The rest of the NFL has caught up to the New England Patriots formula to success.
Get out to an early lead over New England and you force them to play perfectly the rest of the way. With a rookie quarterback, underwhelming receiving corps, and sloppy special teams unit, it’s more than likely that they won’t.
The Buffalo Bills were able to put forth a strong effort that played exactly to this formula. They scored at will on the Patriots best unit and essentially controlled every aspect to the game. With that loss, New England no longer controls their own destiny within the division. They can only hope to take care of business the rest of the way and see where they will be playing their wild card matchup.
If you wan’t to see how this game shook out you can find a drive by drive recounting below.
Live Score: 4Q - Patriots 21 : 33 Bills
December 26, 1:00p.m. ET | Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA | Broadcast information
Patriots Inactives: WR Nelson Agholor, QB Jarrett Stidham, S Joshuah Bledsoe, CB JoeJuan Williams, CB Shaun Wade, TE Devin Asiasi | RB Rhamondre Stevenson (COVID), DL Deatrich Wise Jr. (COVID), OL Yasir Durant (COVID)
Bills Inactives: RB Matt Breida, DT Star Lotulelei, TE Tommy Sweeney | WR Cole Beasley (COVID), WR Gabriel Davis (COVID), EDGE A.J. Epenesa (COVID), G Jon Feliciano (COVID), G Cody Ford (COVID)
Mac Jones will be without a pair of weapons as Nelson Agholor and Rhamondre Stevenson will not play today. Agholor is out with a concussion while Stevenson is joined by Deatrich Wise Jr. and Yasir Durant on the COVID list. New England also chose to keep Joejuan Williams and Shaun Wade on the sidelines, favoring practice squad cornerback D’Angelo Ross in the slot.
The Bills had a mini COVID outbreak this past week that has been covered to death. Four key contributors on offense and a young pass rusher all on the COVID list for Buffalo. Joining them are another starter in Star Lotulelei and a pair of reserve offensive players in Tommy Sweeney and Matt Breida.
Buffalo had their choice of heads or tails on the road and chose correctly, deferring their choice to the second half. Mac Jones and Patriots will start on offense.
New England opened up at the 25-yard line following a Tyler Bass touchback. They opened in jumbo, feeding Damien Harris for a gain of zero before Buffalo brought pressure and forced a Mac Jones throwaway. Facing an early 3rd-and-10, Jones had no time and was dropped for a loss of six. Three plays for -6 yards on New England’s opening possession.
Buffalo opened up at their own 39-yard line following a short punt by Jake Bailey. They picked up an early first down when Devin Singletary took a swing pass for ten yards, fighting through Kyle Dugger and Dont’a Hightower tackle attempts. He picked up another first down two plays later on a dump off over the middle, running hard to fight for extra yardage. He took a handoff on the next play for three yards, his fourth straight touch. On 2nd-and-7, Allen dropped back looking to go deep but good coverage forced him to pull it down and eventually throw it away. On 3rd-and-7, Isaiah McKenzie beat Myles Bryant on a crosser for eight yards and a first down. New England is bringing extra defenders on the rush, leading to quick throws from Allen. A designed quarterback run that went for five yards led to another first down strike from a retreating Allen, who hit Jake Kumerow for a gain of 13 yards into the Patriots red area. A pair of short gains led to 3rd-and-2 from the New England 3-yard line. Buffalo chose to throw the ball, but Allen missed Stefon Diggs in the back of the end zone leading to a critical 4th-and-2. Buffalo chose to press their luck and converted on a strike from Allen to McKenzie. Bass converted on his PAT. [Patriots 0 : 7 Bills]
Another Tyler Bass touchback set New England up at their 25-yard line. They started quickly with a pair of Damien Harris runs gaining fourteen yards to move the chains. New England kept it own the ground as Gunner Olszewski took an end around for nine yards of his own. New England tried to quickly convert twice but were stood up by Buffalo on 2nd and 3rd down. On 4th-and-1, Bill Belichick decided to go for it. Damien Harris converted, pushing New England across mid field for a gain of three yards. Two plays later Jakob Johnson got in on the action, picking up another first down on a catch of nine yards. New England tried to get tricky on the next play, running a flea flicker that gained 19 yards but was negated by a suspect Jonnu Smith holding penalty. That set up a 1st-and-20 where Jakobi Meyers caught his first pass for a gain of 13, before N’Keal Harry took a tunnel screen for five yards. On 3rd-and-2, Brandon Bolden took a handoff for a singular yard, leading to the end of the first quarter.
