Strong winds. Cold weather. Ridiculous wind gusts. Flurries. Did I mention the wind?
The weather made the game plan for the Bills-Pats MNF matchup simple to discern - run the ball, play good defense, get good field position. This wasn't too complicated.
Yet after a game where the Patriots attempted only 3 passes out of 49 plays, rushing for 222 yards and a TD and burning over 32 minutes of game time, the Patriots and their ultra-conservative game plan proved successful, winning 14-10 primarily by playing bully-ball. Most coaches wouldn't have the internal strength necessary to establish that game plan. Most coaches, put frankly, don't have the personnel necessary to execute that strategy. And most coaches wouldn't be willing to do something so archaic.
Bill Belichick isn't "most coaches". He and OC Josh McDaniels forced the Bills to defend a run-first, run-second and run-third offense. Sean McDermott wasn't willing to play that game, choosing rather to set up his own plan to win in the elements.
McDermott's offensive game plan wasn't necessarily a poor one. They also ran the ball a great deal in the first half, keeping the game close. They even had a chance to take the lead in the final minute. Yet despite the offensive prowess the Bills are purported to have, they only scored once in the red zone (their first red zone play, no less) out of four trips.
But in his press conference following the loss, rather than simply congratulate the Patriots and their head coach, McDermott felt it necessary to dismiss the game's winning coach. "Let's not give more credit than we need to give Bill Belichick in this one," he said. "...When we start with an average starting field position of the 40-yard line and he starts at the 23-yard line...and we were 1-for-4 in the red zone and they were 0-for-1...you give me that ahead of time and I would say, 'I like my chances'...with all due respect, it's not a Bill Belichick-type thing."
He continued by explaining that it wasn't the Patriots, it was simply that the Bills didn't do enough with their opportunities. "Did we have opportunities to win the game? You're darned right we did."
In those few statements, McDermott demonstrated that he just doesn't understand what Bill Belichick understands: that it's not about the stats, it's about the score. Buffalo had home-field, they outpassed the Patriots by 126 yards, and they rushed for 99 yards on 25 carries, they had four trips to the red zone, all while having vastly superior starting field position...and still lost. They had several opportunities to win the game in the final minute...yet failed to do so.
By mentioning all of that, McDermott emphasized the coaching aspects rather than diminishing them. The Patriots game plan took advantage of the Bills' weaknesses and lessened their strengths. They used the elements to their advantage far more than the Bills did. And they weren't afraid to throw the ball the fewest times in nearly half a century to do it, because it's all about the W. After all, if you can manage to achieve all of those superior stats, and lose? Maybe your game plan wasn't the winning one. Which means that maybe - just maybe, mind you - it actually is "a Bill Belichick-type thing."
The long-awaited return of the Buffalo Bills to dominant status - at the very least in the AFC East - has lasted, it seems, less than a year. The Patriots have returned after one year's hiatus. They started 2-4, but have won 7 straight. The Bills started 4-1, and are 3-4 since. They're down 1.5 games to the Patriots, and are behind in all tie-breaking scenarios. It's possible that the next game in Foxboro goes the other way, where the Patriots are pounded by the Bills, who reassert themselves. But it's hard to see confidence in McDermott's reactions after the game, when he chose snarky responses over simply saying - "yup, they beat us. Looking forward to the rematch."
All of which just goes to show that in the intense and heated rivalry in the AFC East, it seems that Sean McDermott just doesn't quite get it. One wonders if he ever will.
(Curious side note - Patriots Record (and NFL record) for the most pass attempts in a win - 70, by Drew Bledsoe in 1993, to win his 9th game. Patriots Record for fewest pass attempts in a game - 3, by Mac Jones in 2021, to win his 9th game.)