An adequate description of the manner in which the New England Patriots often achieve victory might be found in words of NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The iconic center was once quoted as saying:
“I try to do the right thing at the right time. They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing.”
New England’s 16-10 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday was far from aesthetically pleasing from an offensive standpoint. However, the Pats defense embodied Abdul-Jabbar’s sentiments and ‘did the right thing, at the right time.’ With 1:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, linebacker Jamie Collins forced Buffalo’s fourth turnover by intercepting a pass from Bills’ backup quarterback Matt Barkley. The play sealed a nail-biting victory for the Patriots over their previously unbeaten AFC East rivals.
Offensively, the Patriots struggled to find a rhythm for most of the day. Running back Brandon Bolden scored the first touchdown of the day after Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen threw his first interception. He was picked by safety Devin McCourty after forcing a pass deep over the middle into double coverage.
The Patriots extended their lead to 13-0, when cornerback J.C. Jackson went untouched coming off the right side to block a punt attempt by Buffalo’s Corey Bojorquez. The ball bounced into the hands of Matthew Slater, who ran in untouched for an 11-yard score. Along with the punt block, Jackson would also finish the game with two interceptions.
The Patriots looked poised to take a commanding 20-0 lead, facing a third-and-goal from the two-yard line with under five minutes left in the second quarter. However, the ensuing pass by quarterback Tom Brady (intended for Julian Edelman) was intercepted by Bills’ safety Micah Hyde in the end zone.
The Bills’ defense continued to make Brady uncomfortable for the remainder of the game. Buffalo limited him to 9 of 22 for 90 yards in the first half. It was Brady’s lowest first-half completion percentage since he went 7 for 19 in a 27-26 win over Cleveland on Dec. 8, 2013. In total, Brady went 18 of 39, throwing for 150 yards and an interception.
Ultimately, this game proved to be a defensive slugfest. At times, both the Bills and Patriots resembled prize fighters, each delivering their finest attempts to vanquish the other. In the end, it was the Patriots that remained standing. The Patriots pass rush regularly got pressure on Buffalo’s signal callers. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy lead the way with two sacks, while Collins, John Simon and Chase Winovich each collected one. Josh Allen finished 13 of 28 for 153 yards and three interceptions. Matt Barkley went 9 of 16 for 127 yards and an interception.
In the game’s scariest moment, Allen was relieved by Barkley early in the fourth quarter. The Bills’ starter left the game after being brought down by a helmet-to-helmet hit by Pats’ safety Jonathan Jones. Allen was briefly evaluated on the sidelines before being escorted into the locker room. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a head injury.
Despite making a handful of impressive completions, the Patriots continued to stop the Barkley and the Bills’ offense when it was most needed. With Buffalo facing fourth-and-goal from the two, Barkley threw a high pass that grazed the hands of receiver Zay Jones. Originally thought to have been intercepted by safety Patrick Chung, the pass was ruled incomplete and the Pats offense took over on downs.
In the game’s deciding play, linebacker Kyle Van Noy pressured Barkley’s right side, as the Bills looked to convert on a third-and-9 at the New England 39. Van Noy got a hand on Barkley’s chest, affecting his follow-through. As the ball to popped into the air, Jamie Collins easily secured it.
With the win, the Patriots improved to 4-0, and remain unbeaten thus far in 2019. Once again, it was the ‘little things’ the Patriots did that meant the difference between winning and losing.
PATS STATS AND FUN FACTS
The Patriots have earned their first 4-0 start since 2015. It is the fifth time the team had been 4-0 during Bill Belichick’s 20 seasons as coach.
New England’s 16 points all came off Bills’ turnovers.
Both teams combined for 14 punts.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski hit a 23-yard field-goal attempt, but was wide right on his first of two extra-point attempts. Gostkowski has now missed four PAT attempts in 2019.
The Patriots were held under 30 points for the first time this season. They allowed their first points in the first half this season on Stephen Hauschka’s 46-yard field goal with 1:55 left in the second quarter.
New England surrendered its first offensive touchdown of the year when Allen capped Buffalo’s first drive of the second half with a 1-yard dive over the middle on fourth down.
Despite struggling in this game, Tom Brady improved his career record to 31-3 against Buffalo. The win extended his NFL-career mark for most victories by a quarterback against one opponent.
New England won its sixth straight against the Bills, and improved to 34-5 against Buffalo since the start of the 2000 season.
(Statistics via The Associated Press)
Buffalo running back Frank Gore led Buffalo with 109 yards rushing, In doing so, the 36-year-old became the fourth player in NFL history to top 15,000 yards rushing. He had entered the game needing 88 yards to reach the mark.
The Patriots will travel to our Nation’s Capital to face Washington on Oct. 6, at FedEx Field at 1:00pm, ET.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC