In his famous pamphlet series, The American Crisis, author Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Though using that quote might seem a bit melodramatic (considering the proximity to Election Day, here in the United States), it may quickly become quite poignant in Patriots Nation.
In the midst of a potential game-winning drive, Buffalo Bills’ defensive lineman Justin Zimmer punched the ball from the arm of New England Patriots’ quarterback Cam Newton. The fumble was recovered by Buffalo safety Dean Marlowe at their own 13 yard line with 31 seconds remaining. The sequence of events secured the Bills’ 24-21 win over the Patriots’ on Sunday.
In the process, it may have also sealed the fate of the Patriots’ season.
Despite the sour outcome, Newton showed marked improvement in this divisional showdown. He finished 15 of 25 for 174 yards passing, and added 54 yards rushing plus a touchdown. Running back Damien Harris had 102 yards rushing and one touchdown. Jakobi Meyers led all receivers with 6 catches for 58 yards.
Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen went 11 of 18 for 154 yards passing and also scored on a 2-yard run. Collectively, Allen (in conjunction with Bills’ running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss) rushed for 190 yards, while receiver Stefon Diggs led Buffalo’s pass catchers with 6 catches for 92 yards receiving.
ON THE FIELD
The Bills found the endzone on their initial offensive drive of the game. Buffalo running back Zack Moss, who finished with two touchdowns on the day, capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run. However, that would be the only trip beyond the goal line for either team for the remainder of the first half. The Patriots first points of the day would come on a 43-yard field goal by Nick Folk, to cut Buffalo’s lead to 7-3.
With under two minutes left in the second quarter, New England cornerback J.C. Jackson intercepted an Allen pass intended for Diggs. With no timeouts remaining and facing third-and-1 at the Buffalo 16, the Patriots elected to have Folk hit a 33-yard field goal. As a result, Buffalo would take a 7-6 lead into the half.
Buffalo would open the second half as they did the first. The Bills would effectively utilize 5 plays to advance 75 yards. The drive culminated in a Moss touchdown, putting the home team ahead 14-6.
With the third quarter drawing to a close, the Patriots would finally end their endzone drought when Damien Harris tore a 22-yard run through the Buffalo defensive front. Seconds later, Cam Newton would connect with Jakobi Meyers for the two-point conversion, tying the game at 14.
The Bills would answer on the ensuing drive, with Josh Allen crossing the goal line himself on the quarterback draw. Not to be outdone, Newton would finish a 7-play, 72-yard march downfield with a quarterback draw-touchdown of his own. The Patriots had once again tied the game, this time at 21 each.
In what appeared to be a much-needed New England break, Buffalo would have to settle for a Tyler Bass’ 28-yard field goal. A would-be Allen scoring pass to rookie Gabriel Davis sailed through the receiver’s arms out of the end zone. With 4:06 remaining, the Bills had broken the tie to take a 24-21 lead.
However, the game (which Newton had declared a “must-win” just days earlier) would be decided just as the Patriots were threatening to at least force overtime. Facing second-and-10 at the Buffalo 19, Newton took the snap and followed a line of blockers to his left. Zimmer came diving in from behind and punched out the ball, which rolled directly into Marlowe’s arms.
Following Newton’s only turnover of the game, Buffalo would drain the remaining time from the clock, en route to the 24-21 victory. New England dropped to 2-5 and has lost four in a row, matching its worst skid since 2002.
With the victory, Buffalo moves to 6-2 on the 2020 NFL Season, and a commanding lead in the AFC East. The Bills’ snapped a seven-game Losing streak against the Patriots.
Dating back to 2000, Buffalo has beaten a New England-coached Bill Belichick team only six times in 41 meetings
The Patriots were without several key starters on Sunday. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was sidelined by a knee injury. New England was also missing its top two receivers, with Julian Edelman having been placed on injured reserve after having knee surgery this week, and N’Keal Harry sidelined by a concussion.
Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy did not return after hurting his shoulder in the second half.
Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley exited the game after suffering a groin in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots travel to face the winless New York Jets on Monday Nov. 9 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey
–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