FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Here are my 10 observations from the Buffalo Bills’ 37-16 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
1. The NFL should be embarrassed about its absolutely baffling rules regarding what is, or isn’t, a catch. Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin should have been credited with a 4-yard touchdown catch at the end of the second quarter. Anyone who watches that play and comes away with a different opinion is wrong. Plain and simple. Complaining about officiating is usually weak, but in this case, the Bills are absolutely right to feel cheated. Every week, it feels like the league has a situation just like this. It’s beyond overdue that they fix this.
2. Bills coach Sean McDermott made a weak call by trying a 50-yard field goal on fourth-and-1 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Say it with me: “field goals don’t beat New England.” Stephen Haushcka missed badly, giving the Patriots the ball at their own 40-yard line. Even if Hauschka made it, the Bills were still going to need a touchdown at some point.
3. I’m not suggesting the NFL is fixed, but I’ll admit the thought entered my mind in the third quarter when Patriots coach Bill Belichick challenged the spot on a failed fourth-down run by Dion Lewis. Overturning the spot of the ball is hard to do, but every Bills fan had to know what was coming. Predictably, Lewis was awarded the first down. It did look like he extended the ball to the first-down marker, but the bigger issue is that replay reviews should not be judgment calls.
4. Safety Jordan Poyer has been one heck of a steal in free agency. His pick-six of Tom Brady in the second quarter, the first of Poyer’s career, was a master class in preparation and execution. Poyer knew exactly what was coming and jumped the route in front of Kenny Britt for the first Brady pick-six in a regular-season game since 2015.
5. Stop. Giving. The. Ball. To. Mike. Tolbert. Yes, Travaris Cadet got hurt in the first half and it’s not realistic to give the ball to LeSean McCoy on every play, but Tolbert is absolutely brutal. There is just no reason for him to touch the ball. … At this point, it feels like McDermott and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison are just trolling us all.
6. Benjamin showed Sunday why General Manager Brandon Beane made the trade for him. After having nine catches for 120 yards in his first four games with the Bills, he had five catches for 70 yards in the first three quarters alone (yes, it should have been six for 74 and a touchdown). His 35-yard reception over Stephon Gilmore at the end of the third quarter was a beauty. It got the Bills in scoring range, but the drive stalled when McDermott called for the field goal.
7. Poyer’s pick-six made it feel for a while like the Bills’ defense was getting it done, but they wilted late. McDermott’s decision to try a field goal stunk, but the defense didn’t back him up when it allowed the Patriots to march down the field for a seven-play, 60-yard scoring drive. The nail in the coffin was a 12-yard touchdown catch by Dion Lewis. The Patriots' running back had just his second career 100-yard rushing game. Lewis set a single-game career high in rushing yards with 129 as the Patriots put the game away with touchdowns on three straight possessions over the end of the third quarter into the fourth.
8. The Patriots had two penalties for 10 yards. That's it. The Bills were flagged four times, but those went for 83 yards. A huge chunk of that came on a 44-yard pass interference penalty against Micah Hyde. In sticking with the theme of the game, the Bills could rightfully feel like they got jobbed on that play, too. Receiver Brandin Cooks didn't appear to know where the ball was and simply ran into Hyde. It was a good play because officials see that and instinctually throw the flag, which is exactly what happened.
9. Logan Thomas was a healthy inactive as the Bills went with Khari Lee as the third tight end. That decision likely comes down to Lee being a better blocker than Thomas. Still, it’s hard not to feel like Thomas has been somewhat of a disappointment this season. He has just seven catches for 67 yards and one touchdown this season on an offense starved for playmakers.
10. The run-heavy lineup meant Brandon Reilly still has yet to make his Bills debut. The rookie receiver, who was promoted to the 53-man roster earlier this month, has been a healthy inactive for the last three games. The Bills went with just four healthy receivers, which looked like it might have been an issue when Deonte Thompson was hurt in the first half. Thompson, though, was able to return a short time later.