4 Observations: Bills win, take over 1st place

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) after his interception during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The Bills went conservative in the wind a few weeks ago and lost to the Patriots but it was a different game plan and result in the rematch. Sean McDermott’s team was aggressive and took the fight to the Pats in Sunday’s 33-21 win. The improved to 9-6 on the season and are now atop the AFC East. Here are my 4 Observations from the win.

  1. Standing O. Hats off to the Bills makeshift offensive line for an impressive performance against a very good Patriots defense. Center Mitch Morse was the only lineman who started and ended the  game at the same position. Spencer Brown started at left tackle and did a very good job in pass protection after struggling last week when he got the emergency start for Dion Dawkins. When Ike Boettger left the game with an Achilles injury, Dawkins entered the lineup at left tackle, Brown switched sides, Bates switched sides at guard, and Daryl Williams went from tackle to guard. Despite the game of musical chairs, the Bills line never missed a beat. They didn’t allow a sack on 47 pass attempts and were able to help establish a more than adequate rushing attack. This new look o-line with Ryan Bates at guard made a strong case to be the starting 5 going forward. 
  1. Might McKenzie. The Bills were missing two of their top wide receivers but the Bills have good depth on the outside and it showed against the Patriots. Isaiah McKenzie stepped up with a career-high 11 receptions and a career-high 125 yards receiving. He entered the game with 7 receptions all season. Several of McKenzie’s catches moved the chains including a crucial 17 yard grab on 3rd and 10 midway through the 4th quarter. That kept the Bills from punting and the drive would eventually end with a TD pass from Allen to Dawson Knox. That drive pretty much ended any chance of a Patriots rally.
  1. Allen’s MVP-type performance. Josh Allen beat the Patriots with his arm and legs, it looked a little bit like the 2nd half of the Buccaneers game. The biggest difference between the Bills and the Patriots is under center. For decades, New England had a big advantage at QB but now the Bills have the quarterback that always seems to make the big play and (at least for now) the Patriots have a complimentary piece at the most important position in the game. Allen finished with over 300 yards passing, 3 TDs, no turnovers, and led the Bills with 64 yards rushing. If Allen keeps playing like that— it’s going to be a fun January and February.
  1. Inside the numbers. The Bills were very aggressive going for it on 4th down going for it 4 times and converting three. The defense held the Patriots to 1-10 on 3rd down. The Bills did not attempt a punt in the game for the 5th time in team history. Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox both hauled in their 9th touchdowns for the season. They are the 2nd duo in team history to reach that mark. Eric Moulds and Peerless Price did it in 2002. The Bills became the first team since 2005-2006 to win in New England in consecutive season.

Josh Reed is an award-winning journalist who has served as News 4’s Sports Director since 2015. See more of his work here.

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