The New England Patriots had a bad offensive outing in Week 15 against the Buffalo Bills and ended up scoring only nine points on the day. Along the way, the unit saw another change at the quarterback position: starter Cam Newton was benched in favor of backup Jarrett Stidham midway through the fourth quarter and with the contest already out of hand.
The change at quarterback did not result in a change of fortunes for the Patriots and they ultimately ended up losing with a final score of 38-9. For head coach Bill Belichick it was easy to see why the game ended up in as lopsided a fashion as it did.
“We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of, and Buffalo played well. Certainly, they were the better team tonight,” he said during his postgame media conference call.” They were better than we were in all phases of the game — offense, defense, special teams, playing coaching, fundamentals. They just did a better job than we did and deserved to win.”
The Bills, who earned their first AFC East title since the mid-1990s last week to end the Patriots’ 11-year streak of winning the division, played some impressive football in all three phases. Likewise, New England continued to look uninspiring with the offense in particular remaining a major problem.
The quarterback spot and lackluster statistical play by both Newton and Stidham is an easy starting point for debate, but Belichick noted that the problems were more complex than just one player or position.
“We didn’t have much production. Just a combination of things,” he said. “Protection, dropped balls, just a lack of good execution. We just didn’t execute the passing game well and they played well defensively with their pressure, and they covered well. They did a better job than we did.”
New England ended the game with only 11 first downs and a mere 201 net yards of offense (compared to the Bills’ 31 first downs and 474 yards). As was the case for much of the season so far, a sizable portion of that output came on the ground: the rushing attack led by Newton and the running back trio of Sony Michel, James White and J.J. Taylor finished with 145 yards and a touchdown.
The passing game, on the other hand, gained only 56 net yards and once more proved to be an Achilles heel for the team as a whole. Along the way, both passers put up some abysmal numbers: Newton went 5-for-10 for 34 yards and Stidham later added 44 more yards on his 4-for-11 performance in virtual garbage time.
Belichick, however, refrained from pointing fingers even as he changed quarterbacks during the game.
“We weren’t playing very well, and we felt like that was the opportunity to give [Stidham] a chance to play,” Belichick said about the move. “Cam did a good job for us. That wasn’t the problem. We just weren’t very competitive in the game.”
When asked about this statement from his head coach after the game, Newton was self-critical and noted that he would not necessarily agree with it.
“I feel like this: You don’t get pulled out just because you’re having a standout game. I’d be the first person to say that” the Patriots’ starting QB said. “There are some things that I feel like I could have done better.
“What my standard is for myself is never just to blend in and just be the status quo. There’s some play that needed to have been made on my part that I feel like I could have done better a job at doing, and you just have to review the film and get back to it. As a signal-caller, as a person who is a dynamic player on this team, I need to impact the game more and it just didn’t happen tonight.”
Now at 6-9, the Patriots will have a final chance at getting back into the win column next week against the 2-13 New York Jets.