The New England Patriots are the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Entering Monday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots had a chance to complete one of the most impressive seven week stretches in the franchises history, and they did exactly that. They won seven straight games, without the aid of a bye week, with a rookie quarterback... and they did it all against the preseason favorite in the division.
There is no better way to take in everything that this game had to offer than to follow along drive-by-drive. Luckily for you, we have that below. So embrace it Patriots fans, your team in the top seed in the AFC.
Final Score: Patriots (9-4) 14 : 10 Bills (7-5)
December 6, 8:15p.m. ET | Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY | Broadcast information
Patriots Inactives: QB Jarrett Stidham, TE Devin Asiasi, OLB Ronnie Perkins, OL Yasir Durant, CB Shaun Wade, LB Jahlani Tavai
Bills Inactives: WR Marquez Stevenson, FB Reggie Gilliam, DE Efe Obada, WR Isaiah McKenzie, OL Jamil Douglas, DT Vernon Butler.
Though he doesn't find himself on the inactive list, the most notable absence tonight will come in the form of Kyle Dugger, who landed on the COVID list this past Wednesday. Daniel Ekuale was elevated from New England’s practice squad as his COVID replacement, while CB Sean Davis was a standard elevation. Wade and Tavai were new additions to the list from last week, with the only player coming off being J.J. Taylor who is on the COVID list with Dugger.
The Bills’ inactive list was full of healthy scratches as their only inactive players listed on this week’s injury report were Gilliam and Obada.
In Buffalo, the Patriots called the coin toss. Of course Matthew Slater called heads, but saw the coin land tails. Buffalo deferred their choice to the second half, meaning Mac Jones and the Patriots would start one offense.
N’Keal Harry (you read that right) was back to receive the opening kickoff, but Tyler Bass booted the ball 15 rows deep into the end zone seats. The 30+ mph winds will be a huge factor in this one. New England started on the ground, handing the ball of to Damien Harris three straight times, netting -1 yard in total. Jake Bailey came on to punt against the wind, and booted a line drive just 38 yards.
Buffalo took over at their own 48-yard line do to the poor punt. The Bills followed a similar path as New England, keeping it on the ground on downs one and two. After gaining just three yards, Buffalo chose to pass on 3rd-and-7, where Josh Allen’s pass was dropped by Dawson Knox. Back-to-back punts to start in the wild weather. Matt Haack, with the wind to his back, sailed the ball into the end zone for a touchback.
Back to the ground, Damien Harris picked up two yards on first down and four yards on second down. On third down, Brandon Bolden took a draw for -1 yard, forcing yet another Patriots punt. Zero pass attempt for Mac Jones through two drives. Jake Bailey came back on to punt, and kicked a rocket that the wind blew directly back towards him, netting just 15 yards and giving Buffalo even better field position on their second drive.
On their second drive, Buffalo took over at the Patriots 40-yard line. They came out throwing the ball, but J.C. Jackson introduced himself to Emmanuel Sanders rather rudely, dropping him for a three yard loss. A Devin Singletary run got the yardage back, and a neutral zone infraction on Matthew Judon set the Bills up with a more manageable 3rd-and-4. Buffalo would pick up a first down on the next play, a short Josh Allen pass to Matt Breida. One play later, Breida fumbled and Lawrence Guy scooped it up to kill the first momentous drive of the day.
Back for drive number three, the Patriots returned to the ground for a loss of one. This time the handoff went to Jonnu Smith instead of Harris. One play later, another handoff to a non-running back, as Nelson Agholor took an end around for six yards to set up a 3rd-and-5. That’s when they went back to their running back Damien Harris, who took it 64 yards for a touchdown. With Buffalo selling out on the run, he had to break one tackle to take it all the way. With the wind being such a factor, New England went for two and Brandon Bolden took a toss into the end zone for the conversion. [Patriots 8 : 0 Bills]
Buffalo returned on offense at their own 25-yard line following a Jake Bailey touchback, and came out throwing the ball. Allen hit Stefon Diggs for eight yards on first down, then allowed Devin Singletary to pick up two more on the ground for a first down. Buffalo picked up just three yards on their next two plays, forcing them into their first 3rd-and-long of the day. Allowed to pin their ears back, the Patriots pass rushers drew a hold and nullified a first down pass, pushing Buffalo back 10 more yards and eventually forcing a Josh Allen overthrow. Matt Haack came back on for his second punt of the day, still punting with the wind to his back. N’Keal Harry was back to field it and had the ball touch his helmet, allowing Buffalo to recover and take back over in New England territory. At the Patriots 14-yard line, Allen delivered a strike to Gabriel Davis for a touchdown. Told you the wind would be a factor. Buffalo chose to take the extra point. [Patriots 8 : 7 Bills]
Back after a disastrous two play stretch, New England continued to tear up the Buffalo turf. Rhamondre Stevenson took a carry for 10 yards, before Jonnu Smith made a phenomenal catch to pick up 13 more on Mac Jones’ first pass attempt. Back to the ground, Stevenson picked up six before the Patriots allowed the clock to run out on the quarter and flip the field.
