Written by Bobby Greco
The Buffalo Bills had a showdown with division rival and predominant division winner New England Patriots Sunday and there was a lot on the line. Though Buffalo was going into the game with a 5-2 record and was three games up on the Patriots, they still needed to win this game to prove they were ready to take the division over. I can happily say the team rose to the occasion and got the win, though it wasn’t the prettiest win, it was still a win. Coming into this game you knew Coach Belichick would have his team ready and would definitely have a defensive game plan that would give the Bills fits, thankfully Buffalo was able to handle what was thrown at them. This was also a good sign for the offense because it was easily their best rushing game. Defensively Buffalo played well in the first half, but second-half adjustments really got New England’s offense and they made the game very close. So close in fact, that the game came down to the final seconds.
This was clearly a game between two teams who know each other very well and a game where both teams needed to win, though for very different reasons. I feel like both teams were ready for a fight because neither offense was able to take off. Like I already noted, Bill Belichick will always have his defense prepared and it doesn’t matter who is playing. The Patriots were without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore and they were still able to hold Josh Allen to 154 pass yards and 0TDs. That being said Allen was 11/18 and made all his important passes, which was a big factor in the Buffalo victory. The biggest offensive bright spot in this game though was the return of offensive lineman Jon Feliciano from an offseason injury, because he gives Buffalo another very good player upfront and was clearly a force in improving the run game. Buffalo was really having their way running behind the left side of Dawkins and Feliciano, which was refreshing to see and something Buffalo needed. I still think that a fullback would be huge for the Bills run success, but you definitely see more holes opening up with the addition of Feliciano. I also love the presence Feliciano brings on the field because he has a nasty demeanor and reminds me of having Richie Incognito. Both Singletary and Moss ran for over 80 yards, which makes them the third tandem this season to achieve that. I also feel both backs were running with a real purpose because they were always initiating contact and barreling through arm tackles. Moss really had a great performance, because he was the high scorer with two touchdowns in the game. One negative outcome in this game was center Mitch Morse suffered the 5th concussion of his career, that is a very scary number in the big picture of life as Morse is only 28 years old.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were a lot of ups and downs. Overall I think the defense performed better than they have been, but I am still seeing too many missed tackles and open running lanes. Buffalo controlled most of the game and kept the Patriot’s off-key, but they let rookie RB Damien Harris run for over 100 yards and a touchdown. I don’t know what is different from last season, but it really seems like the linebackers are struggling. They have left too many holes open for running backs by not filling their gaps and in the pass game, the middle of the field is always open. I do think the D-Line has played much better the past two weeks, as made evident by Jerry Hughes Defensive Player of the Week. Hughes kept the ball rolling recording another sack, but he wasn’t alone. Buffalo got big contributions across the D-Line, which was seen when Justin Zimmer forced the game-sealing fumble from Cam Newton. Jordan Poyer had another stellar game and it’s time he starts getting the recognition he deserves. Buffalo has a huge challenge next week vs Seattle, so they will need to keep improving and get back to playing the great defense they are known for.
With it officially being the midway point of the season, the Bills are in the driver seat for the AFC East. As long as they keep the momentum going and win the games that they should, I think the team could make a title run. This is another reason that this week’s matchup is a good measuring stick because Seattle is the top team in the NFC and they have MVP frontrunner Russell Wilson lining up at QB.