On Saturday night, the gap between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills was the size of Lake Erie. When all was said and done, the wild card playoff game between the two division rivals ended with the Bills on top 47-17.
It was a no-contest for much of the night. Buffalo did whatever it pleased in all three phases, while their overmatched opponent simply could not keep up. As a result, the Patriots were bounced from the playoffs in historic fashion.
And yet, at least one of their players does not see the team that far away from the two-time reigning AFC East champs.
“Buffalo’s a great team, and what they have going over there is great,” safety Adrian Phillips said in an end-of-season video conference. “They built up a nice roster, but I don’t think the gap is huge at all.
“They just made the plays that were out there to be made, and we didn’t make ours. It’s going to be fun for the next few years, and we’ll look to see how it is at the end of those years. But I don’t think it’s a gap at all. I will always ride with what we’ve got on this side, and I think we’re better than everybody else. We’ve just got to go out there and prove it.”
The Patriots most certainly did not prove it on Saturday night. While the offense turned the ball over twice and never found its rhythm against one of the best defensive units in the game, New England’s own defense could not produce any stops.
In fact, the only Buffalo drives that did not end in touchdowns were those ending each half. The other seven possession all went for scores.
For Phillips, the Patriots’ issues were primarily of a mental nature.
“I think physically, we were there. I think mentally, we just weren’t in the right space and go out there and make those plays,” he said. “I think Buffalo was, and that’s why they got us — at least their offense, I can’t speak for the other side of the ball. Their offense was there mentally and physically, and we just dropped the ball on that part.
“I think that’s what the difference was. But kudos to them, they showed up and obviously we didn’t.”
As a result, the Bills are now on to the divisional round for a second year in a row. New England, meanwhile, has ended a third straight season without a playoff victory — tying the longest such streak in the Bill Belichick era.
Regardless, Phillips did find some positives in the Patriots’ performance in 2021.
“I feel like we opened a lot of eyes,” he said. “A lot of people want us to fail and expect us to fail and we proved a lot of doubters wrong even though we didn’t end the season the way we wanted to.”