FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — At 6-5, the New England Patriots entered Thursday Night Football two games behind the 8-3 Buffalo Bills. And while the Bills were tied with the Miami Dolphins atop the AFC East, they were 0-2 in the division.
The Bills handled the Patriots with ease Thursday, picking up a 24-10 division victory and pushing the Patriots further from playoff contention.
For the first time since injuring his right elbow against the Jets in Week 9, quarterback Josh Allen stood near midfield and threw passes in pregame warmups. A step towards normalcy after a full week of practice.
What followed in the Bills’ 24-10 win over the Patriots was similar. Buffalo looked more in sync and closer to the team that put up dominating performances before the Week 7 bye, albeit against a struggling New England offense, and became the first team to beat the Belichick-era Patriots by double digits in three straight games.
The Bills more than doubled the Patriots’ time of possession (38:08 to 21:52) and held on to a second quarter double-digit lead for the remainder of the game. Allen looked more in control, completing 22 of 33 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns with one fumble, while becoming the first player in NFL history with three seasons of 25 passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns.
The key moment for the Bills’ offense and Allen in attaining the team’s first AFC East win of the season was a 15-play, 94-yard drive in the second half that took almost nine minutes off the clock. Buffalo proved in a crucial moment that Allen & Co. could lead a drive and put a team away.
Promising trend: The Bills got the running game going early with rookie James Cook leading the way. The ground attack helped establish two drives of seven-plus minutes — including a 15-play drive that was the longest of the season — after coming into the night with three such drives all season.
The offense had three straight scoring drives to start the game, and that went a long way when the offense fell into a lull toward the end of the second quarter and into the third. Cook also showed how dynamic he can be with significant opportunities over an entire game even with the offensive line not at its best.
Describe the game in two words: Necessary win. The Bills are in the midst of one of the team’s biggest stretches of the season with three straight games against AFC East opponents, and starting with a convincing win on the road versus the Patriots was significant for the team’s hopes for home-field advantage.
Under the radar stat that matters: Cornerback Tre’Davious White played more than 80% of the defensive snaps. For White — as he makes his way back from a torn ACL sustained last Thanksgiving — and this defense, it’s a significant step in the right direction. White played 15 snaps last week against the Lions, and the Bills clearly felt comfortable enough for him to play almost every series. After Von Miller was placed on injured reserve earlier Thursday, that’s significant news for this defense going forward.
Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stats stat: Allen was 0.3 yards away from the sideline on his passing touchdown to wide receiver Gabe Davis in the second quarter. It was tied for the closest to the sideline on any completion since NFL Next Gen Stats began tracking players in 2016. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts also had a touchdown thrown 0.3 yards from the sideline last season against the Dallas Cowboys.
Next game: vs. Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots‘ offense, already ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in several key categories, sunk even lower in Thursday night’s loss to the Buffalo Bills.
No juice. Not a chance to win.
The Bills completely controlled the game, with a time-of-possession edge of 38:08 to 21:52.
There was such promise in quarterback Mac Jones‘ rookie season in 2021, but now there are more questions than answers.
Coach Bill Belichick has said repeatedly the buck stops with him when it comes to the offense. He made the unconventional decision to replace departed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, two coaches whose primary backgrounds have been on defense and special teams, respectively.
Belichick also oversaw a streamlining of the offense, with players saying the goal was to hopefully allow them to play faster.
It hasn’t worked.
Entering Thursday night, the Patriots were 31st in the red zone, 30th in interception percentage, 26th in sacks taken per pass play, 27th in first downs and 25th in third-down conversions.
It only got worse Thursday night.
Describe the game in two words: Offensively offensive. This was tough to watch.
QB breakdown: Jones continues to struggle, as the offense doesn’t seem to have anything that defines itself. He finished 22-of-36 for 195 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. When opponents have pressured Jones, the results have been particularly poor. He entered Thursday with no touchdowns and five interceptions when pressured this season, with a 1.5 Total QBR. The Jets’ Zach Wilson (1.3) was the only qualified quarterback with a lower QBR in those situations. On Thursday, Jones was 5-of-13 for 25 yards on passes when pressured.
Troubling trend: Bills quarterback Josh Allen deserves credit for making a remarkable play on an 8-yard touchdown pass to receiver Gabe Davis in the second quarter, but why did Patriots defensive backs seem to stop playing as Allen neared the sideline? That was one of several costly mistakes that continued to show up for the Patriots, which also included a delay-of-game penalty on a punt and a botched handoff on third-and-1 on the team’s initial offensive drive.
Silver lining: Third-year defensive end Josh Uche was one of the best players on the field. He had two first-half sacks, one of which forced a fumble. In the first half alone, he was credited with five quarterback pressures, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was a career high.
Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stats stat: Rookie defensive back Marcus Jones, playing wide receiver, reached a high speed of 20.88 miles per hour on his 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter.
Next game: at Cardinals (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday)