The New England Patriots’ 24-12 win against the visiting Buffalo Bills saw plenty of big plays on both sides, but the team ultimately was in cruise control almost from the get-go. So which plays actually were the biggest from the Patriots’ perspective? Let’s take a look at the changes in win probability to find out (percentages via NumberFire).
5 best Patriots plays
Q3: 4-4-BUF 32 (5:14) T.Brady pass short right to J.Edelman for 32 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Win probability: +5.86%
After the Bills scored back-to-back field goals to open the third quarter and make the game a one-possession contest again, the Patriots answered with a 10-play, 88-yard touchdown drive that was capped by the game’s biggest play: a short fourth down pass from Tom Brady that wide receiver Julian Edelman took 32 yards for a touchdown that gave New England a 21-6 lead.
Q2: 3-2-BUF 27 (10:09) J.White left tackle for 27 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Win probability: +3.74%
Early in the second quarter and with the team up 7-0, running back James White added to the Patriots’ total — and just like Edelman did a quarter later, the scoring play happened on a pivotal down: the veteran was able to get around the corner on a 3rd and 2 and take the football 27 yards to the end zone to give New England a 14-0 lead.
Q1: 4-5-NE 24 (:13) S.Hauschka 43 yard field goal is No Good.
Win probability: +3.66%
After Patriots running back Rex Burkhead lost a fumble — more on that later — late in the first quarter, the Bills were in a position to cut into New England’s 7-0 lead. However, the team was unable to get any points out of the opportunity: after gaining 16 yards, the series stalled and kicker Steven Hauschka was sent onto the field. Unfortunately for Buffalo, his kick came up short and hit the crossbar.
Q3: 1-10-NE 30 (3:02) J.Allen pass short middle to J.Croom to NE 6 for 24 yards. FUMBLES (J.McCourty), RECOVERED by NE M.Brown at NE 6.
Win probability: +3.61%
After Edelman’s touchdown, the Bills moved the football well: it took them just three plays to get from their own 26 to the New England 30-yard line. The team’s fourth play again gained considerable yardage but Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Malcom Brown to end Buffalo’s hopes of scoring its first touchdown of the day.
Q1: 3-6-BUF 30 (13:39) J.Allen pass incomplete short middle to Z.Jones.
Win probability: +3.47%
The Bills’ first third down play of the day already was one of the biggest for the Patriots’ defense. With the game still tied at 0-0, the team failed to pick up the first down and went three-and-out in the process. While the Patriots were unable to turn the relatively short field they received after the punt into points, the field position battle slowly started to shift into New England’s favor.
5 worst Patriots plays
Q1: 2-15-NE 45 (2:01) T.Brady pass short right to R.Burkhead to NE 48 for 3 yards. FUMBLES (C.Thompson), RECOVERED by BUF-M.Hyde at NE 49.
Win probability: -5.17%
As already mentioned above, running back Rex Burkhead lost a fumble late in the first quarter that set up the Bills with solid field position. The veteran received the football on a short pass and tried to elude a tackler to gain additional yardage, but in the process of doing so lost the football and the Bills’ Micah Hyde fell on it. Luckily for Burkhead and the Patriots, the Bills did not take advantage.
Q3: 1-10-NE 15 (14:56) T.Brady pass short middle intended for R.Gronkowski INTERCEPTED by J.Poyer at NE 24.
Win probability: -4.87%
Rob Gronkowski was targeted just three times all game long, with only one of the three passes actually being catchable. However, the tight end failed to secure it and instead let the ball get through his hands and into the arms of Bills defensive back Jordan Poyer for an easy interception. Buffalo turned the takeaway into its first points of the day, a field goal to make it a 14-3 game.
Q2: 2-7-BUF 25 (7:51) T.Brady pass short middle intended for R.Burkhead INTERCEPTED by L.Alexander at BUF 21.
Win probability: -3.32%
While Rex Burkhead saw regular touches all game long, he made two costly mistakes. The first of which was his fumble mentioned above, the second led to another turnover: he broke to the outside on a short pattern on which Tom Brady apparently expected him to turn towards the middle of the field. As a result of the miscommunication, the quarterback threw an interception.
Q1: 3-3-NE 30 (12:47) T.Brady pass incomplete short left to J.Edelman.
Win probability: -2.74%
The Bills started the game with a three-and-out and the Patriots did not fare any better. After targeting Julian Edelman on the first two plays of the day for New England’s offense, Tom Brady again looked the veteran’s way on 3rd and 3. However, the ball fell incomplete and the Patriots had to punt. Not that costly a mistake but a missed opportunity.
Q2: 2-12-NE 31 (15:00) T.Brady sacked at NE 22 for -9 yards.
Win probability: -2.70%
The first play of the third quarter was a negative one for the Patriots and so was the first play of the second. After a run for negative yardage on first down, Tom Brady was sacked on second down to put the Patriots in an unfavorable third-and-long situation. Rookie running back Sony Michel played a role in both plays: he ran for -2 before allowing Jordan Poyer to get to Brady for a loss of 9.