New England Patriots Review: Grading the 3 keys to beating the Bills

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots had three keys to beating the Buffalo Bills in Week 16, and their failure to do so resulted in them picking up a devastating loss. The home team lost this game as well as the Bills won it. Buffalo was the better team and the indicators show it clearly.

Buffalo wanted it more, made the big plays they had to, and stomped on an ineffective New England team. That listless effort cast into doubt their chances to not only to win the AFC East, which would have been sewn up with a win, but now to even make the playoffs.

Let’s take look at the three keys in the game, how the Patriots fared on each, and why their performance led to their demise in yet another disappointing home game.

New England Patriots needed a top showing from Mac Jones

The Patriots needed a strong game from their quarterback if they were to emerge victorious in their biggest game of the season. They didn’t get it. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones, hyped up big time in this space, didn’t show up and the offense reacted accordingly.

Jones completed only 14 of 32 passes for a paltry 145 yards with no touchdowns. That’s a dismal 43% completion percentage. You’re not going to beat anyone with those stats.

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To make things even worse, Jones threw two interceptions (though one was on an end-of-the-game desperation heave). His counterpart Josh Allen conversely was brilliant, gashing the Patriots all afternoon with his passes and running.

The duel of the quarterbacks was a no-contest affair. Buffalo and Allen won it big, and with it likely comes the top spot in the AFC East. The Patriots passing game failed miserably. Final Grade: F

The New England Patriots had to dominate on the ground

The only place the Patriots met a key to beating Buffalo was in their running game. In so doing, they made it possible for even a mediocre passing game to possibly eke out a win.

The goal was to run for 125-150 yards on the day and they met that key goal with 149 yards on the ground and a 5.5 yard average. That was a solid performance and should have been good enough to win. It wasn’t (see above). That notwithstanding, the running game gets a strong pass.

Bell-cow back and emerging star, Damien Harris, rushed for 103 yards and the Patriots three touchdowns himself in another sterling effort. Jones himself gained 33 yards on the ground but was bested by Allen who ran for 64 on the other side.

A parenthetical observation here: Observers have been adamant that Jones is “immobile’, likely due to a photo showing him in let’s say, not in the best condition while an Alabama player.

That’s a load of hogwash. They completed ignored the fact that he was timed at 4.68 and 4.72 at his Alabama pre-draft Pro Days. That’s not slow at all, for a quarterback at least. It’s quite the opposite.

It’s been a coaching gaffe to not have used use Jones more on rollouts all season long. When they have, he’s shown more than capable, as he was against the Bills, to be effective on those plays.

A big fail there goes to Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels for not utilizing this weapon available to them. They should use it in the final two games to hopefully salvage a playoff spot. Final Grade: B+

The New England Patriots couldn’t stop or corral Josh Allen

A third key was to sack the elusive Josh Allen and if not, keep him in the pocket to avoid his backbreaking runs. The defense failed miserably to do either.

The Patriots had no sacks on the day, while Buffalo had one on the other side, but put big-time pressure on Mac Jones all day long. It wasn’t good enough. Sacks are big plays, game-changing plays. The Patriots needed a couple of them, and ended up not getting any.

Additionally, the defense allowed Allen to run for 64 yards as previously noted. He was the Bills’ top rusher. The Patriots not only failed to get to Allen, but they couldn’t set the edge against him either. It was a big fail in this key area, as well. Final Grade: F

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So there you have it. The New England Patriots failed in two of the three keys to beating the Bills. Had they passed in one of the other two, the outcome might have been different.

This reeling New England Patriots team next faces the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in Week 17.  As they all are now, it’s a must-win game.

If they can’t beat the 2-13 Jaguars, they are toast and should fold up their tents for the season. We’ll see which version of the Patriots shows up in Week 17.