With a flipped field, the Patriots now had the advantage of having the wind to their backs. They kept it on the ground anyway, running the ball five straight times, picking up 24 yards and a first down, before Bill Belichick decided to let Nick Folk attempt and drill one from 41-yards on 4th-and-2. [Patriots 11 : 7 Bills]
On their first drive into the wind, Buffalo took a page out of New England’s playbook by running the ball consistently. Their first two plays went on the ground for eight yards, before Allen hit Gabriel Davis again for 16 yards and a first down. Allen picked up five yards on the ground on their next play, before Matt Breida picked up three more yards to force another 3rd-and-2. Zach Moss picked up the first down on their next play, moving the Bills into Patriots territory. Buffalo was called for delay of game soon thereafter, before Daniel Ekuale sacked Josh Allen and forced them into a 3rd-and-19 from back near their own territory. On that third down, Josh Allen got to the edge and delivered a strike to Dawson Knox, but Adrian Phillips knocked it away and forced a punt into the wind.
Taking over at their own 16-yard line, the Patriots continued the trend of starting with terrible field position. They lost even more as Damien Harris was swallowed up for a two yard loss on first down. That wouldn’t deter them, as they continued to give Damien Harris the ball, and he continued to be met behind the line of scrimmage for lost yardage. On 3rd-and-16, Jones dropped back, and handed the ball off yet again for a gain of 10. It wasn’t enough for a first down, bringing Jake Bailey on to improve his net average a bit with a 46-yard punt.
Taking over with a little more than 3:00 left in the half, Buffalo quickly went three and out, taking just 1:06 off the clock. Punting into the wind, Matt Haack continued his good day with a punt backing the Patriots up to their own 25-yard line.
The Patriots stayed on the ground, with Damien Harris ripping off a 17 yard run on first down. The next two carries netted just three yards and forced Damien Harris to leave the field with a lower body injury. On another third-and-long, Rhamondre Stevenson could pick up just five yards, when the Bills called a timeout and forced New England to punt with 0:07 left. Jake Bailey unleashed a beauty, pinning it inside the Buffalo 5-yard line and taking us to halftime.
The Bills trotted out onto the field in the second half with the wind to their backs. That was enough to entice them to throw the ball a little bit. A first down strike to Cole Beasley was followed by a Devin Singletary run that gained five yards, before an incompletion to Emmanuel Sanders on the outside. On 3rd-and-5, Allen looked to Stefon Diggs and was almost intercepted by J.C. Jackson who knocked it away, forcing a punt. Haack hit another beauty that travelled 59 yards into the end zone for a touchback.
Rhamondre Stevenson started New England’s first drive of the second half with a pair of runs that went for 11 yards and a first down. Kendrick Bourne got the next Patriots carry and gained three yards, before a long Rhamondre Stevenson run was negated by a Jonnu Smith holding penalty. On 2nd-and-17, Stevenson got another carry and gained for, bringing up yet another 3rd-and-long for New England. Undeterred, New England ran the ball again for just one yard and ultimately punted. Through seven drives, Mac Jones has one pass attempt.
