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Top 3 Things We Learned

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


1. Season sweep complete

The Bills were the last AFC East team this season with a chance to sweep the Patriots, a feat that had not been accomplished since the 2000 season. Buffalo put a definitive stamp on their first AFC East title, clinched in last week's win, with a rout of New England by a count of 38-9 to pair with their 24-21 Week 8 win over the Patriots for the season sweep.

But if you ask the players, Monday night was just another success in going 1-0 for the week.

"I think for us, it's taking it one game at a time," said Mitch Morse. "Understanding that our division games are extremely important no matter who we're playing. When you come into Foxborough and play a Bill Belichick team, you know it's going to be a tough battle. I'm just proud of the guys."

In a game that was largely over by the early stages of the second half, the Bills held New England to a single touchdown. Not counting their one-play kneel down at the end of the first half, Buffalo scored points on six of their first seven possessions, with a field goal followed by five touchdown drives.

The season sweep of the Patriots was the first for the Bills since the 1999 season. The last division opponent to sweep the Patriots came in 2000 when the Dolphins and Jets both swept them. It had been the longest streak in the league since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

"It's a blessing to even be a part of such a historic run," said Quinton Jefferson. "I just want to keep it going into next week and even in the playoffs. But it's dope, man. Just, you look around from top to bottom on the roster – offense, defense, special teams – and, man, there's just a lot of talent. This is hands down the most talented roster I've ever been a part of. We've just got to capitalize on the time now. You don't get too many rosters like this and it's hard to keep them, especially with so many young players. So, I mean, right now I feel like everybody's zeroed in and we've got to just take ahold of this moment."

The resounding 29-point margin of victory was the largest over the Patriots since Buffalo's 31-0 shutout of New England on opening day in 2003.

2. Allen-Diggs combo sets records

Early in Monday night's game Patriots' CB JC Jackson made the baseball umpire 'safe' signal when a pass from Josh Allen was just out of reach for Stefon Diggs. Buffalo's top receiver began talking with Jackson on the way back to the line of scrimmage.

"Jackson was saying, 'Don't play with me.' And doing the no fly zone (gesture) and I don't really like that very much," said Diggs. "I don't take to kindly to that. So I told him, 'Relax.' I'm not going to say what else I said to him. So I just told him to relax."

Little did Jackson know that Diggs was about to take over the game.

Allen would target Diggs on the first two plays of the team's next possession. The first, a 17-yard pickup on a pass to the left. On the next play, Allen let Gabriel Davis run the deep post to see if the safety would carry him deep. He didn't initially, but as soon as he committed to covering Davis deep, Buffalo's QB hit Diggs on a 10-yard crosser with no defender behind him.

Buffalo's dynamic wideout did the rest, racing another 40 yards to the end zone and talking to Jackson and Jonathan Jones, both of whom he beat on the play on his way in for the score.

"That's not typically a play that gets extended that long," Allen admitted. "It was kind of that first window that was kind of closed up. I was looking at Gabe deep and Stef trusted me and kept running his route. I was able to put it on him and he did the rest of his work. That's, in my opinion, the best receiver in the game."

"That's veteran quarterback stuff," said Diggs of Allen's decision making on the play. "If you've seen the play, I'm one on one, but we thought the safety would bite on me and let Gabe (Davis) get over the top. But the safety took a couple steps to me and then ran back over the top to Gabe. So we were trying to get it to Gabe, but the guy ended up bailing out. So Josh hit me in the second window and Josh is really playing some good football and he waited on it. I'm just trying to do my job of getting open and he did the rest throwing me a great ball and I'm just trying to catch them."

So far, so good.

Seven more times in the game Buffalo's QB found Buffalo's top wideout. By game's end Diggs had pulled in nine of 10 targets, including three for touchdowns in a dominant nine-catch, 145-yard performance that helped Diggs set the Bills single-season receiving yardage record.

Moulds' record of 1,368 receiving yards, which had stood for 22 years, was eclipsed after Diggs' 50-yard touchdown play.

