The first two matchups between the Bills and the Patriots this season had very different outcomes with each team winning on the road. It's rare to play a team three times in one season, and it will be the first time for the Bills since they played the Dolphins in the Wild Card Round of the 1998 postseason.
Back in Week 13, the Patriots had 222 rushing yards against the Bills but since then, they've only averaged 136.3 yards per game. On the flip side, the Bills had 99 rushing yards in the Week 13 loss but since then are second in the league with 161.8 rush yards per game.
This emergence of the Bills running game late in the season has been able to keep the offense more balanced and was a factor in their four straight wins to end the season.
"I think when you're able to put the ball on the ground and be productive, especially on first and second downs, it helps your offense," Bills' center Mitch Morse said. "And then if you're being one-dimensional or you can't really run the ball, it just opens the playbook for these coordinators to bring all sorts of stuff that offense linemen hate to see. So do quarterbacks. So even the threat of run helps."
From Weeks 9-13, Devin Singletary had 41 rushing attempts. After the Week 13 loss to the Patriots, his carries went up to 80 in the last five games. Adding that dimension to the Bills offense gets defenses out of their Cover 2 shell that slowed down the offense midway through the season.
After a stretch of going 3-4 from Week 6 to Week 13, the Bills bounced back from that slump and finished the season 4-1. The Patriots went 7-1 in that midseason stretch but finished the season 1-3. These two teams have been trending in the opposite direction since that Week 13 matchup.
Stefon Diggs knows how much of an impact finishing off the regular season on a high note can have in the playoffs. He thinks the run game is peaking at the right time and it's given a boost to the whole offense.
"Being able to just hand it off or run with your quarterback, designed runs, stuff like that takes a lot of pressure off your offense and off your receivers, as well," Diggs said. "I feel like we love it, and it helps us. The run helps the pass, and the pass helps the run. I feel like it opens up some windows for us, it opens up some doors for us, and it'll continue to grow if we continue to build off it."
In the 2021 regular season, the Bills ranked fifth in rushing yards per game (129.9) while the Patriots were right behind them at sixth (129.6). In the first two matchups, Damien Harris rushed for over 100 yards in each game and had four combined rushing touchdowns. In the last two weeks of the season, the Bills defense ranked third in the league – allowing 72 rush yards per game. As the Bills prepare for the third matchup against New England, stopping their rushing attack will be one of the top priorities.
"They're very, very diverse and they got some good running backs," Poyer said about the Patriots running game. "They got good contact balance, run the ball extremely hard. They got a very solid offensive line that blocks well for them. They're able to turn the dial, when one run's not working, they mix it up and go to the next one. So, we're going to have to play well and execute to win."
Sean McDermott was hired as the head coach in Buffalo on Jan. 11, 2017 and the Bills have made four playoff appearances since then. Here's a look back at some of the top photos from his time in Western New York.
The fifth-year anniversary of the hiring of Sean McDermott
Tuesday marks five years since Sean McDermott was hired by the Bills. Since 2017, he has a 49-32 record, with 49 wins being the third-most in franchise history. He has a .605 winning percentage which ranks second only to Marv Levy (.615).
McDermott changed the culture here in Buffalo and turned a team that had a 17-year playoff drought into one that made the playoffs in four out of the past five seasons.
"I'm grateful to be a part of this organization," McDermott said Tuesday morning. "Grateful for the chance that Kim and Terry gave me and my and family to come to Buffalo. And that's really where we're at there, but I'm just one piece of the puzzle here."
Some of the players that he signed and drafted in his first year here - Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Tre'Davious White, Dion Dawkins, and Matt Milano – have turned into integral players for this Bills team.
Their veteran leadership has helped instill his culture into the locker room and has made this team what it is today. Poyer is grateful to McDermott for changing his life by signing him here five years ago.
"It's like forever ago, holy cow, five years," Poyer said. "I mean, to be able to give me the opportunity to come here and to believe in me, trust in me, and really just mold me into the football player that I am today. … Coach McDermott, he's given me nothing but confidence as a football player, and as a person to be able to go out there and execute, do my job on Sundays. He's a great leader."
As the postseason begins, the Bills are a healthy unit. The team held a walk-thru practice on Tuesday and there were only two players on the injury report.
- Efe Obada (Ankle) – Full participant
- Emmanuel Sanders (Knee) – Full participant
"We should be in good shape here," Sean McDermott said Monday regarding the team's injury status.