Through all those years of futility, years without division titles or playoff appearances, years without respect, years of frustration, I never thought about a game where the Bills crushed the Patriots. Yes, the Bills did beat the Patriots 31-0 in 2003, but that was before the heart of the drought. I just wanted the Bills to be respectable against the Patriots, win or lose, and I wanted the Bills to win a meaningful game against them.
This season we saw plenty of things that are different about Sean McDermott’s Bills. We saw the process, the commitment, the superb players, the wins in big games. Through it all, it never occurred to me what it might feel like to see the Bills blow out the Patriots in a game that mattered.
The Bills had beaten the Patriots at an important point earlier in the season, but that game turned into a nail-biter and nearly a loss. Monday night, the Bills needed a win again. Granted, there wasn’t a lot on the line, but there was enough. The Bills need wins to secure the number 2 seed in the playoffs, a spot that would allow the Bills to play at home for at least two games, and three if somehow the Chiefs stumble. I’m sure, too, the Bills had some desire to beat the division rival that has been their nemesis for so long, and some desire for a convincing win.
There also was something on the line for the Patriots, it seems. The Patriots played like this game mattered to them. It was evident in their intensity early in the game; the hitting was ferocious. It also was evident when Bill Belichick threw his telephone in disgust after blowing a challenge on the Dawson Knox catch on the sidelines.
Well, I can say now that it feels good to blow out the Patriots. Really good. It feels good to see the Bills get the final points of the first half, not the Patriots. It feels good to see the Bills score a touchdown on the opening possession of the third quarter, not the Patriots. It feels good to see the Bills execute on third down and on fourth down, not the Patriots. It feels good to see the Bills continue to attack methodically when there was plenty of time left but no hope for the Patriots.
It just plain feels good.
Josh Allen was positively Brady-like, starting slowly, getting a feel for the game. He spent the first quarter sizing up the Patriot defense with Brian Daboll. After what was just a few turns around the track, it was “okay, we get this, let’s put the pedal to the metal.”
Three touchdowns on three straight possessions to end the half (not counting the kneel down), and another to start the third quarter. Allen was in complete control, operating behind a line that protected him like he was the GOAT. Game over. How about one more TD on the victory lap? Okay, got it.
I knew so very well how it felt when Brady and the Patriots did it. Now, I know how it feels when the Bills do it.
Allen to Diggs was good early in the season, but these two now seem like they’ve been together for years. Allen trusts Diggs to get to where he needs to be, Diggs trusts Allen to get him the ball. They’re seeing the field together, and what they see looks beautiful.
Diggs had another big night, going 9 for 145 and 3 TDs, including two highlight-reel scores. On the first, Diggs outran his man from left to right across the field, and when the corner on the far side followed Gabriel Davis to the post, the entire right side of the field opened up. Allen saw it and got the ball out to where Diggs could catch it on the run toward the sideline. Once Diggs made the turn up field it was over. 50 yards.
Then on what is becoming their signature play, Allen scrambled out to the left and threw hard, down, and away to a covered Diggs diving in the end zone. It’s one of the most difficult throws to make, and one of the most difficult catches, and they do it like they’re tossing frisbees in the backyard.
On defense, it was about the same. They gave up a big play early, then held for a field goal. They gave up one long second-quarter drive, powered by the Patriots’ running game Then it was lights out. The Patriots had six more possessions in the game: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt.
Matt Milano was the standout defender. Hard hits, solid open field tackles, a sack. The guy was outstanding.
This is classic-team defense. They are so well-schooled, so athletic, and so driven, that they seem to be playing with a couple of extra players on the field. Wherever the offense attacks, there’s a defender with a few more on the way.
The defensive load was lightened by the fact that the Patriots don’t have a quarterback who can throw effectively or receivers who can catch consistently. The receivers dropped a couple of big-gain opportunities, and first Newton and then Stidham missed plenty of open receivers. They were absolutely Bills-like.
The special teams are really good, and Andre Roberts is their poster child. Roberts popped another long return. Bass is kicking off short or long, depending on whether the Bills like their coverage opportunities. The punt coverage is superb – the Bills swarmed downfield to disrupt a fair catch and get an extra 20 yards of roll. They executed a fake punt flawlessly to give the offense the little boost they needed.
Was it perfect? No, Taiwan Jones, Dawson Knox, and Gabriel Davis, it wasn’t perfect, but it was darn good.
And, ooh, it feels so good to say it: The Bills crushed the Patriots!
It will be interesting to see how the Bills play the Dolphins. The Bills rested starters last year and then couldn’t get the job done in the wildcard game; still, resting starters is attractive. On the other hand, a win secures the number 2 seed, and sweeping the AFC East would be satisfying. The Bills need Beasley and Poyer back, but at least they have a week to rest them, if necessary. It’s a tricky spot.
Editor’s babble: It’s been a privilege and honor to have shared this journey throughout the years with Mark Korber. What a time for us old farts to be alive. Many heartfelt thanks to Mark for his insightful contributions to our blog. You won’t find Mark on Twitter, but you can find him posting at twobillsdrive.com’s Stadium Wall Message Board.