The Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots met on Sunday in as close to a playoff matchup as you can get in the month of December.
While nothing was set in stone for postseason aspirations, the winner of this game earned the right to the driver's seat in the race for the AFC East crown this season.
When all was said and done, the Bills laid claim to the No. 1 spot in the AFC East standings after downing the Patriots, 33-21 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Coming into the game the Bills were looking to add to their win total coming off of a convincing 31-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. The Patriots were coming off of a 27-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, in which they were held scoreless through three quarters.
The Bills, as a whole, came out of the gates fast. The defense forced rookie quarterback Mac Jones and the Patriots into a three-and-out on the game’s first drive. It ended with Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver getting a sack.
The Bills offense engineered a 13-play, 61-yard drive which lasted nearly seven minutes. They were forced into a fourth-and-goal by the Patriots defense, Bills head coach Sean McDermott elected to leave the offense and the field and was rewarded. Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie caught his first receiving touchdown of the season with the team’s back against the wall.
The Bills ended the first quarter with a 7-0 lead as they held the Patriots scoreless for the remainder of the first quarter. However, the Patriots were able to finish off a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run by Patriots running back Damien Harris on a pitch off the left tackle.
With the game tied, the Bills strung together a 10-play, 68-yard drive that resulted in Bills kicker Tyler Bass drilling has first field goal attempt of the game. This one from 25 yards out to make it 10-7 Bills with 9:01 left in the second quarter.
On the following drive the Bills forced the first turnover of the game. It came thanks to an interception by Bills safety Micah Hyde. Hyde was able to haul in a pass form Jones that was tipped for his fourth interception of the season.
The Bills took over with great position New England’s 33-yard line, and got within one yard of the goal line, but the Patriots forced them into a 4th-and-goal. The Bills elected to go for it as they did earlier in the game, but a pass bounced off Bills receiver Emmanuel Sanders’ hands, and the the Patriots were able to force a turnover on downs.
With just under five minutes left, the Patriots were tasked with driving 99-yards to hit pay dirt. The Bills defense forced Jones and the Patriots to go three-and-out.
3:10 was left in the first half for the Bills offense to capitalize, and that they did. Josh Allen lasered a ball to Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the end zone for the Bills' second touchdown of the game.
The ensuing drive ultimately ended after five plays, in part due to Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which cost the Patriots 15 yards. The Bills got the ball back, and knelt down to end the first half.
The Bills won the coin toss and elected to defer, so therefore received the ball to start the second half. The Bills were able to march down the field little, but the combination of back-to-back penalties against the Bills, and the Patriots defense bending but not breaking, forced the Bills settle for a field goal. Bass drilled a 34-yard field goal to make it 20-7 Bills with 9:02 left in the third quarter.
The Patriots responded compiling a 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive to lessen Buffalo's lead to 20-14 (with kicker Nick Folk's extra point). The Patriots tallied two fourth down conversions on the drive that bled 7:21 off the clock, and ended with Harris scoring his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon.
The fourth quarter started with a bang as McKenzie hauled in a 28-yard reception. It was his ninth catch of the day, a career high. The drive ended with Bills running back Devin Singletary pounding it in from one yard out to give the Bills a 26-14 lead with 11:42 left in regulation.
Jones and the Patriots responded by marching 75 yards down the field in 10 plays to score. Harris notched his third rushing touchdown of the day for New England. At that point Harris had amassed 103 yards, three touchdowns on 18 carries.
With 7:37 left in regulation, the Bills were given a chance to put a dagger through the Patriots hopes of coming back. Bills are able to get down the field, then with just under four minutes left, the Bills were faced with a 4th-and-short. McDermott elected once again to leave the offense out there, and he was once again rewarded. Allen ran a bootleg, gaining eight yards when the Bills only needed one.
The Bills faced 3rd-and-10 shortly thereafter. Allen dropped back and found Diggs on a highlight-worthy shuffle pass to get the Bills deeper into Patriots territory. You'll surely see this on SportsCenter in the next coming days.
The Bills then capped of the drive with another unique shuffle pass, this time it was Bills tight end Dawson Knox on the receiving end of this one. With the extra point it gave the Bills a 33-21 lead with 2:30 left in regulation.
Buffalo was able to hold New England scoreless for the rest of the game. Hyde snagged his second interception of the game, as it came on a deep throw into triple coverage from Jones.
- 7-0 BUFFALO: Bills touchdown (6:37) - Josh Allen fires a three-yard strike to Isaiah McKenzie for a touchdown. (Tyler Bass' extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 13 plays, 61 yards, 6:57
- 7-7 TIE: Patriots touchdown (14:28) - Damien Harris scampers into the end zone for a touchdown from 16 yards out. (Nick Folk's extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 13 plays, 75 yards, 7:09
- 10-7 BUFFALO: Bills field goal (9:01) - Tyler Bass' 25-yard field goal attempt is good.
Drive info: 10 plays, 68 yards, 5:27
- 17-7 BUFFALO: Bills touchdown (1:14) - Josh Allen tosses a 12-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs. (Tyler Bass' extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 42 yards, 1:25
- 20-7 BUFFALO: Bills field foal (9:02) - Tyler Bass' 34-yard field goal attempt is good.
Drive info: 14 plays, 64 yards, 5:58
- 20-14 BUFFALO: Patriots touchdown (1:41) - Damien Harris punches the football in from one yard out for a touchdown. (Nick Folk's extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 14 plays, 75 yards, 7:21
- 26-14 BUFFALO: Bills touchdown (11:42) - Devin Singletary finds the end zone with a two-yard touchdown run. (Buffalo's two-point conversion attempt fails)
Drive info: 9 plays, 66 yards, 4:59
- 26-21 BUFFALO: Patriots touchdown (7:37) - Damien Harris breaks free for an eight-yard touchdown run. (Nick Folk's extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 75 yards, 4:05
- 33-21 BUFFALO: Bills touchdown (2:30) - Josh Allen flicks a two-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Knox. (Tyler Bass' extra point attempt is good)
Drive info: 13 plays, 75 yards, 5:07
The Bills will next return to Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park for a bout against the Atlanta Falcons with the AFC East division lead in hand. Kickoff next Sunday is set for 1 p.m. EST with John Murphy, Eric Wood and Sal Capaccio on the call.