This has been a challenging season for the New England Patriots. As they sit at 6-9 heading into the final week of the season, the Patriots will suffer their first losing season since 2000, the year before Tom Brady took over the starting quarterback job, beginning the Brady/Belichick dynasty. They have lost their control over the AFC East, a fact highlighted this past Monday night as the Buffalo Bills destroyed the Patriots 38-9.
The Bills completed the season sweep of the Patriots, making it the first time the Patriots have gotten swept by a divisional opponent since the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets swept them in 2000. The Bills sit at 12-3, demonstrating the division is theirs to control as they are set up nicely to succeed in the coming years. Here is my breakdown of the Patriots’ 38-9 loss to the Bills.
Once again, the offense sputtered, barely gaining over 200 yards of total offense and nine points. On the team’s third drive, the Patriots drove 90 yards for their only touchdown of the game. Outside of this drive, the Patriots gained 111 yards of total offense with only 72 yards in the second half.
Cam Newton had possibly his worst game as a Patriots’ starter with only 34 yards passing before getting benched in the third quarter for Jarrett Stidham. It was Newton’s lowest passing total of the game. Stidham, in his three possessions as the quarterback, threw for more yards than Newton with 44. The Cam Newton experiment was clearly a disaster and they need to move on from this for the future. They need to get a new QB this offseason and for their season finale, they need to start Stidham so they can see more of what he can bring to the team going forward.
The one positive aspect of this game offensively was the solid production on the ground. Sony Michel gained 69 yards on 10 carries and rookie running back J.J. Taylor got his first carries with the team as he burst for a 28-yard gain on their lone touchdown drive. Newton provided their one touchdown as he broke several tackles and ran in for a nine-yard touchdown. Their running game was decent, showing that this can be an effective weapon with a good QB going forward.
The Bills’ offense is fourth in total yards and sixth in points scored. Against the Patriots, they flexed their talent, showing they are a force to be reckoned with in the AFC Playoffs. The Bills scored 38 points, gained 474 yards of offense and Bills’ QB Josh Allen threw for 320 yards. Allen was not sacked once as he looked comfortable all night long. This was one game the Patriots really missed cornerback Stephon Gilmore as Bills’ receiver, Stefon Diggs, torched J.C. Jackson and the Patriots’ secondary. Diggs finished with 145 yards and three touchdowns, proving Jackson has a lot of work to do before he can become a good cover corner, becoming more than just an interception specialist.
The Patriots allowed 130 yards on the ground but with the Bills’ success through the air, that was all the Bills needed. The Patriots all year have struggled to get consistent pressure on the opposing QB, often losing the battle in the trenches. Monday’s game was no exception as the Bills could seemingly do no wrong on offense, looking comfortable as they often marched right down the field on the Patriots. This offseason, signing players to help get penetration into the opponent’s backfield should be a priority.
The punt return game barely got any opportunities to make plays as the Bills only punted twice. The punting game, on the other hand, got a lot of action as punter Jake Bailey punted seven times, averaging 51.7 per punt, putting four punts inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Nick Folk made his lone field goal attempt from 45 yards, bringing his field goal percentage up to 92.6%. However, he missed his second extra point of the season.
The Patriots look to finish their disappointing 2020 season on a high note as they take on the Jets on Sunday.