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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills at Patriots | Week 16

Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (15) scores a 53-yard touchdown during Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, December 21, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes
Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (15) scores a 53-yard touchdown during Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, December 21, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes

1. Pats balanced offense proves tough to stop

The Patriots offense didn't light up the scoreboard against the Bills, but their offensive approach was a solid mix of the run and the pass. Tom Brady, who had averaged a completion percentage of fewer than 55 percent over the last five games, was very efficient completing more than 78 percent of his passes. But it was New England's run game that proved most difficult to corral.

The Patriots rushing attack averaged 4.5 yards per carry in the first half and it was instrumental in keeping Buffalo's defense on the field for more than 21 of the game's first 30 minutes.

"Their time of possession was significant," said head coach Sean McDermott. "It's hard to win when you've got Tom Brady on the field as long as he was. We didn't do a good enough job just fundamentally in some areas establishing the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I thought some things were up to our standard and others certainly weren't. Give them the credit. They came up with the win."

In the second half, the Patriots again effectively mixed their play calls using misdirection, screen plays and swing passes to get yards after the catch. They used N'Keal Harry on jet sweeps and their backs also ran hard often slipping off the first would-be tackler for precious extra yards.

"They were able to set some things up with, especially in their 21 personnel group," said Jordan Poyer. "They were able to mix it up a little bit and you know, got some got some pretty good stats but in the end you know they came out and made more plays than us."

Buffalo's defense struggled to tackle with consistency after spending so much time on the field. With the Bills offense unable to stay on the field themselves, it only added to the number of plays their defense had to work to keep the Patriots offense from driving the field.

Three of New England's five scoring drives went for 11 plays or more and each of those three covered at least 75 yards.

By game's end, the Patriots had rolled up 414 total yards of offense and converted 7-of-14 on third down.

2. Josh Allen's deep passing kept Bills in it

He's been criticized all season for his inability to hit the deep ball, but on Saturday in New England, Josh Allen hit on two gigantic long passes that led to two Buffalo touchdowns in the Bills loss to the Patriots.

The first came at the end of the first half when on a 2nd-and-1 from the Patriots 34-yard line when Allen dropped a deep pass over the shoulder of TE Dawson Knox.

"He put it right on the money," said Knox. "The one he threw to me there's no one else that could have made the play. Even the defender didn't have a chance to make a play on the ball so I can definitely see that progression how hard he's worked and obviously it showed up a little bit."

Knox was initially ruled to reach the end zone for a touchdown on the play, but after review was ruled down at the one-yard line. Buffalo would reach the end zone two plays later when Allen found Dion Dawkins on a misdirection play for a touchdown pass. The play allowed the Bills to tie the score at 10 before halftime.

Midway through the third quarter, after falling behind 13-10 to New England, Allen under heavy pressure got a long pass off to John Brown on a deep post that he ran under for a 53-yard touchdown for their first lead of the game (17-13).

"It's a naked, I'm pulling up and I had a guy in my face," said Allen. "I saw 'Smoke' make a really good move, I just let it go up and he made the play. I didn't even see where the ball went. I heard everyone screaming and yelling. It was one that was good to hit because we had been practicing on that play for a while so we could utilize. Smoke made a great play as well."

"We faked the naked you know, I ran the over route we've been doing all week, and then came back across on the double move and you know just a great call with man coverage on that," said Brown.

The 53-yard touchdown was the longest pass play of the season for the Bills.

As much as those plays kept Buffalo in the game, Allen was focused on the plays they couldn't make at the end with a chance to tie the game late at the eight-yard line.

"When we get down there we've got to get it in the end zone," he said. "There's no doubt about that. That's on my shoulders. There are things I could've done differently throughout the game, especially early on taking some early completions. Just try to get into an early rhythm and I didn't do a good enough job of that."

3. Cole Beasley a big help in crunch time

Buffalo's passing game didn't have a whole lot of balanced production aside from the two big pass plays to Brown and Knox, but it did get a whole lot of yardage from Cole Beasley.

Beasley had just three receptions for 51 yards through the first three quarters, but it was enough to make him the busiest receiver on the roster up to that point. And when the fourth quarter came, the slot receiver was at his best.

Beasley pulled in four receptions for 57 yards in the fourth quarter alone helping to put the Bills in scoring territory and a chance to tie the game down 24-17 in the final minutes.

"At the end of the game there looked like he and Josh were kind of on the same page," said John Brown of Beasley. "Most of the time one of us is going to be clicking and you know Beasley you know he kind of put the receivers on his back and he executed and made plays when the ball was thrown to him."

Beasley himself deflected credit on his game-high seven-catch, 108-yard performance.

"I wasn't carrying anything man," he said. "The line was doing a good job up front giving Josh time and he was doing a great job extending plays and giving me as much time to get open so I had a few opportunities and I made them, but it wasn't enough to finish it going down there at the end."

Beasley lamented the fact that the offense couldn't tie the game at the end.

"Yeah, they did a hell of a job in the red zone that last series," Beasley said of the Patriots defense. "They made a lot of plays. We were able to get down there, but we've got to figure out a way to finish it off. That's what good teams do and that's what they did and we didn't."

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