OPINION: Arrow Up/Arrow Down: Bills at Patriots

Buffalo takes over first place in the AFC East with their win

The Buffalo Bills came up with huge 33-21 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday in Foxboro to re-claim first place in the AFC East.

With the Bills earning its ninth win of the 2021 season, we start, once again, with the Arrows pointing Up:

Photo credit Omar Rawlings - Getty Images


Sean McDermott

For the Bills to face the offensive line and wide receiver challenges they did due to COVID-19 issues, then to have to come into Foxboro against one of the greatest coaches off all time, and on top of that know their division title dreams were on the line, McDermott and his whole staff deserve a ton of credit for being as prepared as they were.

Plus, McDermott showed aggressiveness on several fourth down decisions, something he hadn’t really done much of this year. For the most part, they paid off for him and his team.

Brian Daboll

The Bills offensive coordinator put together a great game plan. It reminded me a lot of last year when the offense was playing so well.

He used the whole roster, constantly changing personnel and formations, keeping the Patriots off balance, and called a really good game as a play-caller throughout most of the game.

Leslie Frazier

The Bills defensive coordinator also had a great game plan, matching his team’s personnel perfectly with what the Patriots had on the field.

He used a base 4-3 with linebacker A.J. Klein, their usual nickel with Taron Johnson, and sprinkled in Siran Neal in some big nickel.

Josh Allen

Simply put, it was an MVP-type performance by Allen.

The Bills quarterback put the team on his back and came through in every way possible. Despite having a makeshift offensive line and two main receivers out, as well as playing the top-scoring defense in the league and a Bill Belichick-coached defense on the road, Allen finished 30-for-47 (63.8%) for 314 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

In addition, Allen ran 12 times for 64 yards, giving him 378 total yards on the day.

He was sensational.

Isaiah McKenzie

Just a month ago, McKenzie was a healthy scratch on Thanksgiving night against the New Orleans Saints. But he was pressed into a bigger role on Sunday and gave far more than anyone could have expected.

McKenzie finished the game with 11 catches (on 12 targets!) for 125 yards and the first touchdown of the game, which came on a fourth down call.

It wasn’t just the stats, though. McKenzie made some fantastic grabs, and was also great after the catch to gain extra yards.

Offensive line

The group that was the biggest question mark heading into the game played a terrific, sound game.

Despite being down two guards and having to shuffle players around, then an injury forcing even more shuffling, they did a great job, especially in pass protection, allowing no sacks at all.

Ryan Bates

Bates is normally a backup on the offensive line. The Bills like him, because he can play all five positions up front.

I’m singling him out, because he got his first start as a true offensive lineman on Sunday (he started in Week 4 as an extra lineman on the first play). He even had to switch sides after Ike Boettger got hurt, but he was good and the offense didn’t miss a beat.

Stefon Diggs

Diggs had seven catches for at 85 yards, the fifth time this season he’s had, at least, those totals in both categories. Those numbers aren’t incredible, but he had them with J.C. Jackson mainly guarding him, and came up with some huge catches and yards-after-catch throughout the game.

Devin Singletary

Just like last week, Singletary’s rushing numbers weren’t overwhelming, but he ran really well. He always seemed to get positive yards and make more out of runs than were originally there.

He also contributed a lot in the passing game again, finishing with a matching 39 yards both rushing and passing for a total of 78 yards and a key late touchdown.


Whether it was Singletary on checkdowns or McKenzie or Diggs, Bills pass catchers may have had their best day all season long when it came to yards after the catch. They were constantly adding yardage to plays, either gaining first downs or allowing the next play to be a much shorter distance to gain one.

Long, sustained drives

The Bills had only nine possessions the entire game, partly because they all went so long. Not counting the two end-of-half possessions that were two plays then the clock expiring, they had drives of 13, 10, 7, 7, 14, 9, and 13 plays.

They had five drives that covered 61 yards or more and held the ball for over 35-minutes.

No punts!

For the first time this season, the Bills did not punt the ball one time. It was the first time a team did not punt in a game against a Bill Belichick coached team.

Matt Haack collected a nice paycheck for doing an excellent job holding.

No turnovers

Not turning the ball over is always important. It’s magnified against the Patriots, and the Bills didn’t turn it over once.

Fourth down offense

Piggybacking on the above point, the Bills went for four fourth downs, their most this season, and went 3-for-4.

Third down defense

The Patriots were a lowly 1-for-10 (10%) on third downs in the game.

Pass defense

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones only threw the ball three times in their win against the Bills in Orchard Park. They had to throw more in this game.

The Bills smothered New England's passing game, as Jones finished 14-for-32 (43.8%) for 145 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. It was only the second time this season in the entire NFL a quarterback threw at least 32 times and completed 14 or fewer passes. It was 4.5 yards an attempt, which is incredibly low.

Defense on Patriots tight ends

New England completed one pass to a tight end on the day. That happened to be Hunter Henry for just nine yards.

Marquez Stevenson

The rookie did a really nice job in the return game. He averaged 11.3 yards on three punt returns, including a 31-yard kickoff return. The average drive start for the Bills was their own 32-yard line (for the Patriots it was their own 20), thanks in part to Stevenson’s decision-making and returns

Harrison Phillips

Phillips continued to play his best football of the season, and maybe his career, finishing with six total tackles on the day.

Micah Hyde

Hyde picked off Mac Jones twice, including on a deep ball to seal the game late in the fourth quarter. He also had six total tackles and two pass breakups.

Ed Oliver

Oliver ended the game with four total tackles, a sack, and two quarterback hurries.

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Play-calling on 2nd-and-goal in second quarter

The only real gripe I have with Daboll on the day was his play-calling when the Bills had a 2nd-and-goal from the Patriots' seven-yard line in the second quarter.

Instead of just punching it in with two, or even three-straight runs, he called three-straight passes that all fell incomplete. The Bills came away empty instead of possibly going up 17-7.

Efe Obada

Obada certainly wasn’t the factor he was a week ago on defense. He totaled just one tackle, and had a very costly roughing the passer penalty after the Bills had forced a three-and-out and would have been getting the ball back in good field position.

Allen-to-Kumerow miss

Allen had a wide-open Jake Kumerow on a beautifully designed and, otherwise, executed second down play in the second quarter. It would have been an easy touchdown, but the ball sailed on Allen. Although Kumerow got both hands on it after laying out, he couldn't bring it in.

Those plays have to be converted.

Fourth down defense

While the Bills held the Patriots to just 10% (1-for-10) on third downs, New England was 5-for-6 (83.3%) on fourth downs.

5.5 yards per-rushing attempt allowed

The Patriots ran 27 times on the day for 149 yards. They only had one run of 20 yards or more, but still averaged 5.5 yards per-carry, which is too much.

Back-to-back costly penalties

The Bills were called for five penalties for 45 yards. That’s not bad, but two of them occurred on back-to-back plays in the third quarter that took them from 1st-and-10 at the Patriots' 12-yard line to 1st-and-25 at New England's 27-yard line.

The first was called on lineman Daryl Williams for going downfield on a pass and wiped out a Dawson Knox touchdown. Then Knox, himself, was called for holding, costing a five-yard gain.

The Bills settled for a field goal when they were in great shape for a touchdown.

Red zone offense

More self-inflicted issues in the red zone by the Bills. They converted just 4-of-7 chances (57%) into touchdowns.

Long drives given up

Just like the Bills, the Patriots had plenty of long drives. Three of them went for, at least, 10 plays and, at least, 70 yards. All three resulted in their touchdowns on the day.

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