The New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 13 in an uninspiring yet important victory, keeping themselves atop the AFC. Who would have thought that after Week 6 when this team was 2-4?
A win is a win, and to escape from northern New York with a win over the formidable Buffalo Bills in terrible weather is no mean feat no matter how pedestrian it may have looked. Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons of this important victory.
New England Patriots one-dimensional offense a negative
It’s one thing to play a solid game, give it your best, and ultimately win a big game. But the win over the Buffalo Bills didn’t show much imagination on offense.
The game plan has been called “brilliant” by some observers. That’s because the Patriots won the game.
It wouldn’t have looked quite so brilliant if the Bills quarterback, Josh Allen, had completed one of his final two passes to win the game for Buffalo.
The conditions were terrible, fine. But to telegraph every play to the opposition is a prescription for disaster. That’s exactly what the Patriots did. They were fortunate to escape with the win.
The Patriots ran the ball 46 times for 222 yards for a 4.8-yard average. That looks fine. But, it’s important to keep in mind that one of those runs was a 64-yard touchdown run by Damien Harris.
Absent that run, they ran 45 times for 154 yards and a less than inspiring 3.5-yard average. That big run by Harris made the strategy and the rushing scenario look a lot better than it actually was.
There was no play-action. There was no deception. There was nothing but the schoolyard “run it up the middle” football played years ago on the sandlots.
The offensive “game plan” was really a non-game-plan. It was simple without disguise. They ran left. They ran right. They ran center. That was it, the entire offensive game plan.
Though one completion by the Bills at the end could have wrecked the entire effort, it didn’t and the game was won, so it “worked”. That’s the biggest pro of this game, the win.
New England Patriots Mac Jones was a non-factor
Mac Jones, the Patriots precocious rookie quarterback, threw one pass in the first half. That was it. He threw three the entire game.
In addition, until late in the fourth quarter, every snap was from under center. As noted previously, that usually means the Patriots are going to run. They almost never do anything else from that formation.
Yet, they persisted in staying with this vanilla play-calling throughout until the very end when a possible loss was in the cards. It could have been managed better.
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The Patriots’ offensive line and running backs deserve a lot of credit. They did enough to grind out the win.
It would be interesting to hear what Mac Jones thoughts were regarding how him and his offense were deployed in this titanic battle. The guess here is that he’s likely ticked off. He should be.
Jones is the third-most accurate passer in the NFL. He can play in any weather. He usually is the master of the short pass. In a windy situation, that still can work. He never got the chance.
The New England Patriots defense won the day and the game
This game should have been put away much more easily than it was. It was the New England Patriots defense, not the uninspiring offensive game plan, that won it.
The Patriots terrific defense held Buffalo to 10 points, yet they still had to have a great play at the end of the fourth quarter by substitute safety Myles Bryant to seal the deal.
The margin for error was slim. Yet when it counted, they made enough plays against a very good Buffalo team obviously hampered by the wind to bring home the bacon.
It’s becoming even more increasingly obvious that rookie sensation Christian Barmore is a key, if not the key, to this defense. Barmore is also the table-setter for the amazing Matt Judon.
Barmore is virtually unblockable over the nose. Finally, the Patriots deployed him there for most of the game. He didn’t disappoint. He collapses the pocket almost every play he rushes the passer.
Collapse the pocket and bad things can happen to an offense. Barmore has become an indispensable cog in the Patriots defense. The other linemen are solid but he’s special.
Barmore makes his teammates better since they all try to emulate him. Also, let’s give a pat on the back to new defensive lineman, Daniel Ekuale. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re not alone.
Yet quietly, Ekuale, who was only playing in his third game this season, notched his second sack of the year last night. That’s production. The 27-year-old has been a find.
Also, it’s important to extend kudos to an unheralded offensive lineman. While they were all solid, Isaiah Wynn’s run-blocking was simply superb.
His pass-blocking on the island that is the left tackle position has been spotty. But it’s clear, Wynn can run-block with the best of them. That’s his true niche in the NFL.
The Patriots have to utilize that strength in the future to more advantage. He should be positioned at right tackle or at guard.
So those are some thoughts on the Patriots’ big game win over Buffalo in Week 13. What do you think were the keys to that win?