Frank Gore entered some ultra exclusive company Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills’ veteran became just the fourth running back in NFL history to rush for at least 15,000 yards, finishing with 109 against the New England Patriots in a 16-10 loss at New Era Field.
Gore got to the milestone in style, with a 41-yard rush straight up the gut in the second quarter in which he bounced off multiple tacklers. That pushed Gore’s total to 88 yards for the game, exactly the amount he needed to hit the milestone. He joins Emmitt Smith (18,355 yards), Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269) as the only players with at least 15,000 yards. If he stays healthy, Gore should pass Sanders for third place later this season.
“Blessed,” Gore said after the game. “I want to say thanks to all the guys who helped me get it – all my O-linemen, receivers, coaches. I just want to keep playing ball.”
Gore wasn’t in much of a mood for reflection after his team’s loss, but it’s hard not to at least a little bit when joining that type of company.
“It’s big,” he said. “Especially me coming out of college with injuries, two ACLs, a lot of guys doubted me, saying I wouldn’t be in the league three years. I’m still going, still having fun, still having success. It’s a blessing to be mentioned with those guys. It’s guys who I looked at when I was coming up, wanting to be a back. Looking at them kept me wanting to go, you know?”
Gore once again handled the bulk of the rushing load Sunday, as rookie Devin Singletary missed his second consecutive game because of a hamstring injury. Singletary practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, but the Bills elected to give him more time to recover after he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2.
That left the Bills with just two active running backs – Gore and T.J. Yeldon. After losing a fumble inside the red zone last week, Yeldon was not given a carry against the Patriots, although he did catch four passes for 68 yards.
Sunday was a game in which the Bills’ coaching staff deserved to be second-guessed on several occasions. One of those was the failure to give Gore a single carry in the final 10 minutes of the game. The most egregious example came when the team had a first-and-10 at the New England 42-yard line with 9 minutes left. Three Matt Barkley passes fell incomplete, and the team punted.
“It's cool. We believe in our coaches. Whatever our coach calls, we're going to do it,” Gore said. “It ain't just about me. It's about all of us. We kept fighting as a team. I wish we would have got the win, but we didn't. But we're going to clean up our mistakes, hit the ground Wednesday and keep practicing what we've been practicing.”
“That's a great leader right there,” offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe said. “When his number's called, he always steps up to the plate. We just try to lean on him and follow his lead.”
2. Sean McDermott’s record on challenges is downright abysmal. The Bills’ coach lost his first two challenges of the season Sunday. Since being hired in 2017, McDermott has challenged plays 12 times. He got the first one right, but since has lost 11 in a row.
McDermott challenged the spot of the football in the second quarter, hoping to overturn a 1-yard run by James White that gave New England a first down. Officials upheld the play.
In the third quarter, McDermott challenged for offensive pass interference on a 31-yard completion from Tom Brady to Josh Gordon. The Bills were trying to make the case that Patriots tight end Matt LaCrosse set a pick.
“Yeah, that’s what I saw,” McDermott said. “When our player has to deviate like he did, our player is not looking to run a route. I don’t know what else it is after that. I understand one yard, all that type of stuff. But when our player’s here and the player deviates to make sure our playing can’t run through, I don’t know what it is.”
Officials disagreed, again upholding the call on the field.
3. Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins got the attention of some Patriots players with his comments during the week. “It’s really all about us. We don’t care what they’ve done the games before because they haven’t played us yet,” Dawkins said after Wednesday’s practice. “Once they play us and if it doesn’t change then that’s when y’all could start talking.”
Unprompted in the locker room after their win, Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy said the Patriots heard those comments.
“I just wanted to make sure Dawkins knew who we were,” Van Noy said.
4. The Bills continued to rotate veteran Ty Nsekhe and rookie Cody Ford at right tackle. Right guard Jon Feliciano, who left the Week 3 win against the Bengals with a neck injury, started and took every offensive snap.
5. Cornerback Tre’Davious White briefly left the lineup. He appeared to turn an ankle midway through the second quarter while attempting to make a tackle against Gordon. White was looked at on the bench, but quickly returned to the game.
6. Cornerback Taron Johnson, who practiced on a limited basis all week, missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. Like Singletary, he was listed as questionable coming into Sunday. The Bills again used both Siran Neal and Kevin Johnson in Taron Johnson’s place.
Wide receiver Robert Foster was also out for the Bills. He was questionable with a groin injury suffered during Thursday's practice. He practiced on a limited basis Friday. Guard Spencer Long, who suffered an ankle injury in Friday's practice, was also out. He was listed as questionable.
7. Tight end Tyler Kroft (ankle) and linebacker Corey Thompson (ankle) were ruled out Friday. Kroft has yet to play this season as he recovers from foot and ankle injuries.
In his absence, Dawson Knox turned in one of the highlight plays for the Bills this season, making a 21-yard reception as he fell to the turf late in the second quarter.
8. The Bills' only healthy inactive player for Sunday's game was offensive tackle Conor McDermott. Guard Ike Boettger and offensive lineman Ryan Bates, both of whom had been inactive the first three weeks, were in the lineup against New England, but did not get any playing time on offense.
9. Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy attempted to fire up the crowd ahead of the game, He asked his famous question, “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?” Unfortunately, a few minutes later, the answer for Bills fans was likely “anywhere else.”
Levy was part of “Legends” weekend for the Bills. A hundred Bills alumni took part in a pre-game ceremony. According to the team, it was the largest gathering of former players in team history.