The New England Patriots were met by wind, rain and the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park.
And Sunday afternoon’s AFC East encounter ended in 24-21 defeat for the visitor.
Here’s a glance back as New England now moves to 2-5 on the season with the NFL trade deadline set to arrive at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Meyers paces New England’s undrafted receiving corps
With N’Keal Harry ruled out due to a concussion and Julian Edelman sent to injured reserve after undergoing a knee procedure, it would be a motley crew of four at wide receiver for New England.
Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski started. The elevated Isaiah Zuber spelled in. Each entered the league undrafted. And outside of Byrd, the position’s snap leader from September through October, none of whom had caught more than five passes in 2020.
Against Buffalo, they would combine for four receptions for 41 yards by intermission. Meyers had all four for all 41 by then. The former North Carolina State quarterback recruit finished with six for 58 yards and a two-point conversion. Meyers made his case on the inside and out, much like he did as a rookie a fall ago. Olszewski handled a six-yard jet sweep, Zuber handled a 13-yard catch and Byrd secured each of his three in the final quarter.
Testing the ground
The turbulent conditions made the idea of running the football a favorable one for an understaffed offense. So did the fact that through seven contests, Buffalo’s defense had conceded 4.6 yards per carry and nine touchdowns on the ground while ranking 26th in DVOA.
Running back Damien Harris continued as New England’s starter on Sunday. In time, it gave way to 102 yards on 16 tries and his first NFL touchdown from 22 yards out. Rex Burkhead and captain James White, who caught a season-long pass of 28 yards, accounted for eight touches on the ground.
But it was the Bills’ attack that struck first with an untouched trip to the end zone by hard-running Utah Ute Zack Moss. Moss broke a pile of tacklers to strike again in the third quarter. Gashes courtesy of Devin Singletary helped set it up. The Buffalo backfield tandem racked up 167 yards on 5.96 per attempt with minimal resistance.
NFL debut for Uche
Sunday marked game No. 1 for pick No. 60 overall.
Rookie linebacker Josh Uche had been designated to return from injured reserve the week prior and activated less than 24 hours prior. And versus the Bills, the Michigan product showed glimpses of speed and efficiency.
Uche generated a quarterback hit on third-and-17 to close the first quarter. With help from old Wolverines teammate Chase Winovich, an incompletion and a punt was the byproduct. Uche then chased down Buffalo’s Josh Allen on third-and-8 in the third quarter after a scramble of two.
No Gilmore against the organization that drafted him
Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore did not make the flight after appearing on the injury report as limited Thursday and a non-participant Friday. In turn, the cornerback did not revisit the team that selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft.
Gilmore hadn’t missed a start since Oct. 29, 2017, snapping a streak that spanned 53 consecutive games, including playoffs. His knee issue saw J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones start at corner in dime personnel for the Patriots. It also saw rookie free agent Myles Bryant, a University of Washington product, active for the first time since signing to the 53-man roster from the practice squad.
Buffalo’s Allen went 3-of-6 for 45 yards when looking for wide receivers not named Stefon Diggs on Sunday. He threw no touchdowns and was intercepted by Jackson, who now holds a dozen through 36 career games. Four of those have transpired versus the Bills QB.
Onside kick leads to nine consecutive runs
The Patriots opted for the surprise onside kick after tying the game at 14-14. But the football went to Bills linebacker Tyler Matakevich at midfield.
And from there, there’d be no passing plays called by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. There’d be nine consecutive runs over nearly five minutes of game clock instead.
Allen took it in himself on a QB draw as Buffalo regained a seven-point advantage early in the fourth.
Newton’s fumble ends final surge
“Losing is not acceptable in this locker room, in this county, in this state, in this area, in this region,” Cam Newton told reporters in the days following his 98-yard, three-pick outing against the San Francisco 49ers. “So, Cameron Newton, you need to pick your expletive up.”
New England’s quarterback would have a chance to do so Sunday.
After going 7-of-14 for 93 yards through the air by intermission, Newton finished 15-of-25 for 174 yards and no interceptions. He’d have his sixth rushing touchdown of the campaign, as well. But the Patriots had possession and four minutes left to shift a score that read 24-21 following a Tyler Bass field goal. A 12-play, 65-yard drive followed before Newton put the ball on the turf while in range. It’d be forced by defensive tackle Justin Zimmer and recovered 13 yards from the end zone by safety Dean Marlowe.