The New England Patriots’ season came to an end on Saturday night in embarrassing fashion after an ugly 47-17 loss in Orchard Park. The Buffalo Bills dominated from the opening kick and Josh Allen picked up where he left off in Week 16, completing 21 of his 25 passes for 307 yards and five touchdowns as the Patriots defense had no answer all night long.
Losing in that fashion certainly gives them and their fans a sour taste in their mouth heading into the offseason. All in all, however, the 2021 Patriots overachieved by winning 10 games and making the playoffs with a rookie quarterback.
Winner: WR Kendrick Bourne
Starting with a positive, Kendrick Bourne was one of the only players to show up on Saturday night. The receiver caught seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns and was the lone offensive player who was able to consistently move the chains for the Patriots.
It was a big first year for Bourne in New England as he set career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Bourne and quarterback Mac Jones seemed to develop some nice chemistry as the season went along, and the wide receiver should continue to be one of the Patriots’ go-to guys in 2022.
Loser: LB Matthew Judon
When the Patriots needed their big-money free agent the most on Saturday night, he was non-existent once again. Judon was credited with six quarterback pressures by Pro Football Focus, but he also played a role in allowing Josh Allen run and throw all over this Patriots defense. He furthermore was held without a sack in his fifth straight game, again failing to reach his Pro Bowl level from earlier in the year.
The game in Buffalo was therefore a disappointing conclusion to what has been a rough stretch for Judon.
Loser: CB J.C. Jackson
For the second time in a month, J.C. Jackson couldn't step up to the challenge that is shadowing Bills WR1 Stefon Diggs. The Patriots’ number one cornerback and second-team All-Pro selection allowed Diggs to get behind him on multiple occasions and also allowed a big gain to Dawson Knox that led to a Bills touchdown early in the third quarter
Jackson was a staple for the Patriots defense in 2021 but like many of his teammates on the defensive side of the ball, failed to live up to his expectations on Saturday night.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
The box score will not do the Patriots rookie quarterback justice, as he finished the day going 24-for-38 for 242 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Neither of those interceptions can be fully blamed on the young QB, though.
On the opening drive, Micah Hyde simply made an exceptional play to record a pick right in front of intended receiver Nelson Agholor. The other INT came on a pass that glanced off of Hunter Henry’s hands. Jones was plagued by drops and lack of protection from his offensive line all night long, but hung in there, fought until the end, and completed some nice passes despite the Patriots chasing the entire night.
Overall, Jones’ 2021 season was certainly impressive despite how it ended. There’s no question the Patriots have found their quarterback of the future.
Loser: LB Kyle Van Noy
Kyle Van Noy was asked to serve as the spy on Bills quarterback Josh Allen on Saturday night. However, he had a bad day to cap off an otherwise solid season.
Van Noy struggled in coverage and was unable to provide sufficient pressure from the second level, furthermore allowing Allen to basically do whatever he wanted. The veteran linebacker has been a key guy for the Patriots defense for the past five or so years, but it has become obvious that the team needs to add speed and athleticism to its linebacker corps in order to be able to stop a quarterback like Allen.
Loser: Offensive and defensive line
Given the conditions, the game between New England and Buffalo was going to be one decided in the trenches. Unfortunately, it became clear fairly early on that the Patriots weren’t able to get a push and dominate at the line of scrimmage.
Throughout the year, they Patriots have prided themselves on playing stout football up front on both offense and defense but they got dominated on Saturday night. The leaky run defense in particular reared its ugly head again, giving up 176 yards and two touchdowns on 26 non-kneel-down carries.
Losers: S Adrian Phillips and S Kyle Dugger
Adrian Phillips has been one of the most consistent players for the Patriots since he came over from the Los Angeles Chargers last year. However, he and fellow defensive back Kyle Dugger were not up to the task as the Patriots’ primary box safeties and tight end stopper.
The duo allowed Dawson Knox to have a career night, racking up 89 yards for two touchdowns. The Patriots will need both Phillips and Dugger to play better and serve as leaders in 2022 and beyond, especially in case Devin McCourty is not back next year.
Loser: TE Hunter Henry
After his 30-yard catch on the Patriots’ sixth play from scrimmage, Hunter Henry became a non-factor for the rest of the night. The tight end also let a ball go through his hands that resulted in Mac Jones’ second interception just when the Patriots were in dire need of some positive plays early in the third quarter.
Henry was a go-to target for Jones all season long, but the Bills made sure that life would be difficult for the tight end on Saturday night. They did just that and in turn hurt the entire New England offense.
Loser: CB Joejuan Williams
With Jalen Mills out for the game on the Covid-19 reserve list, the Patriots gave Joejuan Williams the start opposite J.C. Jackson. Like he has for much of the year, he struggled when seeing extended action.
Williams was burned for a 34-yard touchdown catch by Emmanuel Sanders — not exactly a speedster — in the early third quarter, after which he was benched for the rest of the night. Another disappointing game for the former second-round draft pick.