Not counting any scores given up by the offense or special teams, the New England Patriots defense ended the regular season as the best scoring unit in the NFL. However, it was unable to carry any of its mid-season momentum into the final few weeks before its playoff elimination in Buffalo.
That game in particular turned into a debacle for the group. The Patriots did not force a single stop on the day, with the Bills scoring touchdowns on each of their seven possessions that did not end either half. When all was said and done, New England was bounced from the postseason tournament with a final score of 47-17.
The performance left a bitter taste in the Patriots’ collective mouth, with team captain Devin McCourty calling it “frustrating” on a recent episode of his Double Coverage podcast.
“Playing against a quarterback like that, the ability, right on the first drive to feel like you’re doing OK and then — Boom! — 26 yards later, he’s all the way down to me at the free safety because he makes one guy miss and then he can do,” McCourty said about Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
“As the game went on, we just couldn’t answer and get a stop. A couple third downs, they were able to make plays and it was just like they got rolling. Him buying time in the pocket, moving, running when he had to, buying time to throw, them adjusting to see what kind of coverage we were in, attacking the weakness in the coverage...”
Allen ended the game with more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (4), with New England unable to keep up. The Bills’ starting quarterback ended the game going 21-for-25 as a passer for 308 yards and those five touchdowns. He also added 66 yards on six rushing attempts.
As McCourty pointed out, the Patriots did try to mix things up to generate some momentum on the defensive side of the ball. The Bills, however, were able to stay at least one step ahead throughout the game.
“It was just a game, as a defender, that was very frustrating because you just felt like you did no right in the game no matter what,” he said. “The play calls, they kept changing. We kept trying something different. I mean, Steve [Belichick] called everything we had Saturday night, and just nothing went right for us.
“I would say the disappointing part about that is when that happens, I think everybody’s played in a game where you felt like, man, we just can’t get anything going. But for that to show up in a playoff game … Obviously not a great feeling.”
Whether or not McCourty will be back in 2022 to help the Patriots defense get back on track after its disappointing playoff exit remains to be seen. Not only is the veteran scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency in two months, he also is a candidate for retirement with his 35th birthday coming up in August.