10 quick thoughts from Patriots' win over Bills to remain at top of AFC standings

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The Patriots remain in first place in the AFC and now control their own fate as it relates to the AFC East.

In extreme cold and windy conditions in Buffalo Monday night, the Patriots pulled out a 14-10 win over the Bills. Buffalo got into the red zone at the end of the game, but the Patriots defense was able to force incompletions from Josh Allen and the turnover on downs.

This was a gutsy win on the road given the conditions and illustrated the toughness of this Patriots team. Bill Belichick and the entire coaching staff also deserve a ton of credit for the job they did.

Mac Jones threw just three passes, going 2-for-3 for 19 yards.

Here are 10 quick thoughts on the game.

1. Given the conditions, the Patriots ran running plays on 46 of their 49 offensive plays. Michael Onwenu was an extra offensive lineman on a number of plays and the Patriots were able to control the line of scrimmage all night long. The game illustrated how the Patriots are built to win games late in the season.

2. In the first half, the Jones threw the ball just one time — and none when they had the wind. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the fewest pass attempts by a team in a first half since at least 1978. The two pass completions are tied for their fewest in a single game in franchise history, and the three pass attempts are the fewest in a single game in franchise history.

3. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson both ran very well, particularly Stevenson, who received the bulk of the carries with Harris suffering a hamstring injury during the game. Stevenson had 24 carries for 78 yards, while Harris finished with 10 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown (64-yard run). This was even more impressive considering Buffalo knew a running play was coming virtually all game.

4. The Patriots had all the momentum early in the game following Harris’ long touchdown run and forcing a Buffalo punt on the next possession. But, New England had N’Keal Harry deep — for the first time in his NFL career — and the ball hit his face mask after hitting the ground once. Buffalo took over in the red zone and scored a touchdown on the first play to get the momentum back. It was a strange decision to have Harry deep given his inexperience.

5. Another strange decision came at the end of the first half when with the wind the Patriots ran a number of running plays and did not try for a last-second field goal. Buffalo received to start the second half, so it was a little puzzling as to why the Patriots did not try for some last-second points with good field position.

6. Matthew Judon and Adrian Phillips suffered injuries late in the game. Judon returned, which was a good sign, but Phillips did not. His injury occurred on the play right before the two-minute warning. The Patriots defense cannot afford to lose any of these two players for any extended period of time.

7. With Kyle Dugger on the COVID list, Myles Bryant played more of a safety role and did a good job, including the pass breakup on the final play for Buffalo. Phillips played a tick more than usual and made some solid plays in the passing game, including breaking up a deep pass intended for Dawson Knox in the first half and again late in the fourth. Phillips is one of the most underrated defensive players in the entire league.

8. Nick Folk continues to be outstanding this year. His two field goals made him 33-for-33 on field goal attempts under 50 yards this season. With how unreliable kickers are around the league, the Patriots are lucky to have him.

9. Bills coach Sean McDermott has done a solid job changing the culture in Buffalo and building a good team, but his in-game coaching continues to have flaws. He had a strange challenge in the third quarter when there was no evidence Jones was stopped short of the line to gain and is constantly arguing with officials on the sideline.

10. The Patriots will now be on their bye, the latest possible week a team can have their bye week be. In addition, they lose two days with this game being on a Monday night and their next game being on a Saturday in Indianapolis.

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