A 39 yard Jake Bailey punt into the wind set Buffalo up with the ball at their own 37-yard line. With 9:00 left with the wind to their backs, they came out throwing. Josh Allen hit Emmanuel Sanders for 19 yards, before taking a shot into the end zone to Stefon Diggs, who dropped a surefire touchdown. On 2nd-and-10, Zach Moss gained three yards and set Buffalo up with a 3rd-and-7. Josh Allen escaped the pocket and almost picked up the first down, but was forced out by Myles Bryant. In a four point ball game, Myles Bryant was called for a late hit despite the fact that Allen was still in bounds. That gifted Buffalo the first down and moved them into the Patriots red zone. A short run by Moss and overthrow by Allen forced Buffalo into another 3rd-and-7, but this time they couldn’t convert as Cole Beasley dropped a pass inside the 10, forcing a field goal. From 35 yards out, Tyler Bass connected to bring the Bills within one. [Patriots 11 : 10 Bills]
Tyler Bass sailed another kick into the stands, this time through the uprights, for a touchback. At the 25-yard line, Damien Harris picked up 22 yards but slowed up towards the end as his hamstring was clearly bothering him. That led to the Rhamondre Stevenson and Mac Jones show, as the rookies picked up 21 yards on five straight carries, good enough for a pair of first downs. The last carry in that sequence belonged to Jones who picked up one yard. That ruling was challenged by Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott, but the refs could not find conclusive evidence to overturn the call. First down New England. From the Buffalo 32-yard line, the Patriots continued to feed Stevenson. He would pick up gains of one, 10, five, and six. That would lead to the end of the third quarter, and the end New England’s time fighting the wind.
On 1st-and-10 from the Buffalo 11-yard line, the Bills started to attack, dropping Stevenson for losses of three and five yards. That forced a 3rd-and-18 where Brandon Bolden would pick up just three yards, leading to a 34 yard attempt by Nick Folk that eventually fell through the uprights for three points. [Patriots 14 : 10 Bills]
Following a short kickoff, the Buffalo Bills would start at their own 36-yard line. A short pass to Dawson Knox went for seven yards, before Devin Singletary picked up two more on the ground. On 3rd-and-1, Allen hit Stefon Diggs for 10 yards and a fresh set of downs. The Bills continued to attack through the air. Allen would miss Emmanuel Sanders on first down, but gain 21 yards on a broken play on second down. Zack Moss took a first down carry for three yards and into the Patriots red zone, before he was hit through the air for a gain of eight yards plus a bit more for a horse collar penalty on Dont’a Hightower. The Bills were moving, before 1st-and-goal from the Patriots 6-yard line quickly turned into 3rd-and-goal from the New England 15-yard line following a Matthew Judon sack. A missed shot to Knox in the end zone led to a field goal attempt by Bass to cut the lead to one. From 33-yards out, the wind pushed Bass’ kick to the right and gave New England the ball back with their four point lead.
After running the ball on 42 of their 43 offensive plays, from their own 14-yard line, with 6:51 left in regulation, the Patriots threw the ball. Rhamondre Stevenson lost one yard on first down, before Mac Jones’ pass to Nelson Agholor was broken up. On 3rd-and-11, Brandon Bolden took a screen for seven yards which was not enough. Jake Bailey would punt the ball 72 yards into the back of the end zone for yet another touchback.
From their 20-yard line, Josh Allen hit Stefon Diggs on a back shoulder ball for 26 yards to breathe some life into the Buffalo offense. They stayed in the air as Allen hit Moss and Knox for another first down and to push them into Patriots territory. On 2nd-and-10, Devin Singletary picked up 17 yards on the ground for another first down. Matt Judon, who made the tackle, stayed down on the field and would ultimately leave the game. At New England’s 25-yard line, Allen would hit Sanders for five more yards, before running for another five yards and a first down. With 2:30 remaining, from the Patriots 14-yard line, Allen would hand the ball off to Singletary who picked up a yard before the Patriots took their first timeout. 2:15 remaining, Allen missed Diggs in the end zone to bring up 3rd-and-9. Prior to their third down attempt, Dawson Knox jumped to knock the Bills back five more yards. On 3rd-and-14, with pressure in his face, Allen escaped a sack and almost delivered a touchdown pass to Knox who had it knocked away by Adrian Phillips yet again. Phillips left the field following the play with a knee injury. At the 2:00 warning, Buffalo had one more shot to win the game on 4th-and-14. The Patriots brought the house, and Allen threw up a prayer that was knocked away by Myles Bryant.
The Patriots ran the ball three straight times but were unable to pick up a first down, luckily for them, the Bills were charged with an extra timeout which helped kill more clock. With 0:01 left in the game, Mac Jones took the snap and kneeled out the game clock, giving the Patriots a victory and the #1 seed in the AFC! Patriots win. [FINAL - Patriots 14 : 10 Bills]
More updates soon!