Josh Allen, Bills once again remind Patriots what they’re missing: elite talent

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Thursday night’s game between the Patriots and Bills wasn’t a tale of two quarterbacks, as much as we like to try and make it so. As much as the two quarterbacks in question -- Josh Allen and Mac Jones -- could hardly be farther apart both in their skill sets and where they are in their careers at the moment, the gulf between the two division rivals cannot be bridged by a quarterback alone.

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After an off-season of stewing on their catastrophic loss to the Bills in the 2021-22 Wildcard Round, the Patriots rolled into Gillette Stadium with…just about the same defense as last year’s with the exception of rookies Marcus and Jack Jones and having Jonathan Jones shadow Stefon Diggs for much of the game in man-coverage situations instead of J.C. Jackson.

Jonathan Jones. Jack Jones. Mike Jones. None of it mattered to Diggs in the end. He completely abused Jonathan Jones on an out route for a touchdown and got whatever he wanted when he wanted it against New England in clutch situations.

Beyond that, though, none of the other Patriots defensive backs (except maybe Marcus Jones, who had a PBU on Gabriel Davis) could handle the other Bills receivers, either. Isaiah McKenzie once again regularly had slot cornerback Myles Bryant in hell, flying past him or putting him in a blender on short routes. Jack Jones was getting spun around like a top by any and every receiver in a white jersey and probably could’ve given up at least two scores if luck had gone against him.

At the linebacker level, you saw Allen simply shrug off a sack attempt from Mack Wilson, the heat-seeking missile everyone thought could be a prototypical defender to contain Allen’s ability to break the pocket, and throw a touchdown pass anyway.

All that time to assess and correct your weaknesses against Allen and the Bills, and the talent gap looks as wide as it did almost a year ago on that side of the ball.

Then, the offensive side of the ball is just sad.

For one thing, the Patriots clearly coached cowardly football on Thursday night, with one player even calling the game plan “timid.”

Instead of trying to attack the Bills’ defense down the field with the likes of DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne or Tyquan Thornton (until the end of the game, anyway), the players admitted the plan was to rely on the quick game: get the ball out fast, make the Bills tackle and limit mistakes.

Buffalo were happy to let them do that and still managed to harass Mac Jones with a constant stream of pressure up the middle of the pocket and off the edges around sick, slow Trent Brown and third-string right tackle Conor McDermott.

Between the scheme and the offensive line being under siege, Jones didn’t have much of a chance to attack downfield – something Kendrick Bourne lamented after the game. Truthfully, he and the offense didn’t have much of a chance, period, after their parlor trick with Marcus Jones worked out.

However, as unfair as it is to Jones, one can boil things down extremely simply.

If Allen had the same protection issues and overall level of dysfunction as Jones did, he’d probably fail as well. But he’d be able to make more plays and pull things out of a hat because he’s Superman in cleats. Look no further than that touchdown pass to Davis for your references.

Jones simply can’t do that. He doesn’t own a Superman cape. There’s no super serum or heart-shaped herb that can bless him with the raw skills of Allen or even Justin Fields, who similarly demoralized the Patriots’ defense almost by himself in Week 7.

That’s nothing to really hate Jones for, and it’s probably not accurate to say Jones needs everything around him to be “perfect” in order to succeed. Remember: he played miles better than this last season with largely the same supporting cast.

But you definitely need to it be better than this, and Jones is understandably not capable of dragging this offense to competence against a good team with nothing but pure will and skill. That would take a unicorn, and you can blow 10-plus years trying to luck your way into one of those. Josh Allens don’t grow on trees, and you have to be a terrible football team or sell the farm to draft a guy like Patrick Mahomes or Caleb Williams (next year). Then, of course, you have to put that player in a position to thrive and maximize their skills, which this current iteration of the Patriots clearly can’t do.

That said, when you watch Allen do what he did to the Patriots Thursday night even without his best stuff, it’s hard not to want that for yourself. One team has a demigod at quarterback, and you don’t. If all things were equal, that in and of itself would make all the difference.

The problem: things aren’t even close to equal between the Bills and Patriots even when you take that part out. Don’t forget that the Patriots got bullied by this Bills team last year even when they had real offensive coaches.

Until Bill Belichick the General Manager closes the talent gap, not even Bill Belichick the Coach can scheme it shut.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports