BILLS-PATRIOTS QUARTERLY REPORT
Theme: Pats get the ground game going. The Pats matched 55 yards in six plays, all rushes, to the first touchdown of the game.
Not special: The Pats’ TD drive was set up by a poor punt by Matt Darr, 35 yards with a hang time of just 2.9 seconds, to the New England 45.
Key drop: The Bills’ second drive died when Isaiah McKenzie dropped an on-target Josh Allen pass over the middle on a third-and-5 play.
Tough openers: The Bills forced the Pats to go three and out and punt on their first drive. The Bills’ defense has allowed a league-low 14 points on opening drives this season.
Zebra report: Replays showed Sony Michel looked like he was down inside the 1 on his 4-yard TD run. Replay officials looked at it and didn’t overrule the TD call. A strange decision. The Pats would have faced a third-and-goal play.
Lineup note: The Pats made 280-pound Adrian Clayborn inactive for the first time this season in favor of 295-pound Ufomba Kamalu, opting for beef to stop the Bills’ ground run. Kamalu just was promoted from the practice squad.
Theme: No rhythm for the Bills’ offense. The Bills produced only four first downs in the first half and were 1 of 7 on third-down situations.
Matchup watch: The Patriots put Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore on Robert Foster most of the first half and some of the third quarter but not the entire game. Gilmore was respecting Foster’s speed, giving some cushion. Foster caught two passes for 27 yards on Gilmore and was targeted for three incompletes vs. Gilmore.
More not special: The Pats’ second TD drive also was aided by bad Bills special teams. Darr’s fourth punt had a hang time of only 3.7 seconds (the snap OK but not perfect). Julian Edelman returned it 12 yards, and the Pats got another 10 (to their 44) thanks to a 10-yard illegal-block penalty on Buffalo’s Lafayette Pitts.
Key decision: Sean McDermott opted to go for it on a fourth-and-3 play from the Pats’ 24 with 2:28 left in the half. The pass was incomplete. It was the right decision. As Bills coaches have learned for two decades, you can’t beat Tom Brady by kicking a bunch of field goals.
Theme: Bills squander scoring chances. Buffalo was inside New England’s 30-yard line on three possessions and came away with six points.
Hip hurting: Stephen Hauschka, two weeks removed from injuring his hip, missed a 43-yard field-goal try in the first quarter but hit 35- and 41-yarders in the third. The 43-yarder was short, hitting the crossbar. Hauschka has made 42 straight inside 40 yards.
WRs out: The Bills lost Deonte Thompson when he injured his foot or ankle on a pass interference play. The Pats lost Cordarrelle Patterson to a knee injury. Neither returned.
Zebra report: The Bills got a bad break with 10:20 in the quarter on an incomplete pass in the end zone for Isaiah McKenzie. He was bumped in midair by Jonathan Jones before the ball arrived. It should have been pass interference in the end zone.
Second guess: On the next play after the end zone incompletion, Allen had Zay Jones open for a 5- to 7-yard gain at the Pats’ 18. Instead he went to the goal line for contested-ball pass to Logan Thomas. It was a good throw. An elite tight end would have caught it.
Theme: Thirty for 12.
Brady vs. Bills: Brady improved to 30-3 against the Bills with 69 TDs and 24 INTs. It’s the most wins by any QB against an opponent. Tied for second is 26 wins (by Brady vs. the Jets and Brett Favre vs. Detroit). Brady threw for only 126 yards.
Even more not special: Darr had a liner punt with a 4.29 hang time that Edelman caught on the run and returned 25 yards. The next punt was partially blocked by Matthew Slater bursting through the middle. Stephen Hauschka had to abort his extra-point try because it was about to be blocked by Jonathan Jones off the edge.
Finally: The Bills stuffed the Pats’ last jet sweep for a 4-yard loss, with Corey Thompson on the tackle. The Pats ran four previous jet sweeps that gained no fewer than 12 yards.
Strong finishers: The Pats have allowed foes eight points or fewer in 13 of 15 games this year and 27 of 31 the last two years.
Eagles provide help: Philadelphia’s win over Houston means the Pats will be the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs if they beat the Jets next week.