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How the 'next man up' mentality helped the Bills defeat the Patriots


This Bills team has seen its fair share of adversity throughout the 2021 season and time and time again they seem to find a way and rise to the occasion. That was true again Sunday afternoon against the Patriots where many players found themselves having to step up and make a big impact for Buffalo. 

Sean McDermott preaches to this team that when someone can't play, whoever is behind him on the depth chart has to be the next man up and take his place without missing a beat. McDermott saw that from his players and coaches in the win against the Patriots. 

"I just think it's a resilient group," McDermott stated. "Never good to see a guy go down on the field or off the field and losing guys due to Covid and losing some coaches due to Covid. I thought it was a very resilient approach by the guys, coaches included."

The one position group that has faced the most adversity this season is the offensive line. The Bills have had players in and out of the lineup all season with multiple linemen having to play multiple positions. Sunday's game marked the eighth different starting offensive line combination that the team has played with in their 15 games so far this season. 

The Bills found themselves continuing to have to shuffle things around on the offensive line after backup lineman Ike Boettger left the game with an Achilles injury in the second quarter. This hit to the Bills' depth led to Spencer Brown moving from left tackle back to right tackle Dion Dawkins playing left tackle and Ryan Bates playing left guard for the rest of the game. 

Dawkins was put on the Covid-19/Reserve list on December 17th and was just taken off on the 25th. This meant that Dawkins hadn't practiced in over a week and he still came in and helped the offensive line keep Josh Allen clean throughout the game. Bills' center Mitch Morse was proud of the effort of his guys today and glad that Dawkins stepped up in a big spot.

"That just shows the professionalism he's brought, especially I think this year to the game," Morse said. "Kudos to him and the rest of the guys for playing great football. We didn't miss a beat. I think we take this time to really feel for our guy, Ike [Boettger]. That's a guy who is kind of silent but deadly. He's been a glue for this offensive line behind the scenes that no one has really seen. That was a shock for us, but Dion did a great job stepping in, and performing at a Pro Bowl level."

The offensive line did not allow a sack for the third time this season and for the first time since Oct. 31 vs Miami. Not only did the Bills' offensive line pass protect well, but their run blocking also was good throughout the game. Allen had 12 rushes for 64 yards and Devin Singletary had 12 rushes for 39 yards and one rushing touchdown.

That well-balanced attack that the Bills have been looking for all season helped the team sustain drives and have five of those drives last five minutes or longer. With wide receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis out of this game due to Covid, other players in the passing game were going to have to step up. Singletary not only ran well but also had five receptions for 39 yards which is his second-highest receiving total of the season. Three of the five receptions the Singletary had moved the chains and gave the team a fresh set of downs which was quite important to get an early lead over New England. 

Singletary means a lot to this offense, and Josh Allen wouldn't want anyone else in the backfield. 

"Devin, I can't say enough how reliable he is," Allen said. "He's smart. If you watch him on any given play, whether he gets the ball or not, he is around the ball. He is helping the pile. He was following the ball in case someone fumbles, he just does everything the right way. He's everything you want in a running back."

The Bills were able to get an early lead thanks to Allen and the Bills' offense executing in the red zone. The Bills went four for seven in the red zone on Sunday with Allen throwing three touchdowns and Singletary rushing one in. Allen now has 101 career touchdowns which rank third in Bills franchise history, and he joins Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the only players with multiple three passing touchdown games at New England against Bill Belichick since 2000.

For all that the Bills had to overcome today, Dion Dawkins is glad that he has #17 behind him and he knows that Allen can help them overcome any deficit. 

"Josh makes a quarter of a billion dollars, you know, Josh is worth every penny of what he is," Dion said. I say that jokingly, but Josh is just one of those guys that, he cares about his teammates. He's an over competitor. You see it. The media, people talk, and Josh just keeps his mouth shut and his head down and just goes out and performs. I wouldn't have expected anything else. Before any game, we can hear his fire in his voice of what was about to happen, and whenever that is, just be ready for a show."

It was definitely a show in Foxborough on Sunday and now the Bills control their destiny with two games left in the regular season. With the Bills (4-1) having a better conference record than the Patriots (3-2), they are currently in the top spot of the AFC East and will have to win out to secure the division title. The Bills hope to get some players back from injury and the COVID list down the stretch. 

Through all the ebbs and flows of the 2021 season, McDermott sees it as a learning experience on how to be a consistent winning football team and Sunday's game was just another example of that. 

"I think we continue to learn lessons with this, in some ways, a young football team and a young leadership group and it's hard to follow up a season like last year with a similar season the next year," McDermott said. "That's part of the challenge and so I'm just very proud of the way the guys have persevered, and the leadership group has stepped up and I felt them, not only off the field but on the field and their play as well."

Micah Hyde had a fire lit under him in Sunday's win

Throughout the week leading up to the Patriots game, Jordan Poyer talked about how the disrespect that their defensive unit was getting only fueled their fire. In Sunday's game, Micah Hyde sure had a lot of fire. After being named a fourth alternate for the Pro Bowl, Hyde came out and had a monster game that helps seal the victory for the Bills. Hyde had six tackles, two interceptions, and two passes defensed. He brought his interception total up to five on the season which ties a career-high he set in 2017. 

Sunday was Hyde's second career game with two interceptions and the Bills safety said after the game that getting takeaways is all he focuses on. 

"Anytime you can get takeaways is huge," Hyde said. "That's what we come out here and try to do. We try to force the quarterback into one dimensional, throwing the football and then from there try to take the ball away."

No punts for the Bills on Sunday

For the fifth time in Bills franchise history, the team did not punt once throughout the game. 

The last time this happened was last October against the Jets, but it happened for the first time in Matt Haack's career. It also marked the first time in Bill Belichick's 392 game coaching career with the Patriots that his defense didn't force a single punt. 

This was a special moment after the game for Haack. Allen was glad the offense was able to execute at a high level and keep Haack on the sideline.

"It was a complete situational football win today and complementary football, Allen said. "The return game looked good and special teams was good. We had no punts today, and Matt Haack came out and he's like, 'We need to get a picture. I've never done that in my career.' So we got a picture for that. So that's pretty cool."