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Patriots vs. Bills: Fan Notes from the Game

Related: 10 things we learned from the Patriots’ loss to the Bills

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots again. Who’da thunk it?

It’s Friday, and I’m sure we all want to put this game behind us. So let’s just get to it.

  • My wife has an Amazon Prime membership. I feel like there’s a stale joke along the lines of, “Who’s wife doesn’t?!! Amirite? Amirite, folks??” in there somewhere, but I don’t feel like getting canceled on Twitter.
  • And up until last night, I considered an Amazon Prime Membership to be nothing but trouble. A nonstop influx of boxes and padded envelopes and more boxes crammed with things that nobody needs that were on sale for Prime Members and all you needed to do to place the order is cough in the general direction of your phone. An online monopoly crushing small businesses left and right and treating their workers like crap.
  • And while those things are all as true as ever, I am, like all of us, a card-carrying hypocrite who has no problem pointing out everything that’s wrong with the world while simultaneously contributing to those problems and doing absolutely nothing to enact anything remotely resembling change. So I was able to watch the game and found myself grateful for the Prime access.
  • As for the game itself, last night was, for the most part, exactly what I expected. A great team slapping around a mediocre team that struggles wildly against mobile quarterbacks.
  • Granted, I didn’t see the only explosive play the Patriots had on offense coming from a rookie defensive back... but hey. That’s why we watch. More on that later.
  • At least New England’s first three and out of the game didn’t go run for loss, incompletion, sack. I’ll take it.
  • As for their first actual possession -it’s wildly frustrating to see what this offense is capable of when things are clicking. Short drops from Mac Jones followed by fast, accurate passes. Receivers sitting down in the holes and falling forward for positive gains. Mismatches created by crossing routes off of the play-action, made effective because Rhamondre Stevenson is just a beast.
  • And of course, more or less the only non-Mondre offensive highlight came on a quick screen to Marcus Jones that he took 48 yards to the house. Mac Jones saw pressure coming in from the DB, noticed the safety playing off the ball, and got the ball to Jones almost immediately with room to run. Parker did a great job abandoning his designed block and getting just enough of a chip to spring Jones to the corner, where he did the rest. The Patriots ended the first quarter with the lead.
  • But then Buffalo scored four seconds into the second quarter, New England had arguably their most disastrous three and out of the season (which is saying something), Buffalo engineered an eight minute drive to go up 17-7, and that was the ballgame.
  • And if you think it’s ridiculous for me to say that trailing 17-7 with five minutes left in the second quarter is the ballgame, I’d like to not-so-subtly remind you that the Patriots haven’t overcome a two score deficit since 2019. They’re just not built to score a lot of points and play catch-up.
  • And for good measure, the Patriots answered Buffalo’s 14-play, 56-yard, eight-minute drive with a three-play, zero-yard, 1:23-minute drive.
  • Somewhere, at some point, I guarantee some drunken schmuck in Vegas placed a $5 bet on Marcus Jones scoring an NFL touchdown on his first ever offensive snap and is currently on a plane from Logan to collect is $10K in winnings.
  • I will say this: I don’t think that the stat line reflects it, but I think that Mac Jones played well last night. The offensive line is a mess, the offensive play-calling continues to make zero sense, and he just doesn’t have the support he needs right now. But he’s smart with the football and we can all clearly see why he’s still the guy in New England. It’s too late to do anything about it this season, but he’s going to be fine.
  • As long as 2022 marks both the beginning and the end of the Matt Patricia experiment. The guy is a brilliant football mind, but he’s no OC. Just because you’re great at math it doesn’t mean you can speed-read Tolstoy. This might be the worst offense in the history of the Belichick era.
  • I mean can someone please explain to me why, after three straight MONSTER Mondre runs where he’s literally carrying the pile across the sticks, Patricia didn’t call a play-action out of the same formation for a deep shot to Parker or Thornton? Instead it was an outside pitch that got completely blown up because the Bills adjusted and stacked the line? 2nd and 15, drive dead. Negative plays are a clear sign of bad play-calling.
  • The most painful part of last night? That graphic that showed how Tommy B has passed for 97 touchdowns since leaving New England and how every single Patriots quarterback since has combined for 47 — less than half that.
  • The Patriots only sniffed the red zone once all day. And you’ll never guess what the result was!
  • On the defensive side, New England used a lot of man underneath/deep Cover 2 shells, or DMac as the single high safety to take away the deep shots. It’s a good strategy for QBs who care more about highlight plays than wins, or OCs that don’t have patience. But Buffalo was more than happy to take what New England gave them, and if there were any defensive adjustments at any point, I missed them.