"It means a lot to me just because of where I came from, how hard I work, but always kind of keep it in perspective and always keep God in the front of my mind and thank him and then thank everybody that's involved because it's really not an individual thing," said Diggs of the receiving yardage record. "That (record) goes to my quarterback. That goes to my line and goes to my offensive coordinator. Things that happen in my favor I give it all to God so I'm just so thankful for anything and just trying to move forward. We've got another game so we'll just try to keep it going."

Diggs wasn't the only one setting team records on Monday night. Allen with his four touchdown passes broke Jim Kelly's single-season mark for touchdown passes of 33 set in 1991. Allen now has 34 passing, eight rushing and one receiving touchdown on the season for a total of 43.

Allen also set a team record with his eighth 300-yard passing game, throwing for 320 against the Pats breaking Drew Bledsoe's record of seven set in 2002.

Buffalo's signal caller also threw four touchdown passes in a game for the fourth time this season surpassing the record of three set by Kelly in 1994.

Digg's impact on Buffalo's passing game and on Allen's emergence as a league MVP candidate cannot be overstated.

The receiver's final touchdown catch of the night likely had the greatest degree of difficulty and accurately exemplified how much the quarterback and receiver are on the same wavelength.

Allen rolled out left after the pocket collapsed on a first-and-goal from the Patriots eight-yard line. Diggs ran across the back of the end zone toward Allen's side of the field. Buffalo's QB fired a dart low to the back left corner of the end zone and Diggs expertly slid underneath it to make the catch for his third scoring play.

"Josh, he can scramble around, he can make plays," said Diggs. "He can make every throw so we were just slowly getting on the same page and just taking what they give us. And some plays started to pop and we started balling."

When I asked Allen if he made that play to Diggs off script, the Bills QB played coy saying he can't reveal all their secrets.

"I think the results kind of speak for themselves, the way that we're kind of able to ad-lib some plays, trust him to get open, and him trusting me in getting the ball there," said Allen. "It was amazing to watch. Once it left my hand, the way that he was able to go get that ball, it was special.

"Obviously, there's things that we can fix and get better on. There's a few plays that we missed today that I wish we had back. So we'll get in the film room, we'll watch it and fix it."

Diggs shares that feeling, believing they still haven't played their best ball.

If record-breaking performances aren't their best I'd hate to be the playoff opponent that has to defend that duo.

3. Bills aggressive on fourth down

Buffalo came into the game as the most successful third down conversion team in the league. But in the first half when the Bills offense was stopped short of the line to gain on three separate occasions, head coach Sean McDermott elected to go for it every time.

"In terms of having that confidence to go for it in those situations the guys have executed at a high level," said McDermott. "And that starts during the week with the plan and in the practice and the way they practice."

Facing a 4th-and-5 at their own 35-yard line, the Bills lined up in punt formation, but Reid Ferguson short snapped the ball to Jaquan Johnson, who threw a completion to Siran Neal along the right sideline for 13 yards and a first down.

Four plays later the Bills faced a 4th-and-1 at the Patriots 43-yard line and this time they chose to keep their offense on the field. Josh Allen then proceeded to take a designed quarterback run off right tackle and picked up 22 yards after drawing the Patriots offsides to set up a 1st-and-10 at the New England 21.

Four plays later Buffalo was in the end zone on a five-yard touchdown run by Zack Moss.

On their ensuing possession the Bills were again faced with a fourth down situation. On a 4th-and-2 at the Patriots 43, Allen found Dawson Knox behind the second level of the defense for a 12-yard pickup to move the sticks again and extend another Buffalo scoring drive as Lee Smith pulled in a four-yard touchdown pass five plays later.

"Yeah, we love it," said Jon Feliciano, when they're given the chance to convert on fourth down. "We've got to make sure that when he does let us go for it that we come through for him. I think we're at our best offensively when we're attacking. And that's what we did."

Buffalo is now 8 for 10 on fourth down conversions on the season. That vaults them up to second in the league in fourth down conversion percentage at 80 percent behind only Miami at 87.5 percent.

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