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Hot reads: Bills run and hang on for defining win vs. Patriots

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Bills Patriots fourth

Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (15) has a block during the fourth quarter at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020.

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Sports Reporter/Columnist

This is my 5th decade of NFL coverage. I'm a co-host on SiriusXM NFL Radio & a Pro Football HOF selector. I've authored 10 books about football (including multiple NY Times best-sellers). I'm a past president of the Pro Football Writers of America.

Here are my hot reads from the Buffalo Bills' 24-21 victory against the New England Patriots Sunday at Bills Stadium.

Hottest topic

First, the Bills have firmly established their place as the new kings of the AFC East. At least, at midseason.

The Bills have sole possession of first place in the AFC East for the first time this late in a season since Week 13 of 1996, when they were 9-3. 

Second, they finally were able to find life in their run game, which put them in position for the win that was sealed when Justin Zimmer forced Cam Newton to fumble deep in Buffalo territory with 31 seconds left.

On the Bills' first possession, they ran seven times for 60 yards on a 10-play, 78-yard drive that ended with the first of two Zack Moss touchdown runs.

The Bills finished with 190 yards rushing on 38 carries, an average of 5.0 yards per carry. The total is the most since the Bills had 244 rushing yards against Denver in Week 12 last season. 

Devin Singletary finished with 86 yards and Moss had 81, the first time the Bills have had two rushers with at least 80 yards in the same game since Dec. 24, 2016, with LeSean McCoy (128) and Mike Gillislee (91).

The rushing attack continued to be strong even after center Mitch Morse left the game after the Bills' third play with a concussion. Ryan Bates initially took his place, but then on the Bills' next possession, left guard Jon Feliciano, playing his first game of the season, was moved to center. Ike Boettger took over at left guard.

With the aggressiveness and nastiness of Feliciano's presence, the line was far more physical than in any other game and took advantage of the Patriots' poor run defense.

"He was huge," quarterback Josh Allen said of Feliciano's return. "Relentless effort from him, and you saw that on the first drive, and the toughness he brings, the communication. He stepped up and made some plays for us. ...

"Thoughts are going out to Mitch. You never want to see your teammates got hurt … I’m sick for him and hope he’s feeling OK right now."

On Moss' second TD run, Feliciano and guard Brian Winters dragged and pushed him across the goal line to give the Bills a 14-6 lead early in the third quarter. Josh Allen ran two yards from an empty backfield for the Bills' third touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll deserves plenty of credit for sticking to the run on a windy day and against a team that couldn't stop the Bills' running.

Well done

• The downfield blocking by the Bills, including their receivers, to help John Brown's 21-yard gain on a short throw from Allen on a 10-play, 63-yard field goal drive late in the fourth quarter.

• The Bills making the Patriots pay for an attempted surprise onside kick that failed when an alert Tyler Matakevich recovered to set up the Bills' third TD drive. 

• Jerry Hughes picked up where he left off with his AFC Defensive Player of the Week performance last week against the Jets. He sacked Cam Newton and generally made things uncomfortable for the Pats in passing situations.

• The Bills are at least 6-2 after eight games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992 and '93. The Bills also toppled the Patriots in Orchard Park for the first time 2011 and snapped a seven-game losing streak overall to their nemesis. 

Ice cold

• The Patriots are 2-5 for the first time since 2000, which was Bill Belichick's first year. New England has lost four consecutive games. 

• Gabe Davis allowing a 10-yard pass to go through his hands while the rookie receiver was wide open in the end zone. The Bills had to settle for a 28-yard Tyler Bass field goal to go up, 24-21, with 4:06 left.

• Allen's interception just before halftime that set up the Patriots' second field goal.

• The Bills' defense allowing the Patriots to put together a five-play, 37-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 22-yard Damien Harris scoring run. The Bills also did a poor job in coverage in allowing the Pats to get the two-point conversion that tied the game at 14-14 late in the third quarter.

• Winters' holding penalty on second-and-three that set up a second-and-13, on which Allen threw a 5-yard pass to Stefon Diggs. That set up the third-and-eight on which Allen was picked.

• Ed Oliver's illegal-use-of-hands penalty that kept alive what should have been a stalled Patriots possession, their second of the game.

Settling the table

As if the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs didn't present strong enough challenges, the Bills face another elite opponent when they take on the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday at Bills Stadium.

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Sports Reporter/Columnist

This is my 5th decade of NFL coverage. I'm a co-host on SiriusXM NFL Radio & a Pro Football HOF selector. I've authored 10 books about football (including multiple NY Times best-sellers). I'm a past president of the Pro Football Writers of America.

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