  • Stefon Diggs is a beast, he got his, Jonathan Jones was outclassed — and inexplicably on his own a lot. But honestly, I’m more or less OK with what went down. The Patriots forced a whopping three Bills punts, they made a big play to swing momentum back to New England and give the Patriots a chance to score before half, and the game was never truly out of hand from a score perspective. Josh Uche has really come into his own and the team has some young playmakers. That 15-play, 94-yard, nine-minute touchdown drive in the third was a real backbreaker — but the Bills are just a really, really good team. And it’s not like the Patriots were going to score anyway, at least drives like that make the game go faster.
  • I’m currently being 100 percent serious when I say that “The Patriots force a Buffalo punt during a Week 13 Thursday Night matchup” is very much in the running for earning a spot on my offseason Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2022 countdown.
  • I can deal with down years in terms of wins and losses. I have no problem with struggling offenses and defenses that can’t stop elite play. That’s normal football fandom, and we’ve all been spoiled rotten for years. But things I never thought I’d be able to say, week in and week out, when offering a critique of a Bill Belichick-led Patriots team:
  • Stupid mistakes, costly penalties, and mental errors have cost this team multiple games.
  • Special teams play has consistently been an issue.
  • Clock management has been simply Andy Reid-esque. Towards the end of the first half the Patriots went from 2nd and 1 at the Buffalo 35 with two timeouts left to 1st and 10 at the Buffalo 33 with zero timeouts left. That’s one timeout per yard. The only thing more improbable than that scenario is a professional football team scoring a single point in a game. (It is possible. Wait ‘till the end and I’ll tell you how!)
  • The Patriots don’t seem able to make the in-game adjustments necessary to counter what the opposing team is doing,
  • Poor fundamentals on a very basic level have been inexplicably prevalent.
  • Buffalo’s second TD of the night, which more or less put the game away, is a great example of that last point. The Patriots forced Allen out of the pocket and Mack Wilson (I think it was Wilson) had a hold on him. But rather than wrap up a 6-foot-5, 240-pound, strong, athletic QB around the waist and legs to bring him down, Wilson had a hand up around his collar and kept trying to outmuscle him. Allen made an amazing play for the score, and instead of 13-7 (which in retrospect still would have been enough) it was 17-7. Now I have never played a single down of tackle football in my life... but even I know the best way to bring down a big man it to chop him down at the legs.
  • The good thing about games like this, when the loss is more or less a lock before 9:15 PM, I had plenty of time to process the loss and went right to sleep once it was over. This is just the way it’s going to be for a while when the Pats play the Bills
  • And seeing as how the Patriots spent literally two straight decades — that’s 20 straight years — sitting on Buffalo’s chest, grabbing them by the wrists, and forcing them to slap their own face while chanting “quit hitting yourself! Quit hitting yourself! Quit hitting yourself” while they squirmed and sputtered for mercy... I’m totally fine with it. The Bills are more than due for the non-ass end of games like this, and I hope they’re enjoying the hell out of it. May this article be read by legions of Bills fans doing some good old fashioned gloat reading on an opposing team’s site. If you want to make one of those “Bills fan here, I come in peace’ comments down below that you’d never make if the team had lost, comment away. You’ve put your time in and more.
  • The good news, from a Patriots perspective at least, is that with the way Josh Allen completely refuses to slide and instead just ruins himself every single week, he’s not going to be this good forever.
  • Lastly, congratulations to future Patriots Hall of Famer Devin McCourty for making his 200th start for the Patriots last night. He’s just the sixth player in team history to get to 200, and he has started every single game he’s played for this team. McCourty has been one of the most reliable, dependable, and consistent players for the Patriots ever since he was drafted, and getting to 200 starts in this game is no small feat. It would have been nice to get him a win to go along with that 200th start... but what can you do.
  • And to end of some more positivity: Rhamondre Stevenson, I love you. Once we get this offensive line and coordinator (and dare I say receiver?) situation sorted out this offseason, you’re going to be a very happy man. I promise. Till then, just keep on Mondreying.
  • As for that bit of trivia about how it’s possible to only score one point in an NFL game:
  • If a team scores a TD and lines up for that PAT/2 point attempt, but instead of converting somehow manages to lose 98 yards and recovers the ball in their own end zone for what would normally be a safety, the defending team is awarded one point. At least that’s something we’ll never see this Patriots offense do.
  • Right?

Another primetime game coming up, right in the middle of all the holiday parties where I’m already not taking care of myself as it is. Couple that with the way this team has been playing, and I’ll be lucky if I see midnight on January 1st.