The New England Patriots had no more chance at making the playoffs, but they did have an opportunity to build some momentum heading towards the regular season finale — and to spoil a division rivals’ hopes at earning the number two playoff seed in the AFC. Neither happened, however, as the Buffalo Bills blew out the hapless Patriots with a final score of 38-9.
The game itself was a total domination, with an inconsequential offense and lackluster defense once again not allowing New England to play consistent football.
Patriots (6-9) 9 : 38 Bills (12-3)
New England started the game off in impressive fashion. Not only did a long Donte Moncrief kickoff return set the offense up at its own 35-yard line, Cam Newton and company also reached the Buffalo side of the field behind some strong running from Sony Michel on a 29-yard scamper. At that point, however, the series stalled: Michel was stopped behind the line of scrimmage before a would-be touchdown on a trick play was dropped by Damiere Byrd.
The Patriots eventually had to settle for three points, with Nick Folk successfully splitting the uprights on a 45-yard attempt. [Patriots 3 : 0 Bills]
New England’s missed opportunity gave Buffalo a chance to take the lead on its first possession of the day — and the team certainly came close. A 49-yard kickoff return by Andre Roberts served as the drive starter, and set up a methodical series that saw Josh Allen and company march all the way to the Patriots’ 2-yard line. Facing a third down, however, Devin McCourty made a tackle for loss on a perimeter run to set up a 22-yard field goal that tied the game at three apiece. [Patriots 3 : 3 Bills]
As promising as the Patriots’ first drive of the night was, as bad was the second for the team’s offense. A short run by Sony Michel was followed by back-to-back negative plays — a drop from rookie tight end Devin Asiasi, a 13-yard sack — to set up a punt. That punt sailed 62 yards, though, and gave New England’s defense some breathing room for the next drive.
Buffalo’s next possession almost ended in a three-and-out as well, but the team was able to keep the drive alive by throwing a surprise pass out of a punt formation to convert a 4th-and-5. New England had another chance to get off the field on a 4th-and-1 later during the series, but again the Bills were able to stay on the field thanks to a 22-yard run by Josh Allen. Another opportunity was squandered later during the drive when an offsides call against Adam Butler negated a J.C. Jackson interception.
With the Patriots not taking advantage of their opportunities, they had to see Buffalo finish its second drive in the end zone: Zack Moss found a hole from five yards out for the game’s first touchdown, capitalizing on a bad read from off-the-ball linebacker Terez Hall. [Patriots 3 : 10 Bills]
New England answered the Bills’ touchdown with one of its own — despite starting the series deep in its own territory. Thanks to some strong running by both Sony Michel and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor, however, the team was able to efficiently march down the field to cover 90 yards in just nine plays. The final of which saw the quarterback himself carry the load, as Cam Newton turned a near-sack into a 9-yard touchdown run:
Cam is in! pic.twitter.com/ML3G7h7ubN— Pats Pulpit (@patspulpit) December 29, 2020
The usually reliable Nick Folk missed the ensuing extra point, however, leaving his team one points short of the Bills. [Patriots 9 : 10 Bills]
Momentum swiftly moved back the Bills’ way on the next drive — despite the Patriots defense again forcing its opponent in a do-or-die situation. Once more, however, Buffalo escaped: the team converted a 4th-and-2 on a 12-yard pass from Allen to Dawson Knox. Allen later was able to move the chains on a 3rd-and-7 scramble, before putting the finishing touches on the series via a 4-yard scoring pass to ex-Patriot Lee Smith. [Patriots 9 : 17 Bills]
Down eight points, the Patriots were in dire need of another scoring drive. Instead, the team threw three passes that gained a combined three yards and had to send Jake Bailey onto the field again to punt the ball away.
Buffalo, on the other hand, was able to keep its foot on the gas. It took Allen and company just three plays to cover 67 yards and find the end zone a third time, with the final 50 yards of the drive coming in the form of a touchdown pass from Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs. The Pro Bowl wide receiver successfully ran away from cornerback J.C. Jackson to get into the end zone. [Patriots 9 : 24 Bills]
With time running down on the first half, the Patriots offense still had another chance to make something happen before intermission. Instead, the unit again went nowhere and eventually had to punt the ball to the Bills who knelt out the half.
Buffalo started the second half in possession of the football and went right back to work. Facing little resistance from an overmatched defense, Josh Allen and company marched 75 yards in eight plays — capping the drive with a 18-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs that saw the wideout break tackle attempts by J.C. Jackson and Terrence Brooks to get into the end zone. [Patriots 9 : 31 Bills]
With the game already out of reach, the Patriots decided to keep Cam Newton in as their quarterback. He did little to spark the team’s struggling attack, however, and the unit went three-and-out for a third time.
The next drive, however, saw New England’s defense finally deliver a stop — its first of the day. Forcing a punt after three plays allowed the Patriots to get the ball back, and put backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham onto the field for some quality in-game reps.
Inserting Stidham into the lineup did not jumpstart the Patriots’ struggling offense, though. His first series saw him complete just two of five pass attempts for 28 total yards. New England gained one first down via penalty and another via a 22-yard throw to Jakobi Meyers before eventually having to punt the ball away again.
The Patriots’ defensive success was short-lived as the Bills were able to march right down the field to score again on their next possession. Not excluding the first-half kneel down, they were therefore able to put points on the board on six out of their seven total series. This one saw Buffalo cover 85 yards in 10 plays, with an 8-yard pass to Stefon Diggs — his third score of the day — ending the drive. [Patriots 9 : 38 Bills]
Jarrett Stidham and company, on the other hand, found no success on their next drive: a short pass was followed by an incompletion and a sack to force another Patriots three-and-out.
At that point, Buffalo had already seen enough from its quarterback albeit for different reasons. Matt Barkley took over for Josh Allen, and he was unable to duplicate the starter’s success: New England forced a punt to give Stidham another opportunity to make something happen. Spoiler alert, nothing did happen.
The Bills knelt out the game on the next drive, ending the contest with a final score of 38-9.
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