goal from the 8, Buffalo couldn’t muscle into the end zone as a pair of Frank Gore runs produced just 2 yards and an 8-yard completion by Barkley was offset by a delay of game penalty. The Bills turned it over on downs with a fourth-down incompletion.
The goal-line stand really got Van Noy excited.
“Bad ass,’’ he said with grin. “That [stuff’s] fun. It gives me chills thinking about it. That’s football at its core right there. One on one, you know they’re trying to run the ball . . . and you’ve got to stand up.’’
The Patriots defense, which did allow its first touchdown since the AFC title game, bent a little but eventually broke the Bills’ backs time and time again.
It was a unit that had its guard up after Bills tackle Dion Dawkins had done a little trash talking during the week.
“We just wanted to make sure Dawkins knew who we were,’’ said Van Noy when asked to described the closing play.
Van Noy played like a man possessed. He finished with a team-high eight tackles, including a pair of sacks, and two forced fumbles. Typical of this team’s attitude during its current run of vise-grip defense, Van Noy deflected credit.
“It always feels good to make plays. But if other guys weren’t doing what they were doing I wouldn’t be able to [do] mine,’’ he said. “So, I’m just glad everybody was doing their job on that [last] play to help me out and make a play. It always takes 11 of us and I feel like today was another testament to the guys that we have and we’re just playing elite football right now . . . We’ve got really good football players. Maybe people will start noticing that.’’
Here are some other observations as the Patriots ran their record to 4-0 while handing the Bills their first loss.
Offense stuck in neutral
Tom Brady, who has made this stadium his second home over the last 20 years, had one of the roughest performances of his career. He completed just 18 of 39 attempts for 150 yards and an end zone interception from the 2-yard line when it appeared the Patriots were about to take a 20-0 lead into intermission.
“I can’t let that happen,’’ said Brady. “You’re a little careless and you think you’ve got someone and the windows close pretty quick. [We] can’t afford to give away points like that.’’
New England’s offense managed only 224 net yards and just 3.6 yards per play.
“They’re one of the best defenses in the league for a reason,’’ said Phillip Dorsett. “They played excellent together, all in the right space at the right time and they know how to play.’’
Edelman a shade off
A week after suffering a rib injury, Julian Edelman suited up but wasn’t able to make his normal impact. He finished with just four catches (and more telling, just seven targets) as the Buffalo defense muddled the middle, where he usually makes his hay.
Running game still
Sony Michel opened the game with a 15-yard run and had 20 yards on the second-to-last possession, but in between was mostly bottled up. Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano did a good job plugging holes and forcing Michel (17 carries, 63 yards) to string his runs to edge, where he was often met by blue jerseys.
With lanes hard to find, New England gained just 74 yards on the ground.
“It’s not just one thing,’’ said James White, asked to pinpoint what is needed to gain consistency. “It’s good run-reads and everyone being on the same page. We’ll get better and it starts on the practice field.’’
J.C. Jackson had a monster game as New England’s fourth corner had a pair of interceptions and a blocked punt that Matthew Slater returned for his first career touchdown.
Jackson said the blocked punt play was something that was emphasized in practice all week “and I executed it the right way.’’
Slater said Jackson “might’ve been the best player on the field for us today, honestly.’’
The rookie punter continues to launch ozone layer-scrapping punts — and he got a lot of practice in this one. Bailey kicked nine times for 48.1-yard average (43 net), including a 61-yarder. His distance and directional kicking consistently prevented the Bills from flipping the field.
One for the books
Frank Gore rushed 17 times for 109 yards, including a 41-yarder that gave him 15,000 career rushing yards. Gore (15,021) is just the fourth player in NFL history to reach that mark. Only Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726), and Barry Sanders (15,269) are ahead of him.
“Hard work,’’ said Gore. “I’m blessed. Loving the game, and you know, I’m just blessed.’’