Patriots 37, Bills 16: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
FOXBORO, MA – The Bills couldn’t deliver an early Christmas present on Sunday as the arch nemesis New England Patriots pulled away for a 37-16 win in Week 16.
Bills fans won’t be forgetting about this one anytime soon, as a controversial reversed touchdown left many viewers feeling hosed. The loss does not eliminate Buffalo from postseason contention. With some help next week and a win, the drought could still become extinct.
Anyway, here’s what made this week’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…
The opening drive on defense – The Bills defense made quick work of New England’s offense to start the game, forcing a prompt three-and-out and getting the ball to their offense, which responded with a scoring drive to give Buffalo an early lead.
The opening drive on offense – Buffalo’s first possession went 16 plays and covered 47 yards, but most importantly it took eight minutes off the clock. Sometimes against the Patriots the best defense is an offense that can milk the clock. Their ability to do that on their first drive of the game had them in front 3-0 after a quarter of play.
Poyer’s pick-six – Forcing turnovers have been one of the staples of Buffalo’s defense, especially when they score directly off of them. Poyer scored the Bills’ only touchdown of the day with his perfectly timed, second quarter interception. Bill Belichick praised Poyer and Micah Hyde for their ability to disguise their coverages, and that play was a perfect example of just that. Tom Brady was unaware of Poyer when he attempted the short pass over the middle.
Staying Aggressive – Even though they ultimately turned it over on downs, Sean McDermott’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-two from the New England six was the right one. Ideally, the third and fourth down play calls could have been a little better on Rick Dennison’s part, but it’s hard not to like that Buffalo tried to make the most of the opportunity.
Deonte Thompson – All Deonte Thompson does is make plays. First, on the Bills’ second drive Tyrod Taylor hit Thompson on a beautiful 29-yard pass that set them up just outside the Patriots red zone. Then on their final drive of the first half, Taylor dropped the ball perfectly to Thompson down the right sideline for 33 yards, bringing the Bills all the way to the Patriots nine. Thompson isn’t the flashiest receiver out there, but he continues to make timely plays for Buffalo. Plenty of changes will be made to the roster this offseason, but Thompson should stay. He finished with four receptions for 91 yards.
Kelvin Benjamin – Benjamin has been inconsistent and unreliable since tearing the meniscus in his right knee back in Week 11. Today, though, he became a go-to target for Tyrod Taylor. The duo hooked up for a few big third down conversions in the first half and on what should have been a touchdown in the closing seconds of the second quarter (we’ll come back to that). Finally, Benjamin looked like the No. 1 receiver he was brought in to be. He finished with five catches for 70 yards.
Red zone offense – The Bills were 0-for-4 in the red zone today; in two games they were 0-for-6 inside New England’s 20 this season. Not only that, but they couldn’t manage a single offensive touchdown against the Patriots in either game, which isn’t conducive to winning. Look no further than their inability to reach the end zone as the biggest reason they lost both.
Red Zone Defense – The red zone defense was equally as bad, particularly in the second half, where they gave up three red zone TDs. New England was 4-of-6 in the red zone on the day, and when your offense isn’t providing any scoring of its own, the defense needed a better performance.
McDermott settling – After watching New England march down the field for a touchdown to take a 23-16 lead with 50 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bills faced fourth-and-one from New England’s 41 on the ensuing drive. McDermott had been aggressive throughout much of the afternoon with another fourth down situation and failed to convert it into points, which clearly left him hesitating this time around. He settled for a 50-yard field goal attempt, and the normally reliable Stephen Hauschka missed it. Staying aggressive even in defeat would have been much more respectable.
Run defense – It was another banner day for the Bills run defense that yielded 193 yards rushing to the Patriots. Amazing that the secondary was their biggest question mark entering the season and it’s that area, not the front seven, that is actually their biggest strength.
The overturned TD heard round the country – Make it two straight weeks where the Patriots were the beneficiaries of a terrible overturned TD call. Buffalo put together a beautiful two-minute offensive drive, capped off by an incredible throw and catch from Tyrod Taylor to Kelvin Benjamin in the corner of the end zone. It momentarily gave the Bills a 16-13 lead with two seconds remaining in the half, but it was reviewed and overturned upon being sent to New York. Apparently, Benjamin didn’t have control when he clearly dragged his second foot on the turf in bounds even though the ruling on the field looked hard to reverse. But the NFL never ceases to amaze, and it was overturned. The call was a killer for Buffalo and certainly left Bills and NFL fans alike wondering if the NFL is truly showing favoritism for the Patriots.
Travaris Cadet’s injury – Cadet’s leg injury on the second play of Buffalo’s final drive of the first half was as gruesome as it gets. Buffalo had found a solid diamond in the rough in Cadet, and now his season is probably over after being instantly air-casted. Adding insult to injury, literally, now the Bills will have to lean more on Mike Tolbert as their backup running back when LeSean McCoy needs a breather. Bills fans would have rather gotten coal for Christmas.