As Josh Allen is defeated, Bills’ run game evolves. On Thursday, the Bills had their highest rushing totals in three weeks. Although they couldn’t quite reach the same amount against New England, it was another great night on the ground for Bills. They ran for 132 yards on 37 runs and held the ball for 38 minutes against a ball-control sideline team. The Bills were known to throw early in the season in order to create a run game. Recent outings have seen it be much more run-heavy in the beginning, as defenses are lighter in nickels and dime. The Patriots gambled that Allen would not take the easy checkdown yards every single time, and eventually got antsy. The Patriots almost got it right when Allen offered one for free, but Kyle Dugger was unable to grab the prize. The Patriots couldn’t do much on a night where Allen throws touchdowns while hugging and throwing lasers to the face of pressure (the third quarter 19-yarder to Stefon Diggers was just dirt), The Patriots lost the fourth quarter after attempting to kill themselves with a thousand papercuts. However, the Bills’ 15-play 94-yard drive at 8:55 to make it 24-7 was the decisive blow.
The Patriots offense again falls apart. For three quarters at least, the Thanksgiving loss to Minnesota was a bright spot for the Patriots offense. They actually managed to get the downfield pass game going a bit better and reached the 400-yard mark only for the second time this year. Thursday’s loss at Minnesota was a setback, bringing Patriots fans back to their pre-Vikings level of Mac Jones anxiety. You might have believed Jones had a good night, completing 22 of 36 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown if you only looked at the box score. The Patriots were down three points and Jones was able to get away with an interception worthy throw in the second quarter. We won’t go into the talent versus scheme debate, except to say that Jones and Matt Patricia don’t seem to be on the same page. The Patriots’ last possession in the first half was a laborious one, with 29 yards gained on eight plays and two (2) timeouts for just one (1) yard. The night ended with a missed field goal. It’s obvious that Mac is everything Allen isn’t. Allen can tightrope the sideline, escape a sack and throw a TD. Jones can throw an INT by Jordan Poyer and escape from a bag. Jones could have a better chance if he was throwing to the Bills skill players. The Patriots’ pass catchers are often running bizarre routes and Jones’ off-script limitations make it almost impossible to win against teams like the Bills.
James Cook’s coming out party. Cook was instantly expelled from the Bills’ bench after he fumbled his first NFL handoff in Week 1. Cook had an 11-carry week in Week 2. But Cook was relegated to RB3 duties by the Bills, while Devin Singletary is enjoying perhaps his best season. Cook looked as though he might be left there after Nyheim Hines’ trade, but the Bills believe otherwise. They’ve increased the rookie’s offensive workload. Cook’s farewell party was Thursday night. He set a new career record for carries (14) as well as totaling (105) yards from the scrimmage. Singletary didn’t have a great night, running the ball in the early stages and could not catch either of the passes that were thrown at him. They split the work down to the end, with Cook having more touches (20 to 13), and Singletary leaving less meat on the bones. Cook could be the next RB1? We think Cook will be the 2021 Tony Pollard, Singletary receiving the major touches and Cook providing the life-giving injection.
Marcus Jones … wide receiver? The Patriots are not afraid to get the best out of their players. They also use them in unconventional ways. Think Troy Brown as a cornerback and Mike Vrabel working as tight end. Jones, a cornerback-by-trade, made his offensive debut on Thursday night. Jones was able to catch a quick screen and convert it into a 48 yard touchdown. This gave the Patriots an early lead. This was Jones’ second longest pass play of New England’s Season, just behind Jonnu Smith’s 53-yarder against Browns. Jones would go on to lead Patriots in receiving yards (51). They need every offensive help, especially in big-play (although Tyquan Thornton has been missed). It’s not surprising to see Jones unleashed this way, especially after playing some receiver in college. Now that Jones has proven himself to be an ace returning player who won the Jets second game with his last-minute home call, it’s no surprise to see him do so. It’s amazing to see the value that Jones has brought early in his rookie season. He was one of few bright spots in a very dark night for New England.
The Bills secondary is doing its job but the late Damar Hamlin penalty was too dangerous. Tre’Davious has been welcomed back by the Bills. He played 15 snaps in a warmup last week and then started and played extensively on Thursday night. He was rotated with Dane Jackson and Xavier Rhodes in various combinations. The combination Bills’ defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier tried worked. Jones had a 48-yard catch and run for the Patriots, but the Bills’ corners held Jones’ wideouts down very well for the first three quarters. They then went into soft shell mode. This is a good sign that Buffalo can put up this level of performance, with Kaiir Elam being the healthy first-rounder. It will pay dividends to have more veterans in the secondary, especially when there are so many AFC pass catchers that they must stop.
Next Gen stat of game: Josh Allen’s 8 yard TD pass to Gabe Davis was completed 0.3 yards away from the sideline by Allen — making it the second-closest completion to the sideline in the NGS era. There have been four completions that were released within one yard of the sideline since 2016, and Allen has three.
NFL Research: Josh Allen has now played four regular-season games in New England against the Patriots, with at least two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. This is the highest number of QBs against the Patriots during Bill Belichick’s Patriots tenure (2000-present).