Just when you thought it was safe to embrace the tank, New England bounced out a stunning upset of the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Mac Jones had yet another hero opportunity served up to him late in a thriller, and this time he took it — giving the hometown fans a game-winning touchdown drive leaving only seconds on the clock.
While it was fun for the fans, the experts also saw enough positives in the three-phase effort to bump the team up a healthy 5.2 points in the rankings. Austin Gayle of the Ringer explained:
“Even with more than 20 players listed on the Week 7 injury report and several others on IR, the Patriots found a way to punch the Bills in the mouth and ultimately upset their division rival. To call the win a shock would be an understatement. The Patriots were 8.5 underdogs and coming off three consecutive losses. So, the question has to be asked: Is this a fluke or the start of a return to prominence?”
Now that the celebration is over and the Week 8 game-plan is introduced on Wednesday, Gayle’s question is merited. Was that win a sign of things to come, or just a dead cat bounce? Gayle leans toward it being the start of something better. I do too. The Patriots fly to Miami to face the Dolphins this Sunday. It will be another tough division matchup against a top opponent. The initial spread favors the Dolphins (-9.5) but I’m taking the Patriots to win. Can’t count these guys out yet.
Around the AFC East:
23rd - Matt Johnson (SportsNaut): No team needed that win more than the New England Patriots and it’s fitting it came on the same day news of Bill Belichick’s contract extension was reported. Do we believe this will be a turnaround point for the Patriots’ offense and they’ll fight for a .500 record the rest of the year? No. But, New England demonstrated that it’s not close to being the worst NFL team in 2023 and that’s an improvement over previous weeks. [+7]
24th - Nate Davis (USA Today): The only AFC East team to win in Week 7, New England’s 29 points nearly matched its 35-point output from the previous four games combined. [+7]
25th - Karen Guregian (MassLive): Finally, a signature win for Mac Jones, leading a game-winning drive in the final minutes to beat Buffalo. It’s been a long time coming. [+4]
25th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): The good news after beating the Bills was how well Mac Jones played. Could that be the game that gets him going again? They face a tough one this week at Miami against the Dolphins. [+4]
26th - Austin Gayle (The Ringer): Even with more than 20 players listed on the Week 7 injury report and several others on IR, the Patriots found a way to punch the Bills in the mouth and ultimately upset their division rival. To call the win a shock would be an understatement. The Patriots were 8.5 underdogs and coming off three consecutive losses. So, the question has to be asked: Is this a fluke or the start of a return to prominence? I lean the latter. ...More. [+3]
26th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [+5]
26th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): Mac Jones woke up the Patriots’ diverse passing game with plenty of help from the running game. New England’s offense found its groove vs. Buffalo, but was it a special vibe to get Bill Belichick his 300th win? Now the defense needs to keep up the overachieving, too. [+5]
26th - Josh Schrock (NBC Sports Chicago): Mac Jones wants people to still believe. As the last remaining member of Mac Jones Island, I have no other choice. [+4]
27th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Young riser: WR Demario “Pop” Douglas. The sixth-round pick out of Liberty played a season-high 37 snaps in Sunday’s win over the Bills, after averaging 16.2 in the prior games in which he was healthy. His quickness and reliable hands showed up with four catches for 54 yards, one punt return for 25 yards, and one rush for 20 yards. He also drew three defensive penalties. — Mike Reiss. [+3]
27th - Conor Orr (SI): The Patriots were able to get comfortable and utilize some of Bill O’Brien’s Alabama-inspired numbers-game offense against the Bills, where they would lop most of the defense on one side of the ball and chuck it the other way. Demario Douglas brought some much needed speed, and run after the catch ability, while Ezekiel Elliott out-touched Rhamondre Stevenson in the run game, perhaps utilizing his superior pass protecting skills. [+5]
27th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): With everyone ready to bench Mac Jones, he came out and posted a line of 25-for-30, 272 yards, two touchdowns and a 126.7 passer rating in a comeback win over the Bills. Who knows if this is a sign of things to come, but it’s the most positive step forward for Jones since ... his rookie season? [+4]
27th - Jarrett Bailey (TouchdownWire): The Patriots are bad, but you can’t quite count any game as a win ahead of time going against Bill Belichick. Also, the NFL should fine Mike Gesicki every time he does that griddy- it’s painful to watch. [+1]
27th - Staff (TheScore): Head coach Bill Belichick picked up career win No. 300 this weekend on the back of a strong defensive outing and a clutch end-of-game drive from Mac Jones and the offense. [+4]
28th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Was Sunday a turning point, or just a brief delay of the inevitable? [+4]
28th - Eric Edholm (NFL.com): This was really Mac Jones’ signature NFL win. He beat the Bills as a rookie, but that was in a three-pass, wind-whipped game in Buffalo. The Bills had gotten him four straight times since then, including the playoff blowout, with Mac throwing seven combined INTs in those games. Jones last led his team back in the fourth quarter to victory in Week 5 of 2021 against a moribund Texans team. The returns of Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu helped the offensive line, and Demario Douglas and Pharaoh Brown proved they deserve bigger roles in the passing game. All that said, this rousing win came against a beat-up Bills team, and we can’t exactly memory-hole the three previous games. A sign of progress or a one-game analgesic? With Miami up next, we could find out quickly. [+1]
28th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): It’s been a rough season for quarterback Mac Jones and the New England Patriots. The Pats have suffered some of the worst blowout losses of Bill Belichick’s career, and the offense has had all kinds of trouble moving the ball. A game-winning touchdown drive against the rival Bills isn’t going to save New England’s season, nor will it stop the criticisms of Jones’ play. But for one afternoon at least, all was well at Gillette Stadium.
For his part, Jones said he’s been dialing out the criticism all along and just trying to play his game. In Week 7 at least, the quarterback was solid. His completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating were all actually better than Josh Allen’s. But the signal-caller also entered Week 7 at 30th in the league in both passer rating and QBR. He got Bill Belichick his 300th win Sunday, but the doubters aren’t going to be quieted until Jones strings multiple starts like this together. [nc]
29th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): The Patriots offense was horrific for weeks. Mac Jones is still trying to do a little bit too much as a limited athlete, but he played incredibly well against the Bills, remaining in rhythm throughout the game as a passer. The win against Buffalo likely has more to do with Buffalo than New England, but it was nice to see this unit scratch and claw its way to Bill Belichick’s 300th career regular-season win. [nc]
AVG RANK: 24.8 30 (+5.2)