OPINION: Bills hang on for one of their biggest wins this century

If the Bills are going to win their first division title in 25 years, they absolutely had to beat a struggling New England squad

When Cam Newton fumbled and the Buffalo Bills recovered the football with 37 seconds remaining, I yelled probably the loudest I’ve yelled since Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd helped the Bills end their playoff drought in 2017. I also resumed breathing for the first time in about an hour, and I took back most of the bad things I had been thinking about the Bills' defense.

Technically, this was not a must win for the Bills, but in reality it was. The Bills had to prove they could beat New England and this was a golden opportunity. If the Bills couldn’t beat this edition of the Patriots, when would they knock off New England?

With this all important victory, the Bills accomplished a number of things, including burying the Patriots in the division race. Buffalo is now three games ahead of New England in the loss column and they own the head-to-head tiebreaker, at this point. A loss would have hung over this team going forward, but now we don’t have to worry about that.

"Bills Mafia" needed this for their mental well-being. The Bills snapped a seven-game losing streak to Bill Belichick and company and recorded their first home win over the Patriots since Sept. 25, 2011.

The Bills hit the halfway mark of their schedule at 6-2 for the second straight season. They are third in the conference behind the 7-0 Pittsburgh Steelers and 7-1 Kansas City Chiefs. As far as the AFC East goes, we have to start paying attention to Miami, now since the Dolphins are a game and a half back at 4-3.

While the passing game remains the identity and the strength of the 2020 Bills, they showed they can win a game by running the football. Having to adjust on a windy, rainy day in Orchard Park, the Bills ran the ball on 38 of their 57 offensive snaps. They totaled 190 yards, or an average of five yards per-carry.

For the second straight game, Zack Moss showed how he can help the ground game. Moss exhibited power, patience, good vision and cut back ability on the way to 14 carries for 81 yards and his first two NFL rushing touchdowns. Devin Singletary had his best game of the season with 86 yards on 14 carries, and got some tough yards after initial contact.

The rush attack was certainly bolstered by the return of offensive lineman Jon Feliciano who brings toughness and an attitude to that group. His return was even more meaningful when center Mitch Morse was lost for the game on the Bills' first possession due to a concussion. Feliciano took Morse’s spot and the Bills didn’t miss a beat.

On the Bills' first touchdown drive of the game, they ran the ball seven times out of 10 snaps. During the second touchdown drive, there were four run plays out of five, but the one pass was a 41-yard catch-and-run by Stefon Diggs. The Bills' third touchdown drive featured all runs on nine plays, and on the go-ahead and, what turned out to be, the game-winning field goal drive, they ran the ball five-out-of-nine plays.

The Bills did all of that while staying predominately with their three and four wide receiver sets.

By the way, the 24 points were the most scored by the Bills against New England in the last seven meetings. The Bills needed all of them, because the defense really struggled after a good first half against, what is, an anemic Patriots offense. Although you wouldn’t have called them that in the second half.

That is why I had all of those bad, angry thoughts about the Bills defense. They gave up touchdowns on back-to-back Patriots possessions and, once again, showed an inability to stop the run, to get off the field on third down, and to finish off tackles.

Up to the point of the Newton fumble, I thought, for sure, the Patriots were going to produce a game-winning touchdown in the final minute. At the very least, the game was going to overtime. However, defensive tackle Justin Zimmer punched the ball out on that Newton run, safety Dean Marlowe recovered the ball and Bills fans all over jumped for joy.

Would you like one more reason why this victory was so important? The schedule sure looks tougher in the second half of the season.

The next two games are against the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, who both have winning records while residing in the NFL’s best division this season. There is also a game against the Steelers, who look like they could be the best team in the league.

Five of the Bills' remaining opponents currently have a winning record.

On to the second half of the season.

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