It was what Bills fans expected. It was what Bills fans feared. In the end, it was what Bills fans wanted.
The Bills beat the Patriots 24-21 in Orchard Park on Sunday. It wasn’t the dominant performance Bills fans would have liked, but it was the win the Bills needed.
Division games are tough. It seems they’re always tough. The Bills are 4-0 in the AFC East, and none of the wins was a cake walk. They have return engagements with the Dolphins and Patriots on the schedule; they will be important games, and they won’t be easy.
The cold and the wind and the coaches dictated the style of play. The Patriots can’t throw the ball all over the field, and it was predictable that they wouldn’t let the Bills do that, either. It was ground and pound for the entire game. Both offensive lines won enough of their battles to spring an array of running backs for nearly 400 total yards. It didn’t hurt that both teams had running quarterbacks.
Josh Allen and the guy many people compare him to, Cam Newton, had similar, limited outings. Complete 60% of your throws for seven or eight yards per attempt, one turnover. Allen had a turnover that led to a score, Newton had a turnover that cost the Pats a score.
It was about as even as a game can be. It was the kind of game that good teams win and bad teams lose, and that is exactly what happened. After the Bills had taken the lead late in the fourth quarter, they needed one defensive stop. But the Patriots had had long TD drives on each of their two previous possessions, and now they were marching down the field again. The 2020 Bills just don’t seem to be able to get a stop when they need one, and they weren’t close to stopping Patriots.
Then Justin Zimmer made the play that good teams make to win games.[MK1] On second and ten at the Bills 19, Newton made a nice five-yard run. Zimmer trailed the play, tackled Newton. and drove the ball out of Newton’s grip. Dean Marlowe was there to fall on it, and the game was over.
The Bills are 6-2, the Patriots are 2-5, and the Dolphins are the team that threatens the Bills in the AFC East. Even the Jets are celebrating.
The Bills don’t look like an elite team, but they’re building. The defensive line looked solid if not spectacular. Edmunds showed up to play. Zimmer, Phillips, Oliver, and Hughes all played like the game meant something. Still, it wasn’t a championship defense, not close.
Allen looked like a veteran. He was cool, under control, managed the pocket well and threw well. The sideline completion to Diggs was really pretty. Allen found Diggs and Beasley open repeatedly.
Allen deserved better stats. Davis dropped a sure touchdown, which would have put the Bills up by 7 at the end. (Still, it was another fourth-quarter game-winning drive for Allen.) Based on Diggs’s reactions on the sideline, it looked like the interception was on him, not Allen. If Davis catches the touchdown and Diggs makes the right cut, the Bills would have had a ten-point lead.
Singletary and Moss showed, finally, what had been expected from them from opening day. Pretty as it was to see them pop through holes and do their things in the open field, the biggest change in the offense seemed to be the presence of Jon Feliciano. I can’t say I studied his play (at center, no less, with the Morse concussion), but everything seemed crisper along the offensive line with Feliciano out there.
Tyler Bass could have crumbled in the fourth quarter. That was a pressure kick – not long, but into the wind. Everyone knew this was a big game and this was the kick that could win it. It looked like business as usual for him, routine, a stroll in the park. Maybe he turned a corner last week against the Jets, and now we’re seeing Bass the pro.
Six wins at the halfway point of the season are nice, but not the schedule gets tough. Four more wins should make the playoffs, but if the Bills are going to be a team to be reckoned with, they need to find a way to five or six wins in the second half. That will be tough, but no one said it would be easy. Seattle and Arizona both will be serious tests.
Editor’s babble: Thanks to Mark Korber for his contributions to our blog. I enjoy Mark’s rational summaries and great observations. A great win for the Bills and a step in leaving the past horror shows behind them. You won’t find Mark on Twitter, but you can find him posting on twobillsdrive.com’s Stadium Wall message board.