the new england patriots were crushed in what was the biggest home game in years. make no mistake about it, the buffalo bills made the patriots look silly at times and they ended up winning 33-21.
Let’s take a look at 10 takeaways from the game.
1. has mac jones hit the rookie wall? mac jones has looked bad the last two games. Prior to the Week 14 bye, he had finished with a completion percentage below 60 percent just twice, something he has now done in back-to-back games against the Indianapolis Colts and now the Bills. Versus Buffalo, he finished with a completion rate of less than 50 percent for the first time in his career.
As far as his actual performance goes, he was late on another shot, which was a bunt that ended as an interception, giving the Bills the ball inside Patriots territory. he played a little better down the stretch, but this is the second straight week the rookie has played like, well, a rookie.
Obviously, his supporting cast didn’t do him any favors, but if the Patriots are going to make the playoffs and have any success when they get there, they’re going to need a lot better from him.
2. another slow start. The Patriots started the game going three and out in the first series. they then kicked the bills who proceeded to shove the ball down the Patriots’ throat to take a 7-0 lead. new england actually followed up with a touchdown drive, but then he allowed a field goal, threw an interception, went back for three and out, and allowed another touchdown drive.
The Patriots fell into a 17-7 hole late in the first half, and this team just isn’t cut out to overcome those kinds of deficits.
3. New England’s defense isn’t up to the task. For the first time in Bill Belichick’s head coaching career, a team punted zero times against him. that puts into perspective what the bills did today. they had seven true drives (meaning those that didn’t finish a half), and all seven made it into the red zone. the patriots simply had no answer for the offense of bills.
buffalo was 6 of 12 on third down and 3 of 4 on fourth down, with the only miss being a touchdown dropped by emmanuel sanders. the Patriots couldn’t stop the pass and were willing to just give up the throw under 10 yards all day. Josh Allen happily took it over and over again. when he made a mistake, like taking down stefon diggs twice, j.c. jackson gave up interceptions.
Winning and losing comes down to not only playing the whole game well, but also making the plays that are there for you. Not only did the Patriots play poor defense, they also couldn’t get the game back even when the Bills tried to give it to them.
4. Myles Bryant Fights. Losing two of her favorite wide receivers, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, Bills needed someone to take over, and Isaiah Mckenzie was that guy. Mckenzie had 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, with most of his production coming from Myles Bryant desperately trying to cover him. the sophomore cornerback had a hard time keeping him, and it was a play that seemed open all day.
was it all in bryant? No. Mckenzie is one of the fastest players on the team, and staying with him on a cross route is next to impossible, but that was the task, and Bryant couldn’t do it.
bryant has had a good season so far, but on sunday it became clear that he falls short of jonathan jones in the job. maybe the team shouldn’t have kept him in that position when it became clear they were outclassing him, but you’d still like to see him have more success than he did this week.
5. damien harris is a stud. harris ran hard on sunday and scored all three touchdowns for the patriots on sunday. he finished with 103 rushing yards and those three touchdowns.
new england has relied heavily on harris this season and has responded well. he’s tough to take down, and when he gets close to the end zone, he’s very determined to get in. The running game has gotten the Patriots this far, and Harris will have to keep running well if they are to have a chance of winning anything in January.
6. josh allen played very well. josh allen threw an occasional poor pitch, but was exceptional on sunday. He was constantly moving to buy time for himself and his receivers, and he delivered excellent passes throughout the day.
However, what impressed me most was his willingness to make the launch easy. So many times in his career, he has tried to go for the big play, but he was content to just take what the Patriots gave him over and over again. allen is always going to be able to throw those crazy throws that amaze you a few times a game, but it’s games like sunday, when he keeps the momentum going by making easy shots and smart decisions, that will catapult him to the top. from the list of the best QBS in the league.
7. jake bailey is in trouble again: jake bailey was one of the best bettors in the league in recent seasons. that has not been the case this season. I’m not sure if he’s still dealing with his right knee injury as he and nick have shared kickoff duties which is weird but he’s had an up and down year regardless of the circumstances.
He had an explosive kick late in the first half, but his first two punts weren’t good. The first was a shank that ended well because he rebounded about 15 yards for New England, and the second was a low drive that allowed a 15-yard return to Patriots territory.
Bailey was a consistent player and at one point felt like the Patriots’ best last season, but he’s had a tough year so far. Sunday was no exception.
8. jakobi meyers shows a ton of courage. meyers was shaken in the third quarter and in obvious pain after a catch on the third down, but stayed on and continued to play well. He was the only Patriots player with more than two catches, finishing with six receptions for 59 yards.
meyers is far from perfect, and he’s had his issues this season, but he gave the team everything he had today and he should be commended for it.
9. umpiring was terrible, again. umpires have been terrible all season in the nfl, but sunday was especially bad. raising a flag on the last call against mac jones was completely inexcusable. it’s clearly a penalty, and not getting it was brutal. To top it off, they called Trent Brown a personal foul, costing the Patriots a total of 30 yards.
then later in the game matt milano hit mac jones after he slid which was called but david andrews was called for taunting when he got in milano’s face. It was a ticky-tack penalty that eliminated a penalty that would have put New England inside the Buffalo 10. There was also a penalty against Buffalo where he didn’t even touch Jakobi Meyers and they called holding. there were several more cases of missed calls and bad calls on both sides.
The Patriots didn’t lose Sunday’s game because of the referees, far from it, but this has been an ongoing problem all season that really needs to be fixed by the league.
10. The Patriots’ season is far from over. Just a few weeks ago, the Patriots held No. 1 seed in the AFC, and they held their destiny in their own hands. after back-to-back losses, they’re now a wild card team (as the Bills own the division record tiebreaker) and need to win to ensure they even make the playoffs.
mac jones is just a rookie, and they’re ahead of where many people thought they’d be at this stage of their development, but hopes were high for this team amid their seven-game winning streak. The race for the AFC East is almost certainly over, but the Patriots still have a good shot at making the playoffs.
they need to take care of business for the next two weeks and while next week’s contest against the jacksonville jaguars should be pretty easy, it’s never easy to win in miami, and there will be a lot of pressure on new england to win that game . The Patriots aren’t where we want them to be, but the season is far from over. keep the faith, and hope they can make some noise to finish the season.
pat is a host of the patriot nation podcast. interact with him on twitter @plane_pats.