The Patriots decided to try their luck for a second time on the drive, passing up a field goal attempt on 4th-and-1 from the Buffalo 28-yard line. They converted for a second time with Damien Harris picking up 12 yards on an old school option pitch from Mac Jones. Inside the red area, Harris took another toss for 16 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Folk’s PAT was true. [Patriots 7 : 7 Bills]
Damien Harris follows his blocks for the 16-yard TD run! #ForeverNE— NFL (@NFL) December 26, 2021
: #BUFvsNE on CBS
: NFL app pic.twitter.com/9hyuIkajtH
Buffalo continued to feed their running backs on the ensuing drive. Reggie Gilliam and Devin Singletary touched the ball on their first three plays, picking up a pair of first downs to move them around midfield. A nine yard rush by Isaiah McKenzie led to another running back picking up a first down, with Zack Moss getting in on the action with a two yard gain. Josh Allen picked up 25 yards on the ground on the next play, with New England vacating the middle of the field. Back inside the red area, Buffalo ran the ball for a short gain. Bills guard Ike Boettger was carted off with a non-contact injury following the play. A short pitch and catch to Stefon Diggs set up a pass attempt on 3rd-and-3 that fell incomplete. New England was initially called for defensive pass interference, but the ball was tipped so the refs picked up the flag. Tyler Bass came on to try and convert from 25 yards out. [Patriots 7 : 10 Bills]
New England started their third possession at their 19-yard line following a poor Gunner Olszewski return, but gained some breathing room with a 14 yard pitch and catch from Mac Jones to Brandon Bolden. They looked to have another first down, but N’Keal Harry dropped a pass that was on him out of the break. Great anticipation by Jones. On the next play, they went back to Harry but the ball was deflected up into the air and intercepted by Micah Hyde. A great throw followed by a poor one, life with a rookie quarterback.
Buffalo took over at the New England 33-yard line, quickly moving into the red zone following a catch and run to Zack Moss. McKenzie got another rush attempt that went for a few yards but led to J.C. Jackson leaving the field with a left arm injury. Three plays later the Bills were knocking on the doorstep from New England’s 1-yard line on 3rd-and-goal. Allen faked the toss and fired a strike to Dawson Knox that was tipped but ultimately fell incomplete. Buffalo decided to go for it on fourth down yet again, but this time they were unsuccessful as Emmanuel Sanders dropped a pass in the end zone. Patriots take over backed up against their own goal line.
Looking to gain some breathing room, Mac Jones handed the ball off to Damien Harris for a gain of two and hit Jakobi Meyers for a gain of five. On 3rd-and-3, from his own end zone, Jones looked to hit Meyers again but the ball fell incomplete. Three and out for New England.
Buffalo took over at the Patriots 42-yard line following another poor punt from Jake Bailey. They did nothing with it, picking up three yards on three plays. They kept the offense on the field on 4th-and-7, trying to draw a jump. They got what they wanted as rookie Christian Barmore fell for the hard count and encroached. That gifted Buffalo five yards and led to a real attempt on 4th-and-2 that Allen and Diggs converted for a gain of 23 yards. From a three and out to Buffalo back in the red zone, that was a fairly large mistake by the rookie. On first down from the New England 11-yard line, following the two minute warning, Buffalo lost a yard. On second down, J.C. Jackson had an end zone interception bounce off of his hands. That lead to a 3rd-and-11 where Buffalo let Allen uncork it into the end zone to Stefon Diggs for a 12 yard touchdown. [Patriots 7 : 17 Bills]
Back on offense, with 1:45 left on the clock, New England needed 75 yards to score a touchdown before half. They would have gotten zero if not for a roughing the passer penalty on Buffalo that kept the drive alive following a third down incompletion. Mac Jones took off for seven yards following the penalty, and picked up 15 more as Jerry Hughes was called for a late hit out of bounds. Or so we thought, the officials picked up the flag even though Hughes pulled Jones down by the Buffalo benches. Before the next play, Trent Brown was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. From the Buffalo 38-yard line back to the New England 32-yard line, a 30 yard difference made by the officials. Two straight incompletions led to a 4th-and-18 punt. An unraveling by the Patriots and the officials.
Buffalo took over at their own 20-yard line with 1:00 remaining in the half. Emmanuel Sanders was called for an offensive pass interference that pushed Buffalo back ten yards to their own 10-yard line. Allen took off to burn some clock and New England allowed them to do so. [HALFTIME - Patriots 7 : 17 Bills]
Back out with the ball following halftime, Buffalo had a chance to bury New England. They started out at their own 20-yard line and gained a quick nine yards on a swing pass to McKenzie and picking up the first down on a run by Singletary. They continued to feed McKenzie who reeled in two catches on three targets over the next three plays to push the Bills to New England’s 35-yard line. Allen moved the chains again on a quarterback sneak two plays later. They looked to take a three score lead soon thereafter but Jake Kumerow dropped a touchdown in the end zone. That didn’t matter though because Allen and Danders picked him up on the next play with a first down conversion into the red zone. A pair of penalties pushed Buffalo back outside the 20-yard line and set them up with a 1st-and-25. On first down, Allen hit Diggs for an 11 yard pick up. On second down, Allen threw an incompletion that looked like a fumble, but ultimately wasn't. That brought up 3rd-and-14 where Kyle Van Noy forced a Josh Allen heave that sailed out of the back of the end zone. Tyler Bass came on and hit a 34-yard attempt to add to Buffalo’s lead. [Patriots 7 : 20 Bills]
New England came back out on offense having run nearly half the plays that Buffalo had to that point. From his own 25-yard line, Damien Harris ripped off a 31 yard run to quickly push the Patriots into Buffalo territory. Josh McDaniels continued to feed him as he took another pair of runs for two yards that set up a 3rd-and-8 from the Buffalo 42-yard line. A tunnel screen to N’Keal Harry got them the necessary yardage to move the chains before Jones was nearly intercepted in the end zone. Another broken play led to a 3rd-and-10 that Jakobi Meyers was not able to convert for another first down. On 4th-and-inches Jones crawled for enough yardages for another first down. On first down from inside the 20, Harris fumbled a pitch for a loss of two. Another strike to Meyers only gained three yards leading to yet another third and long for the Patriots offense. Facing pressure, Jones hit Brandon Bolden in the late for a gain of six. On 4th-and-3, Jones hit Meyers across his body towards the middle of the field for a first down. Some big time conversions from the Patriots offense.
Directing traffic and converting fourth downs.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 26, 2021
: @NFLonCBS / Patriots app pic.twitter.com/5tmiRET3Kl
Two plays later, Damien Harris was standing in the end zone. [Patriots 14 : 20 Bills]
A good return from Marquez Stevenson set the Bills up at their own 34-yard line. On first down, Stefon Diggs gained six yards but was swung down and landed hard on his left shoulder, forcing hims to leave the game. A short Devin Singletary run brought up 3rd-and-2 where Isaiah McKenzie came up again for Buffalo with a gain of four. That brought up the end of the third quarter.
The Bills opened up the fourth quarter with another great play by Isaiah McKenzie who picked up 28 yards to get the Bills down to New England 25-yard line. Josh Allen got them 11 more yards with a scramble to the right side on the next play that pushed them into the red area. Allen hit Dawson Knox for the first time on the day who picked up 11 of his one to set Buffalo up on the doorstep yet again. On 2nd-and-goal, Buffalo punched it in as Singletary powered into the end zone. Buffalo went for two to go up 14 but were unsuccessful. [Patriots 14 : 26 Bills]
The Patriots took back over at their 25-yard line with 11:42 to score two touchdowns. Mac Jones started the drive with his first completion to Hunter Henry for nine yards before Damien Harris move the chains with a four yard run. A holding call on Tarron Johnson gifted New England another first down and moved them past their own 40-yard line. Two plays later Jones would hit Kendrick Bourne for 13 yards, following that up with a 21 yard pass to Meyers. Mac Jones took off for another first down and was hit while on the ground leading to another personal foul on Buffalo. David Andrews defended his quarterback, negating that penalty with one of his own. On 1st-and-10 from the Buffalo 14-yard line, Harris picked up six yards. He followed that up with a great effort for his third touchdown of the day from eight yards out. [Patriots 21 : 26 Bills]
.@DHx34 would not be denied.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 26, 2021
: @NFLonCBS / Patriots app pic.twitter.com/VpDFXt1RcJ
A Jake Bailey touchback set Buffalo up at their own 25-yard line. With 7:37 left on the clock, New England could not afford to allow another touchdown. They almost forced a turnover on the first play of the drive as J.C. Jackson dropped a Josh Allen overthrow. A forced throwaway by Christian Barmore led to 3rd-and-10 that Buffalo converted yet again with another grab by Isaiah McKenzie, his tenth of the day. On the next play, McKenzie beat Myles Bryant yet again for a gain of 15 yards, moving Buffalo into New England territory. Three Buffalo carries gained them about 9.9 yards. On 4th-and-inches from the New England 33-yard line, they decided to go for it yet again. Josh Allen took the ball himself on a naked boot and avoided a J.C. Jackson tackle to gain eight yards and a first down. A non gainer by Singletary and incomplete pass led to a 3rd-and-10 for Buffalo. Once again, Buffalo converted on a broken play made by Josh Allen. He hit Diggs on a shovel pass for a first down. Two plays later, he hit Dawson Knox on the same pass in the end zone for another touchdown. Tyler Bass hit his PAT. [Patriots 21 : 33 Bills]
A fumble by Gunner Olszewski eventually led to a short return, setting the Patriots offense up at their own 17-yard line. A Jones scramble and draw to Brandon Bolden eventually led to the two minute warning. On 4th-and-7, Jones eluded pressure and hit Kendrick Bourne to keep the drive alive. Buffalo forced another fourth and long where Jones threw up a prayer that came down in the arms of Micah Hyde. Buffalo ran out the clock to secure the victory. [FINAL - Patriots 21 : 33 Bills]