The Buffalo Bills’ dominating performance in Foxboro Monday night was not one that was completely unexpected. But the lackluster effort from the entirety of the Patriots team was rough to watch and listening to the commentators seem to enjoy the fall of the Patriots’ dynasty wasn’t too fun either.
The first time these two teams met this season was a much more competitive game. On the final drive, the Patriots were making their way down the field with just seconds left to play. As ball security had been a recurring issue at this point in the season, it wasn’t surprising when Cam Newton fumbled the ball near the red zone, ending the game with a loss.
Because of how tough both teams played in week 8, many hoped to see a repeat (minus the fumble) of that effort on Monday night. But, that was not the case as the Patriots were blown out 38-9, sealing the first season sweep of the team by the Bills in decades.
The performance from the entire Patriots team was concerning. With the defense being part of what this team has relied on over the last few years, it was shocking to see their lack of competitiveness throughout the night. Being that this was the first game in many years the Patriots have played a game with no implications relying on the result, is it possible the team is just ready to end the year?
This has been a crazy year and a unique season for all. It’s difficult to blame the team for possibly being tired and ready for the offseason. But a Belichick led Patriots team is not one that gives up, gives in or gets lazy. So what was going on in this game?
As week 17 approaches with another divisional game, and only draft spots being a determination based on the outcome, it will be interesting to see how the team will perform. Will we see more grit? More competition? Will most starters be benched as they are not playing for a playoffs spot? We shall see.
Generally speaking, it’s not a difficult task to find the good parts of a loss no matter how bad the loss was. However, this game is putting that to the test.
Was there anything good from this game? If there was, is it even worth discussing?
Despite the obvious failures in this game and overall poor effort all around, there were some bright spots for the Patriots team on Monday and gives some hope for the 2021 season.
The Patriots have been defined by their run game this season and this game against the Bills was no different. With the incredible success of Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris prior to their separate injuries, the future looks great for the team in the backfield.
As Harris was inactive for a second game in a row, Sony Michel continued to step up in his absence. The run game seemed to be the plan from the start and Michel had a great run of 29 yards on the first drive, helping the team get into field goal range.
On the only drive resulting in a touchdown, Michel also had a great run of 21 yards, followed by 2 running plays by J.J. Taylor for 31 yards. This brought the Patriots to the Bills’ 9-yard line, which allowed Cam Newton to run in for the score.
As the game continued though, Josh McDaniels tried to incorporate more of the passing game, regardless of the success the running backs seemed to have established already. Michel ended the night with 10 carries and 69 yards, while Taylor ended with 6 carries for 38 yards. Overall, the team gained more yards on the ground in this game than a week prior, but not taking advantage of their success early on really hurt this offense.
It was certainly not a good game for the Patriots defense, especially their secondary. But Jonathan Jones had quite the performance covering Cole Beasley all game.
Beasley has had the best season of his career with the Bills. Entering this game against the Patriots, he was coming off yet another impressive performance with 112 yards last week. Jones had the tall task of trying to slow down the quick slot receiver and was able to do so successfully.
At the end of the game, Jones allowed only 3 catches for 17 yards by Beasley, a season low for one of Josh Allen’s favorite targets. Not only was Jones successful in covering him, but he also tackled Beasley twice on 3rd downs, preventing the drive to continue. With all the struggles the defense had in this game, those stops became a lot more important once the game was over.
Is there anything the Patriots’ punter can’t do? The most reliable player on the entire team this year has to be Jake Bailey. If you take anything out of this season as a positive, having him on this roster should be at the top of the list.
It was a busy night for Bailey, as he had a total of 7 punts on the night totaling 362 yards. He averaged 51.7 yards-per-punt with no touchbacks and 4 landing inside the 20-yard line. The consistency Bailey has shown this year is something to not ignore, and it appears the rest of the league has noticed his success as well as he was voted into his first Pro Bowl this season.
The Patriots have had a rough couple seasons replacing their once beloved kicker and punter in Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen. But it appears they are in good hands with Bailey (and possibly Nick Folk) going forward.
Would it be completely unfair to list the entire team as being not-so-good on Monday night? Unless you are a Buffalo fan, this was a tough game to watch and try to decipher what exactly went so wrong for New England.
The cards were stacked against the Patriots coming into this game; the Bills are on a roll right now, winning their first AFC East championship in over 20 years and having some dominant performances over the last several weeks. There wasn’t much hope for a Patriots win, despite their close win in their last matchup week 8.
With that in mind, there was some optimism this game wouldn’t result in a complete blowout. But, as was seen, that was exactly what happened.
Most felt the struggles on offense that have been there all season would continue this week, but the abysmal performance by the defense was not foreseen by anyone. Yes the team is banged up with many injuries, but the defense couldn’t get off the field. Buffalo almost doubled the Patriots time of possession (39:41 to 20:19) and several players easily ran past the Pats’ notable secondary.
The issues were not limited to the defense, as the Patriots could barely get into Buffalo territory and only scored 9 points on the night. But as much of the blame that goes to Cam Newton, it’s clear he is not the only problem on this offense. With Jarrett Stidham entering the game in the 3rd quarter, not much changed offensively.
After what appeared to be a hot start for the Patriots, Cam Newton struggled once again in this game and would later be benched for Jarrett Stidham in the 3rd quarter.
The opening drive looked promising with some good runs from Michel and a great pass to Damiere Byrd. But that great pass that would have been a clear path for a score ended in a drop, which seemed to then set the tone for the rest of the game.
