It was a rough day at the office for the entire New England Patriots team on Sunday as they saw the Buffalo Bills come into Gillette Stadium and take a commanding lead in the AFC East with only two weeks left in the regular season. Another flat first half would end up costing the Patriots in the end as they just couldn’t get the stops they needed, despite having a strong second half offensively.
Josh Allen took what the defense gave him and was a lot to handle both as a runner and a passer on Sunday afternoon. The play of the game came late in the fourth quarter on a crucial fourth down when Allen juked out J.C. Jackson and scrambled to convert and essentially put the game away. New England ended up losing with a final score of 33-21.
Let’s get into the winners and losers from Sunday’s loss.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
As always, let’s start with the positives. Jakobi Meyers may have had his best game of the season Sunday. The wideout caught some big passes to keep drives alive all while taking some big hits over the middle of the field.
His six catches for 59 yards led all Patriots receivers, all while converting on two third downs; he also had a big catch on fourth down that set up Damien Harris’ second touchdown of the day late in the third quarter. On a day where the Patriots offense stalled out a lot, Meyers was a consistent chain mover and served as a nice security blanket for Mac Jones.
Loser: WR N’Keal Harry
Just when we thought N’Keal Harry was starting to trend in the right direction and earn himself more snaps and targets, the former first-round draft pick responded with a rough game on Sunday. He dropped a beautiful throw from Jones early in the first half that hit him right in the hands after he created a few yards of separation on the play.
Harry caught two balls for 15 yards on five targets and with the Patriots lacking a deep threat ability with Nelson Agholor sidelined, Harry struggled to fill that role. Once again, he couldn't make the plays when his number was called.
Loser: DT Christian Barmore
It’s hard to get on Christian Barmore after the season that he has been having, but he had a fair share of rookie mistakes on Sunday that ultimately ended up costing the Patriots. Barmore had a tough encroachment penalty on a 4th-and-7 that saw Buffalo keep its offense on the field.
The penalty gave Buffalo an extra five yards and put them in a favorable position. They converted on and scored a touchdown just few plays later to go up 17-7 heading into halftime. That penalty served costly for the Patriots as they kept chasing points the entire second half despite getting close to making a comeback bid.
Loser: CB Myles Bryant
Myles Bryant had a tough outing against the Bills and was toasted all day long by wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. Buffalo wide receiver Cole Beasley being out was thought to be an advantage for the Patriots, given that one of Josh Allen’s go-to guys was unavailable. However, McKenzie responded in a big way and finished with 11 catches for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Bryant was on him in man coverage for most of the day. The second-year man has been a nice surprise for the Patriots secondary this season, especially since it lost Jonathan Jones early on in the year. On Sunday, however, Bryan struggled mightily and was one of the main reasons why Josh Allen had so much success moving the ball all night.
Winner: RB Damien Harris
Coming into Sunday with Rhamondre Stevenson on the Covid-19 list, Damien Harris was going to have to carry the load in the New England backfield. It was uncertain how he would respond after being limited all week due to a hamstring injury he suffered the last time the Patriots and Bills squared off in Week 13.
Harris was one of the only players who showed up on Sunday and carried the ball 18 times for 103 yards as well as three touchdowns. It was the first time a Patriots running back rushed for three scores since Sony Michel in 2019 against the New York Jets.
Harris broke off a few big runs when the Patriots were desperately looking for a spark and finished off every drive inside the red zine with a touchdown. When Harris is running like he did on Sunday, he is one of the toughest backs in the league to stop and a key to New England’s offensive success.
Loser: TE Hunter Henry
Coming off what might have been one of his best games as a Patriot a week ago, Hunter Henry was a complete non-factor in the loss to Buffalo on Sunday. The Bills did a good job locking him down with both Micah Hyde and Jordan Hoyer, and Henry was held in check all day long as a result.
His presence as a red-area target was effectively eliminated, and the Patriots instead elected to run the ball with Damien Harris once they got close to the goal line. Henry was held to a one catch for nine yards — easily a season-low.
Loser: QB Mac Jones
Mac Jones went 14-for-32 for 145 yards and two interceptions on Sunday. The rookie QB looked overwhelmed at times and could not seem to get the Patriots offense going after falling behind early. You knew it was going to be a rough day when Buffalo forced a quick three-and-out and went down to score on its opening drive. Jones, meanwhile, couldn’t find much rhythm and efficiency throwing the ball even though he did convert on four fourth downs on Sunday to keep the Patriots alive late in the game.
These types of games happen with rookie quarterbacks, and the Patriots have been fortunate that there has been more good than bad with Jones in 2021.
Loser: LB Matthew Judon
For the third game in a row, Judon has been a complete non-factor off the edge for the Patriots. Picking up a sack in nine straight games at one point, Judon has been held in check and hasn't been able to find the same success rushing the quarterback. It is unsure whether or not he may be battling some late-season injuries but if the Patriots and their defense want to get back to playing the way they are capable of, it starts with No. 9 returning to form.
Winner: LB Kyle Van Noy
Kyle Van Noy was one of the only Patriots defenders to step up on Sunday. He had a big quarterback hit that forced an errant throw to hold the Bills to three points in the second half and made his presence felt in space versus a quick Buffalo offense. Van Noy’s ability to play off the ball and limit running backs out of the backfield is a big piece to the Patriots’ defense and he was a factor in the few positive plays the Patriots made defensively on Sunday.
Loser: CB J.C. Jackson
After earning Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career, J.C. Jackson played arguably his worst game in the season. Matched up with Stefon Diggs for most of the day, Diggs beat him on a few key plays and totaled seven catches for 85 yards and a score. Now, not all of them were in man coverage but Jackson dropped two key interceptions that would have completely flipped the game in the Patriots’ favor.