The New England Patriots remain undefeated after beating the Buffalo Bills 16-10 on the road in a close game dominated by defense. In the end, the visitors’ came through with more big plays and allowed the Patriots to take sole possession of first place in the AFC East. With that in mind, let’s recap the contest.
Patriots (4-0) 16 : 10 Bills (3-1)
Buffalo won the coin toss and elected to kick off, but the Patriots were unable to do much with their first possession after starting at their 15-yard line. While running back Sony Michel had a strong drive starter — he gained 15 yards on his first carry — the team gained no additional yardage on its next three plays and had to punt. Jake Bailey, the AFC’s reigning Special Teams Player of the Week sent the football to the Bills’ 24-yard line.
After the Bills’ first two pass attempts fell incomplete, the Patriots appeared to get off the field on 3rd and 10. However, a holding call against Stephon Gilmore negated a 9-yard sack and kept Buffalo’s opening series alive. The drive did ultimately end, when Patriots safety Devin McCourty undercut a Josh Allen pass for his fourth interception of the season:
New England took advantage of the pick to take an early lead: after starting the next possession at midfield, Tom Brady and company marched down the field — the biggest play was a 26-yard connection with James White — to set up a four-yard touchdown run by Brandon Bolden. The extra point, however, sailed wide right which meant that the Patriots were up only 6-0 after the touchdown. [Patriots 6 : 0 Bills]
New England’s defense responded in style by forcing the Buffalo to go three-and-out. The team’s offense did not get the football back before the next score: the Bills’ punt was blocked by J.C. Jackson, which allowed special teams captain Matthew Slater to recover and return for the first touchdown of his career. [Patriots 13 : 0 Bills]
While Frank Gore opened the Bills’ next drive with a 28-yard run, the Patriots’ defense ultimately got the best of the unit again. New England forced another punt following a 7-yard sack by Jamie Collins Sr. that took the team out of field goal range. Unfortunately for New England, the team did not make much out of its next possession: the team went three-and-out and punted the football back to the Bills.
The next series did not go much better for the home team. While Buffalo was able to cross midfield, an underthrown ball by Josh Allen allowed J.C. Jackson to register his second big play of the day when he intercepted the pass and returned it to the New England 29-yard line:
As opposed to the first interception, the Patriots offense failed to take advantage of the second. After a false start penalty on first down, the unit was unable to dig itself out of its hole and had to punt again after just three plays. Luckily for New England, Buffalo was unable to get some momentum back and also had to punt after its next possession.
New England finally found some offensive rhythm on the ensuing drive as the team marched from its own 5-yard line deep into the Bills territory: the Patriots held the football for 8:19 on a 16-play series that included two conversations on third down by James White and a successful fourth down try thanks to a defensive pass interference call. However, the drive ended without points as a Brady pass on 3rd and goal was intercepted in the end zone.
Buffalo was able to take advantage of Brady’s interception: the team drove 52 yards in six plays to set up a Stephen Hauschka field goal — coming after Kyle Van Noy registered an 8-yard sack on third down to. The kick split the uprights, and New England’s lead decreased to 10 points. [Patriots 13 : 3 Bills]
Tom Brady and company again failed to get anything going on their next possession, which gave Buffalo another chance to cut into its deficit. But while the team drove into field goal range yet again, another third down sack taken by Allen — this time it was John Simon who brought him down — turned the kick into a 49-yarder. Stephen Hauschka missed wide to the left as time expired on the first half.
Buffalo received the second half kickoff, and did something no other team was able to do all year long: score a touchdown against the Patriots defense. The team marched down the field rather quickly but was unable to punch the football into the end zone until 4th and inches at the goal line. Josh Allen extended over the line for the score, and New England’s lead was down to just three points. [Patriots 13 : 10 Bills]
The Patriots offense opened the second half just like it ended the first: by not moving the football against a strong Bills defense. New England went three-and-out, punting the football back to Buffalo quickly. However, the Patriots defense came up strong again with another third-down sack — this time by rookie Chase Winovich — forcing a punt. Ex-Patriot Corey Bojorquez, who already had a kick blocked earlier, sent it only 21 yards down the field.
Despite starting the next series at the Buffalo 46-yard line, the Patriots only went backwards: Sony Michel lost a yard on the first play of the possession, before two of Tom Brady’s pass attempts fell incomplete. It did not take long for the offense to get the football back, however, as J.C. Jackson registered his second interception of the day — to go along with his blocked punt — on the next drive:
New England’s next possession did not start well, as the team found itself in a 3rd and 6 situation. However, Brady found Josh Gordon on a crossing pattern that the wide receiver took for 31 yards and inside the Bills’ 10-yard line. The drive did go nowhere after the long catch, however, and the Patriots had to settle for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. [Patriots 16 : 10 Bills]
The game’s intensity increased on the next series, especially due to one play: Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones tackled Josh Allen on a scramble attempt, leading to the quarterback remaining on the ground. He later jogged off the field, but had to be replaced by backup Matt Barkley for the remainder of the series. While Barkley did convert a 3rd and 8 on the very next play and led the Bills into goal-to-go distance, the drive ended with no points as Buffalo turned the football over on downs following an incompletion on 4th and 3.
Tom Brady and company again were unable to do much with the possession, and went three-and-out once again. Buffalo, with Barkley still in at quarterback, did not fare much better and also had to punt — giving New England the football at the 20-yard line. The Patriots only gained five yards, however, before giving the football back to the Bills. The home team, however, did also not do much after the punt and had to give it up again rather quickly.
The Patriots started their next possession better, but ultimately again had to send Jake Bailey out for a punt. Buffalo was therefore in a position to drive for the game-winning touchdown, but a Kyle Van Noy blitz led to an interception by Jamie Collins — and that was all she wrote, as New England was able to kneel out the clock: