The last time the New England Patriots took on the Buffalo Bills, they suffered one of the worst losses of the Bill Belichick era: playing in front of a home crowd, Buffalo blew the Patriots out 47-17 in the wild card round of the playoffs. The game was a massacre from the get-go, especially for an offense entering the game ranked first in the NFL in scoring.
Buffalo, however, did not care about any rankings. The team ended every possession with a touchdown as its offense in particular proved too much to handle for a shorthanded New England defense.
Ten months later, the two AFC East rivals are set to meet again. Needless to say that the last two contests against Buffalo — the playoff loss and a similarly-scripted 33-21 defeat three weeks earlier — have left a bitter tase in New England’s mouth; a taste that has not yet left as linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley pointed out on Sunday.
“You obviously see that, and it gets you amped up for this game, for sure,” Bentley said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to go through the process. It’s a whole process to this thing and if you look too deep into it, you kind of let things slip through the cracks. ...
“I’m a person of the process. You can’t skip days. You have to be able, no matter how amped you are for the game or how much hype is around it, to make sure you’re dialing in on each day.”
The tune sang by Bentley is being echoed by the rest of the team this week. Last year’s losses to the Bills are still on the Patriots’ mind to a degree, but the past is the past.
What matters now is tuning in, as linebackers coach Jerod Mayo noted.
“Each game is its own game, let me start by saying that. At the same time, it wasn’t our best showing the last time we played these guys,” he told reporters on Saturday. “But I’ll be honest, coming off a loss, I think the guys are tuned in and ready to go and get back on the field and try to perform a lot better than we did the last time stepped foot on the field.”
Nonetheless, Mayo did acknowledge the need to view losses such as last year’s from a personal perspective.
As for 2022, the Patriots are entering Week 13 off a 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving. A few hours earlier, the Bills played in an equally close game with a different result: Buffalo beat the Detroit Lions 28-25.
As a result of those games last Thursday, the 8-3 Bills remain two games ahead of the 6-5 Patriots in the standings. With two head-to-head meetings still on the schedule, however, a lot can and will change.
Accordingly, the Patriots are looking forward — even though head coach Bill Belichick himself acknowledged that there are some relevant takeaways from last year. Defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. said as much himself.
“We know what we did last year,” he said. “This year, we’re looking like we want to play more as a unit together — offense, defense and special teams — knowing that they’re a pretty good team. We want to stop the run, stop the pass, and allow our offense to score points.”
Wise Jr. is one of the Patriots’ leaders on defense, and he was part of the last loss to the Bills (he missed the Week 16 game due to Covid-19). He and the rest of the veteran leaders are asked to keep setting the tone this week, even though the upcoming matchup is as big as any on the New England schedule.
Jerod Mayo, however, is pleased with the leadership in the locker room regardless of a lust for revenge.
“We have a mature group of guys on this team and on this defense,” Mayo said. “They understand the sense of urgency and for us, every game is a playoff game. We have to go out there and play that way each and every week.”