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Even if Bill Belichick was wearing Mac Jones’ jersey, it wouldn’t have affected the Patriots' game plan. Going into the fourth quarter, Jones had one passing attempt, and I could be convinced that it never happened.
Damien Harris gained what felt like 90% of the Patriots’ offense on one carry – a toss sweep that the running back took to the end zone. Rhamondre Stevenson was the hammer for the second half, accumulating 53 yards on 11 attempts in the third quarter.
|Player||Attempts||Yards Per Carry||Runs of 10+ Yards||% of Yards After Contact|
Wide receivers/Tight ends
Jonnu Smith’s one-handed bobbling catch was the only Patriots receiving weapon highlight that didn’t involve blocking a linebacker or safety. N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers were the two receivers who played on run downs, digging out run-support defenders for New England's backfield.
Isaiah Wynn was the definition of a dancing bear in many of the run concepts called by Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. New England used him on its toss plays, as he pulled and chased defensive backs out of the running backs' alleyways. The entire unit was able to control the line of scrimmage throughout the game.
Daniel Ekuale was the only Patriots pass-rusher who affected the quarterback, logging the game’s lone sack from one of his four pass rushes. Matthew Judon was hurt late in the fourth quarter but collected three pressures of his own before he left the action.
Runs between the tackles didn’t often get up to the second level, leading to one of the least productive games for New England’s second-level players this season. Kyle Van Noy had the linebackers' only run stop of the game, and the whipping winds dissuaded Buffalo from throwing the ball to the middle of the field.
Another gameday, another strong performance from star cornerback JC Jackson, as he allowed just 36 yards on five targets over 28 coverage snaps. Belichick had his defensive backs in press coverage in an attempt to force Allen to take shots downfield.
It surely will read as an oxymoron, but Josh Allen completing half of his passes for 145 yards and a touchdown is evidence of a good performance relative to his opposition and the elements. His touchdown came from a run-pass option (RPO) throw following a muffed punt, and he used his legs to create offense when his passing windows were too tight.
|Yards Per Passing Attempt||4.8|
|Yards Per Rushing Attempt||6.5|
The Bills often lacked better playcalling options, but running into the teeth of New England's defense with Zack Moss and Devin Singletary didn’t return much for Buffalo. The tandem combined for 57 yards on 18 carries while Singletary gained over 100% of his yardage after contact.
Wide receivers/Tight ends
Stefon Diggs had a difficult time shaking free from the Patriots’ single-high, man-heavy scheme. Across 33 routes, he was only targeted seven times, and his four catches returned just 51 yards. His best opportunity came on a double move in the second half, but he lost track of the ball as it made its way to his hands.
The cold weather must have sapped the juice out of New England’s pass rush, as Buffalo managed the pocket around Josh Allen well. Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams kept Judon at bay, and when Allen left the pocket, it was on his own terms.
Gregory Rousseau used his length and get-off to help Buffalo control the edge, finishing Monday’s action with four defensive stops. Ed Oliver added two defensive stops against the run. Proportionally, though, Buffalo's defensive line didn't do enough against New England’s near 50 rushing attempts.
Linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds combined for six run stops but were often manipulated by the Patriots' gap schemes and perimeter runs, as they often over-pursued or were caught underneath offensive linemen who were executing reach blocks. Against 46 rush attempts, the two only logged a combined 13 tackles, leaving defensive backs to clean up plays at the third level.
Micah Hyde’s critical error on a pursuit angle is what opened the door for Harris’ long touchdown run in the first quarter. New England’s formations forced nine (and sometimes 10) Bills defenders near the line of scrimmage, leaving the safety in the middle of the field as the last line of defense.