The offense was not able to do almost anything in this game. There were drops, overthrows, under throws. Too many hits on the quarterbacks or resulting in a sack. The offensive line wasn’t the best in protecting either quarterback, despite how consistent they have been all season long.
Cam Newton was able to run in a 9-yard touchdown early in the 2nd quarter, making it his 70th rushing touchdown of his career. With that score, he broke yet another Patriots record, tying Steve Grogan from 1976 with 12 rushing touchdowns in a single season, a franchise record. That shows how long this team has been a pass first minded team.
This season has been a new type of offense with Cam under center, as passing the football continues to take a backseat. Newton ended the game with only 5 passes on 10 attempts for 34 yards before he was benched in the 3rd quarter, not a good showing for the one-time MVP.
Seeing how Jarrett Stidham can perform in a game has been a widely discussed topic over the last several weeks. With how this game was going, this gave all those with lingering questions regarding the young quarterback a chance to see what he could do. And, unfortunately for everyone, he wasn’t much better than Newton.
Of course it was not an ideal time for Stidham to finally “get his chance,” with the Patriots trailing Buffalo 31-9 at the time. But it was a chance nonetheless to see what the kid could do, and it wasn’t a good showing for him either. On his first drive, Stidham had 2 completions on 5 attempts for 28 yards, barely getting the team to Buffalo’s side of the field.
On the final two drives for the Patriots, the offense was able to move 16 yards total, with Stidham also taking a sack. He finished the night with 4 completions on 11 attempts for 44 yards, with the offense having a new season low of only 50 offensive snaps in the game.
The quarterback performance in this game may have finally put the Newton vs. Stidham debate to rest. It is clear Stidham is not a secret talent that sat on the bench all season and given the chance would have made this season more successful. With the offseason approaching, all focus will be on what the team will do to fix the issues at quarterback. Whether Newton or Stidham will be on the team in 2021 is unclear, but it is clear this will be a prominent position to be fixed.
The Patriots have been the least penalized team this season and week-to-week that has been a huge benefit. But there have been some mental errors over the last few games that have greatly impacted the game in their opponents favor.
In this game, Adam Butler had two offsides penalties that helped the Bills continue their drive to score. His first flag came on a 4th and 1 play, where Josh Allen ran for 22 yards gaining the first down. The Bills would decline the penalty and his next flag would come just 3 plays later. This negated an interception in the end zone by J.C. Jackson, his would be 11th interception this season.
The Bills would be able to score on this drive, as they were given fresh downs twice due to Butler’s mistakes. The score was tied before this drive, and this set up Buffalo’s track to handing the Patriots their worst home loss in the Belichick era.
Although these were costly penalties, the most costly would come from the defense allowing Buffalo to convert 3 times on 4th down. On their first punt of the game, the Bills lined up in formation and the Patriots would leave 2 players uncovered. This allowed Buffalo to successfully convert on 4th and 5 with a fake punt, while converting another 4th down just a few plays later.
They would eventually get down the field to score, thanks to the previously mentioned penalty by Butler in the end zone. And the Patriots would allow yet another successful 4th down play later in the 2nd quarter. Coming into this game, the Bills had the fewest 4th down tries in the league, and the Patriots gave them 3 successful tries in just the first half.
The sloppy mistakes like this are what Belichick hates the most. It’s great to see a player ready and eager to make a play, as Butler was trying to do. But handing the opponents fresh downs, especially in the endzone, is never good. And allowing a team to consistently convert on 4th down is worse than never good
Within the last week, Stephon Gilmore was placed on injured reserve which in turn ended his 2020 season. This cleared the way once again for J.C. Jackson to fill the CB1 spot in his absence.
Jackson had the tall task of covering Stefon Diggs for most of the game, and it was going well for most of the first half. After some trash talk and jawing back and forth, Diggs beat Jackson for a 50-yard touchdown at the end of the 2nd quarter. Diggs won the battle again later in the game, scoring another touchdown on the night.
Jackson has the capability of being CB1 for this team but his performance in this game displayed his need for improvement and growth before that can happen. He’s had a few opportunities this season to fill in for Gilmore and although he has certainly improved and made big plays, he’s also made mistakes that make Gilmore’s absence that much more apparent.
The last few weeks for the Patriots have been rough with injuries adding up every game. Coming into this matchup, the team listed 20 players on their injury report. Fortunately for them, not all missed this game.
Throughout the game, however, several players were injured and did not return. The severity of all injuries is not known but with a lengthy list coming into week 16, adding more names is a bit concerning. It’s possible we won’t see many play in week 17, with it being the first time in almost 20 years that the Patriots are playing a meaningless game. But it’s certainly not an enjoyable way for the team or the players to end their season.
This was not an easy game to watch, as someone who covers the team nor as a fan. However, the most exciting part regardless of how this season went will be the offseason. Who will be on this team next year? What will Belichick do in regards to the quarterback position? Will they pick up any big name free agents?
It’s fair to be disappointed with how this season went and maybe not feeling optimistic about the future. But the team can only get better from here. With the opt-out players returning next season, plus new draft picks and possible trades/free agent pick-ups, there is a lot to look forward to in the next coming months!
(Photo credits: Sony Michel and Cam Newton – Ollie Longo (@ojl.photo on Instagram) and J.C. Jackson/Jonathan Jones – David Butler II of USA TODAY Sports)
–Sara Marshall is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @smarshxo