It was the New England Patriots‘ first playoff atmosphere since, well, wild-card weekend in Foxboro in 2020. The stakes were at thunderous heights. New England’s Week 13 win locks them in as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, 1.5 games up in the division, while a loss would have put the Patriots back down to No. 5.
Unforgiving wind on the road against one of the best team’s in the NFL, here’s how New England stayed on top.
What Went Right For New England Patriots?
Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson
This lethal duo was rolling again Monday night, carrying New England to a victory. The running game was quite literally the Patriots’ offense as Mac Jones threw the football three times. 222 yards rushing on 4.8 yards per carry when everyone in Buffalo knew the run was coming. The Bills had no answer for Harris or Stevenson. Credit to the Patriots’ run blocking: The O-Line, Jakob Johnson, Jonnu Smith, and N’Keal Harry all contributed strongly to the power running game.
Whether Harris heals up or not should concern many, as he’s going into the bye week with his monster day ending due to a hamstring injury. Harris did stay on the sideline, however. Rhamondre Stevenson stepped up big in Harris’ absence. The Rookie runs with a purpose, always moving after contact, combined with patience and decisiveness.
After giving up over 200 yards rushing last week to a practice squad, New England’s defense made serious improvements. In a game that relied heavily on the run, the Patriots held Buffalo’s running backs to under 50 yards and under four yards per carry. Davon Godchaux’s played his best game as a Patriot, tallying 10 tackles, constantly stuffing anyone in his way.
While the Patriots missed Kyle Dugger’s booming power, Adrian Phillips deserves a superb amount of credit. Holding Tight End Dawson Knox to two catches for 14 yards, Phillips made two of the biggest pass breakups in the game. Phillips did however suffer an injury late after his crucial pass breakup.
What Went Wrong?
It’s going to be the talk all over Boston: N’Keal Harry’s fumble. Just when Harry carves out a reliable role for himself, he made Patriots fans scream at their televisions again. This fumble could have costed New England the game as it led to Buffalo’s only touchdown. What’s more alarming is the decision to put Harry on returns as he has never taken a return in his pro career. In a game with relentless winds, why try Harry now? Safe to say that’s the end of his return career.
The Patriots go into a well-deserved bye week winning seven straight games. New England has a legitimate hold on the No. 1 seed in the AFC and in the division. The Patriots will need to rest up as they soon face a red hot Colts team before they see Buffalo again.
Highest graded #Patriots vs Buffalo (min. 25% snaps)
1️⃣ Trent Brown: 92.4
2️⃣ Davon Godchaux: 85.6
3️⃣ David Andrews: 81.8
4️⃣ Lawrence Guy: 80.3
5️⃣ Adrian Phillips: 76.9 pic.twitter.com/4gJENN41WR
— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) December 7, 2021
Here are the Patriots' PFF Grades this week
— Sam Federman (@Sam_Federman) December 7, 2021
#Patriots rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson since Week 9:
🟩 82.9 @PFF grade (third)
💪 .28 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt (third)
🚛 3.4 yards after contact per attempt (10th)
💨 107.4 elusive rating (second)
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) December 7, 2021
🥇 Trent Brown: 92.4
🥈 Brandon Bolden: 83.3
🥉 David Andrews: 81.8
Other notables (out of 18 players):
16. Damien Harris: 60.7
16. N'Keal Harry: 59.3
18. Mac Jones: 49.1*
* season grade drops from 83.9 to 83.0. Okay then. pic.twitter.com/Bl5mkIh9U3
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) December 7, 2021
(AP photo by Adrian Kraus)