The Buffalo Bills fell to 6-6 on the season with a 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at New Era Field. Here are my 10 takeaways from the game.
1. Have we seen the end of the Tyrod Taylor Era in Buffalo? The Bills’ starting quarterback was carted off the field with a left knee injury in the fourth quarter. The team quickly ruled that Taylor was out for the remainder of the game. Taylor, who was benched in Week 11, only to get his job back after rookie Nathan Peterman’s five-interception meltdown, was really struggling before getting hurt. He was 9 of 18 for 65 yards and an interception. If Taylor’s injury is long term, it’s likely we’ve seen him throw his final pass with the Bills. The organization made it clear they were ready to move on when they benched Taylor for the game against the Chargers, but coach Sean McDermott really had no other choice but putting him back in after Peterman’s historic struggles.
2. It takes a perfect game to beat the Patriots. The Bills were far from perfect Sunday. Whether it was a dropped pass – like when LeSean McCoy couldn’t hang on to for what would have been a first down in the second quarter – an ill-timed penalty – like when McCoy erased a 23-yard completion from Taylor to Charles Clay in the third quarter with a flag for illegal hands to the face – or a simple missed opportunity when a play was there, the Bills made far too many mistakes to beat New England.
3. We saw more imagination on offense from Rick Dennison on the Bills’ first drive than we have in weeks. Dennison called a Wildcat run by third quarterback/wide receiver Joe Webb to pick up a third and 1 with a 2-yard gain. Later on the drive, Dennison dialed up a shovel pass to tight end Charles Clay that went for a 7-yard gain.
4. Don’t get too encouraged, though. Dennison erased any good he accomplished on that first drive with an absolutely ridiculous play call in the fourth quarter. Facing a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, he asked Peterman to throw a fade route to rookie receiver Zay Jones, who was covered by none other than Stephon Gilmore. That’s a big ask of two rookies. Why not just go to McCoy?
5. Speaking of Webb, he missed a glorious chance to possibly put the Bills ahead when he slightly overthrew running back Travaris Cadet in the second quarter. Go ahead and read that sentence again and let it sink in. That’s a real thing that happened in Week 13.
6. Rob Gronkowski is unfair – in more ways than one. The Amherst native and Patriots tight end made an incredible catch over Bills rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White in the third quarter, perhaps the definitive play to look at when considering his size and strength advantage over defensive backs. In the fourth quarter, Gronkowski delivered a cheap shot on White after the rookie made an interception. That led to a personal foul against Gronkowski.
7. On the same play, defensive end Jerry Hughes took a personal foul for the Bills for abuse of an official. I need to create a save key for that. Hughes’ temper is something that no coaching staff can fix. It’s clear that he can’t keep his emotions in check.
8. The Patriots find new ways to twist the knife. The latest example came when defensive end Eric Lee intercepted Tyrod Taylor to end what was a promising first drive. Lee was plucked off the Bills’ practice squad by New England on Nov. 21. On the Bills’ next offensive play, Lee sacked Taylor for a 5-yard loss.
9. If the Patriots aren’t going to use Mike Gillislee, maybe they can give him back to the Bills. Gillislee, who signed with New England in the offseason, was inactive for the fourth straight game Sunday. After scoring three touchdowns in the season opener against Kansas City, Gillislee has fallen behind Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead on New England’s depth chart at running back. The Bills, meanwhile, were without Mike Tolbert for the third straight game because of a hamstring injury, which meant Travaris Cadet was the No. 2 running back.
10. Bills fans really, really need to stop throwing things on the field. For the second time in a row against the Patriots, a sex toy apparently was tossed onto the playing field. Later in the game, a beer was throw into the end zone. The small percentage of fans who do dumb things like light themselves on fired by jumping through tables give the vast majority of fans a bad name. Some people might be laughing along with those fans who think jumping through tables is a hoot, but most others are laughing at them.