Patriots vs. Bills thumbs up, thumbs down: Marcus Jones lone bright spot in ugly loss

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Thursday night’s meeting between the Josh Allen-led Bills and Patriots at Gillette Stadium went the same way the past few games in the series have gone, Buffalo controlling the action from start to finish on the way to the 24-10 victory.

Pats' offense struggles as they lose to the Bills again

Sure the Patriots broke the Bills’ streak of two plus games without having to punt against New Engalnd, but Allen and company still made more than enough plays to secure the victory. Meanwhile Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense was very much limited once again, hearing the boos from the home crowd trailing 17-7 at halftime.

The loss drops New England to 6-6 on the season, remaining in last place in the AFC East and falling further behind in the AFC postseason chase.

Before moving on to the long week leading up to the Monday night trip to Arizona, here are the highs and lows from the dismal loss to the Bills.

Thumbs up

Marcus Jones – New England’s rookie has become one of the biggest impact players on the team and few positives on a weekly basis. A couple weeks after his game-winning punt return against the Jets, Jones made his debut on offense for the Patriots and made the play of the first half with a 48-yard catch-and-run TD on a quick wide receiver screen. It gave the team and fans a jolt, as well as a short-lived lead.

Rhamondre Stevenson – Though the second-year back did have a first quarter fumble – recovered by Nelson Agholor -- the way he broke tackles and moved the pile on the way to 54 hard yards rushing on 10 carries gets him on the positive list. He also had twice as many catches, 6, as any other Patriot for 24 yards. Late in the game he almost felt like the only player on the offense still fighting and doing his job.

Punt coverage – There weren’t a ton of bright spots for the Patriots on either side of the ball, but New England’s punt coverage group did an admirable job. Brenden Schooler and Matthew Slater each had nice tackles in punt coverage. Buffalo had just 4 yards on a pair of first-half punt returns. Schooler also did the job downing a Michael Palardy punt at the Buffalo 6 in the third quarter. Palardy finished with a 41.2-yard net average on his six punts.

Josh Uche – New England’s third-year edge rusher had his way with backup Bills’ left tackle David Quessenberry in the first half with two sacks, three QB hits and a key forced fumble late in the second quarter to stop a Bills drive. Uche finished the game with seven tackles as one of the more energetic players on the defense.

Thumbs down

Jonathan Jones – The veteran cornerback has been a solid story this season in the transition from the slot to the outside cornerback job. But things have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks. Jones simply could not keep up with Stefon Diggs. Diggs toasted Jones for an easy 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter. That was one of the receiver’s 7 receptions for 92 yards on the night. Diggs wasn’t the only problem for Jones, he was also beaten by Gabe Davis for another 8-yard TD after an Allen scramble on which the cornerback was one of a number of Patriots defensive backs who appeared to, as Amazon analyst Kirk Herbstreit put it, “gave up on the play.”

Cole Strange – The first-round rookie guard has struggled mightily over the second half of the season and that continued against the Bills. Strange got away with a hold back up on the goal line and then was flagged for it one play later when Mac Jones was pressured into an intentional grounding barely outside of the end zone.

Key plays -- Offensively and defensively the Patriots just didn't measure up on Thursday night to a Bills team that is a Super Bowl contender. New England was just three of 12 on third down. It went 0 for 1 in the red zone. Both are ongoing issues. It's hard to win playing that kind of offense. There weren't enough big plays on defense, either, as Buffalo went nine of 15 on third down. The effort didn't seem great for the Patriots on the night, either. It was a tough night in so many ways with so few plays on either side of the ball.

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