The Buffalo Bills’ defense could have done more.
It wasn’t enough to limit the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots to nine offensive points.
It wasn’t enough to limit Tom Brady to 150 passing yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
It wasn’t enough to limit New England to 74 rushing yards on 23 carries.
And 11 first downs. And 28% (5 of 18) on third down conversions.
The Bills’ defensive players say they could have done more.
“After the game, each and every one of the defensive guys wasn’t sitting down, but was walking around saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t do enough. We didn’t do enough,’ ” safety Micah Hyde said.
“I don’t think you guys (in the media) are going to possibly understand that, because you guys are going to sit here and say how good we played. But ultimately we didn’t win the game and we felt like we could have done more.”
The Bills suffered their first loss of the season, 16-10, Sunday at raucous New Era Field, because it wasn’t enough to hold the Patriots to 224 yards of total offense (an average of just 3.6 yards per play), their sixth-fewest in the Bill Belichick era and fewest since 2009.
It wasn’t enough that Brady muddled through one of the worst games of his career.
His 46.1 completion percentage was his lowest in more than two years, since a Sept. 7, 2017, loss in the season opener against Kansas City.
His 45.9 passer rating was his lowest since a Nov. 5, 2006, loss to Indianapolis, a span of 185 regular-season games.
His average of 3.8 yards per pass attempt was the lowest in a victory in his career.
“Anytime you can do that to a Hall of Fame-caliber player, a generational player like him, it’s pretty good,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “But at the same time, we can’t rest on our laurels with what we did this week. We have to obviously learn where we can make even more plays and get ready for the next week."
Sure, the Bills’ offense committed four turnovers, including three interceptions by Josh Allen, who left the game after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit early in the fourth quarter, and another by backup Matt Barkley, who would have made it five had his fourth-down pass from the goal line not been ruled incomplete on review.
Sure, the Bills’ special teams allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown, accounting for the difference in the final score.
Sure, the Bills had a chance to beat the Patriots in Orchard Park for the first time since 2011, to move into sole possession of first place in the AFC East, to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2008.
If only the defense would have done more.
That was the message in Buffalo’s postgame locker room, which in many respects mirrored the day’s events on the field:
The defense was defiant; the offense dazed.
“We knew they have a great defense,” Belichick said. “They’re well-coached, they’re strong in all three areas, defensive line, linebackers and secondary. They do a great job with their disguise, and are a tough, physical football team. They do a good job. They made it hard on us, like they always do.”
But the Bills didn’t record a sack.
They only hit Brady three times.
They only broke up five passes and intercepted him once, in the end zone.
“Micah had a great interception to keep some points off the board,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said, “but somebody up front, we’ve got to force a fumble, get a sack, find a way just to kind of create some momentum, just to kind of help our offense out.
“That’s our job, is to create turnovers, create short fields and we just fell short today.”
The Bills only forced the Patriots to go three-and-out on eight of 13 possessions, one of which began on Buffalo’s side of the field.
On three other possessions, they allowed a single first down.
And in another instance, the Patriots marched 93 yards in 16 plays, churning 8:19 off the clock.
Sure, that’s the possession that ended with Hyde intercepting Brady in the end zone.
But that accounted for nearly a third of New England’s total time of possession.
“We don’t take pride in moral victories,” cornerback Tre’Davious White said. “Obviously, (Brady) made a few more plays than we could stop and he put his team in a position to win. We’ve got to get a few more three-and-outs and obviously that would help our offense out a little bit.”
The Bills allowed a four-yard touchdown run to Brandon Bolden in the first quarter, after the Patriots started on the 50.
And they gave up a field goal in the third quarter, after the Patriots started on the Buffalo 42 and had first-and-goal at the 7.
Sure, the Patriots had just 25 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.
And all of those points came off turnovers, but “there were some plays we left out there,” safety Jordan Poyer said. “I think the jet sweep, the first touchdown that they ran, we could have played a little bit better.”
The defense could have done more.