With their respective seasons on the line in January, the Bills beat rival Patriots, sending New England home for the winter. Almost a calendar year later, Buffalo delivered another beating, this time in Foxborough. Seeking to take a temporary lead in the crowded AFC East, Josh Allen and Co. didn’t have a perfect night on Bill Belichick’s home ground. But they never needed it, using some immaculate connections with star receiver Stefon Diggs, as well as a stellar defensive performance for much of Thursday night, to cruise past New England 24-10 in their first meeting of the 2022 campaign.
Refreshed after a promising outing against the Vikings at Thanksgiving, Mac Jones and the home team initially threatened to take the Bills to the wire, claiming an early lead on a trickdown touchdown to cornerback Marcus Jones. That gimmicky score proved to be the last reliable and explosive play for the New England offense until late in the fourth, working against a Bills “D” missing injured passer Von Miller. Allen, meanwhile, played with fire on occasion but never lost control of the competition, also relying on rookie running back James Cook, who emerged as both a runner and receiver. .
Here are some other takeaways from Thursday night’s Week 13 kick-off:
Why the Bills won
Stefon Diggs has worked his magic. Josh Allen was obviously a big reason too, as usual, and his efforts were never more invaluable than on Buffalo’s second touchdown of the night – a highlight-reel rush in which Allen found Gabe Davis in the end zone after waiting for the last minute on the sidelines. But Diggs is so often the catalyst on otherwise stalled drives, and his numbers (seven catches, 92 yards, one TD) would have been even better if not for a ticky-tack hold call. James Cook also did well with over 20 touches, leading the backfield, and Isaiah McKenzie was an effective safety valve. Defense, of course, deserves as much, if not more, credit. Despite only recording one sack deep in the fourth, this unit dominated third down, bottled up the Pats’ signature ground game, and suffered significant pressure and/or deflection from veterans like Tremaine Edmunds and Jordan Poyer.
Why the Patriots lost
A week after teasing an offensive revival against Minnesota, the offense has fallen back to earth — and maybe even to earth, as if in a grave. Mac Jones started well enough and the creative use of fast corner Marcus Jones paid off with six. Rhamondre Stevenson also showed tenacity with every reach. But again, there was no real downfield rhythm with their offense; until the final minutes, four of their top five offensive pass catchers were averaging less than nine yards per reception. Belichick and/or Matt Patricia’s game and clock management in some spots, like just before halftime, didn’t help. Defensively, keeping Buffalo under 30 could be considered a success, but special teams have affected them as well, with Nick Folk failing to throw a field goal 48 yards past the crossbar in the second quarter. .
Second trial. Beginning of the second trimester. The Patriots had just scored a TD in their previous practice to go up 7-3 and now trailed 10-7 after the Bills’ response. And then, backing up to their own 8-meter line, they tripped over themselves. Mac Jones was nearly hit in the end zone for a safety, barely getting rid of the ball beforehand, and Cole Strange was flagged for holding, to make matters worse. The near-turnover, which also saw Jones penalized for roughing up the passer, essentially killed the drive but also killed all of the Pats’ momentum up to that point. Buffalo hit the ball with ease on their ensuing practice with such good court position, quickly taking a 10-point advantage that would keep them in front.
The Pats also shot themselves in the foot late in the first half, cementing their hole. Although Josh Uche set up a pass rushing clinic to take Allen out, the offense played too safe while curiously using timeouts before Nick Folk’s 48-yard kickoff on the crossbar earns them no points on turnover.
Game of the game
Few QBs can pull off what Allen did on the Bills’ second TD, rolling to the sideline, shaking a defender and then, just before going out of bounds, delivering a fly ball on target past two Patriots to Gabe Davis. Every angle of the throw proved just how acrobatic it was, reminiscent of some of Patrick Mahomes’ best work in Kansas City, as well as its own waterfall in the Bills’ playoff win over New England last season.
The Bills (9-3) return home in Week 14 for the second of three straight divisional matchups, this time against the Jets (7-4), who face the Vikings this weekend. The Patriots (6-6), meanwhile, will hit the road again for another prime-time affair, this time against the Cardinals (4-8) on “Monday Night Football.”