Here is who caught our eye for better or worse upon live viewing.
Winner: QB Mac Jones. Entering Sunday’s game, Mac Jones was 0-14 when the opposition scored over 25 points. He also had not led a game-winning drive since hid rookie season. Check and check.
In a well-designed game plan from Bill O’Brien, and with improved offensive line play, Jones was again sharp executing the quick-game concepts. Jones made some big throws down the field to Demario Douglas and Pharaoh Brown, then cashed in when it mattered most on the game-winning drive — specifically with a strong third-down throw to Hunter Henry. A positive step in the right direction.
Winner: WR Demario Douglas. The Patriots’ shifty receiver returned from a one-game absence due to a concussion and immediately provided the offense a boost. Douglas’ ability was on display from the first play of the game, when he made a man miss on nine-yard gain off a screen. In total, the rookie hauled in four passes for 54 yards and also drew two penalties - while adding one carry for 20 yards and breaking a punt return for 25 yards. There was one route error that drew criticism from Jones, but New England needs to keep feeding the rookie.
Sign Demario Douglas up for that damn flag football team pic.twitter.com/I67MPGPX5D— Brian Hines (@iambrianhines) October 22, 2023
Losers: WRs DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton. Also at the wide receiver position, it was a noticeably quieter day for DeVante Parker. After his drop in Las Vegas, the big-bodied receiver saw just one target — an 8-yard reception on the final drive. In addition, Parker’s snap count took a dive with Jalen Reagor seeing plenty of run time in his place. It was also another slow day for Tyquan Thornton, who played just a handful of snaps and saw one target on a pop pass.
Winner: Michael Onwenu and the Offensive Line. Finally. They finally moved Michael Onwenu out to right tackle and it paid dividends. New England’s front slowed down one of the best pass rushes in the league as Jones was only under pressure on 21.9 percent of his drop backs — a season-best. They also helped pave the way to 4.0 yards per carry and a 48 percent success rate on the ground.
“The offensive line’s play today is what really stood out to me. They made everything work; run game, passing game,” Jones explained.
Winner: Christian Barmore and the Defensive Line. On the other side of things, New England’s interior defensive line helped slow down Josh Allen. Struggling lately without Matthew Judon to generate a pash rush, Allen was under pressure on over 40 percent of his drop backs Sunday. A large part of that was due to New England’s interior rush.
Barmore led the charge, as he dominated up front for the second straight game recording a sack, QB hit, and tackle for loss. But Deatrich Wise, Davon Godchaux, and Ja’Whaun Bentley also chipped in handful of pressures to make Allen uncomfortable.
Loser: Tackling. New England’s defense had several missed tackles on Sunday against Buffalo. Kyle Dugger had a tough whiff on a check-down to Latavius Murray which resulted in a 3rd-and-15 conversion. J.C. Jackson and Myles Bryant also failed to bring down Stefon Diggs on his touchdown.
Winner: Tight Ends. The Patriots tight ends knew exactly how to celebrate National Tight Ends day on Sunday, combining for 83 yards and a score on six catches. While the stats might not blow anyone away, it was full of timely contributions. Henry recorded a key 14-yard catch on third-down during New England’s final drive, which was capped off by a Mike Gesicki touchdown. Pharaoh Brown also continues to make an impact any time he touches the ball, averaging 25.5 yards on his two receptions.
Winners: K Chad Ryland and P Bryce Baringer. If you didn't think we’d end here you haven't been paying attention. A perfect day for the Patriots rookie specialists duo. Kicker Chad Ryland converted on three field goals, including a difficult 49-yard attempt with some tricky winds towards the lighthouse. As for Baringer, his two punts were excellent: a 64-yard boot to flip the field which he followed up with a dart that went out of bounds at the three-yard line.
- Another solid day for Kendrick Bourne, pacing New England’s pace catchers with six catches for 63 yards and a late score. However, a fumble late in the fourth quarter could have been extremely costly.
- Vederian Lowe played four snaps while Trent Brown was in the medical tent. They did not go well, as he immediately was called for ineligible man downfield to negate a 22-yard pass. He then gave up a pressure before leaving with his own injury.
- The hard-hitting Jabrill Peppers wasted little time making an impact on Sunday, as he intercepted Josh Allen’s first pass of the game. Beyond helping force an interception in two straight games, Peppers also led the team with nine tackles.
- The Patriots have historically been beaten badly by Stefon Diggs, but the star receiver was limited to just six catches for 58 yards and a score. It appeared that J.C. Jackson and Jack Jones were mainly responsible for helping slow him down.
- While the specialists were good — and Brenden Schooler’s kick coverage stood out — New England was forced to burn a timeout in the third quarter due to a late substitution on a field goal. They were lucky it didn't prove costly on the final drive.