AFC East

The Return of The Patriots

patriots
Photo by Barry Chin/Global Staff

The Patriots return back to the top of the AFC. After losing Tom Brady, the greatest player in NFL history, the Patriots went 7-9 last season. One year later, the Patriots are 9-4, have won 7 straight games, and are sitting in first place in the AFC.

Bill Belichick’s Patriots had one objective on offense, run the run down the middle of the Bills defense. The Bills have struggled to contain the run all season and they would so again in this game. The Patriots broke a 70-yard touchdown run by Damien Harris in the first quarter. It came after a fumble by Matt Breida and Harris broke free because of a bad angle taken by Tremaine Edmunds and Micah Hyde. The Patriots ground game was also pivotal due to the weather conditions. With over 35mph winds and some snow, the weather would favor the Patriots, a run heavy, defensive oriented team.

On the other hand, the Bills like to throw the ball down the field and stop the pass with their nickel base defense, which includes 5 defensive backs. Since the Patriots are a run first team and the Bills best cornerback Tre White is out with injury, the Bills switched to a 4-3-4 defense, which includes 3 linebackers and only 4 defensive backs so it’s better at stopping the run. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t help the Bills as they would surrender 220 rushing yards. Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris ran all over the Bills and the Patriots won at the line of scrimmage. After the Harris touchdown, the Patriots took a risk, and converted a 2pt conversion, which would play a huge role later on in the game.

Bills Fight Back

The Bills would still put up a fight to make it a close game. After a fumbled punt by Nkeal Harry, Josh Allen would capitalize with a touchdown throw to Gabriel Davis. Josh Allen was the one bright spot for the Bills. He was completing back shoulder throws against the wind and making plays with his legs to keep the Bills in it.

On the flip side, Allen didn’t get much help from his fellow teammates. Dawson Knox had multiple drops, the run game struggled, and Tyler Bass missed a 33-yd field goal to bring it to a 1-point game. The Patriots would really commit to the run having 46 rush attempts while Mac Jones only had 3 pass attempts the entire game, which led to much success. Defensively for the Patriots, the goal was bend but don’t break, which means it’s all about the redzone defense. They would have success with this as well, stopping the Bills 2 straight drives in the redzone to seal a 14-10 victory in the 4th quarter.

Final Thoughts

While the run defense was the main reason for the Bills lost, it was Tyler Bass missed field goal, and the Patriots 2pt conversion that was the difference. If either Bass’s kick goes in or the Patriots kick the extra point instead. The Bills would’ve just needed a field goal on the final drive to tie or win the game, instead of a touchdown. Going forward, the Bills will need to improve their run defense if they want to win in the playoffs. While the Patriots look destined to be in the AFC Championship game once again.

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