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Top 3 Things We Learned

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Top 3 things we learned from Bills vs. Patriots | Week 17


The Buffalo Bills defeated the Patriots 27-21 from Highmark Stadium on Sunday to win their fourth consecutive game and inch closer to solidifying a spot in the playoffs.

The Bills (10-6) now head to face the Dolphins (11-5) next week with the AFC East crown on the line.

Here are the top three things we learned from Buffalo's Week 17 win:

1 — Defense feasts in first quarter

Sunday's game had an ominous start as the Patriots ran back the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. 12 seconds into a must-win game and the Bills were already trailing.

"That sucked, for sure," said LB Terrel Bernard, who watched the play unfold from the sideline.

But the Bills defense turned momentum back in Buffalo's favor with not one, not two, but three forced turnovers in the first quarter alone. Buffalo became the first team since the 2020 season to force three turnovers in the opening quarter of a game.

"When we go out there, we got job to do and we got a standard of how we play defense," Bernard said.

Headlined by a career day by CB Rasul Douglas, Buffalo's defense feasted starting with their first play from scrimmage which resulted in a diving Ed Oliver interception of Bailey Zappe off a deflection from Douglas.

"I read it, but I was on the right side of the tight end and he kind of threw it to the left," Douglas explained. "So, I had to go around him and deflect it up. And then I saw Ed diving for it, I was just happy that he caught it."

For a defensive tackle, Oliver has savvy, soft hands, at least that's what his teammates think.

"But Ed, he got hands, though. Because we be at practice and he be talking about how he could catch and he'd do some of our drills. It looks smooth. So, he got some hands," Douglas laughed.

Buffalo got a field goal out of the first interception to make it 7-3, then the two teams traded punts. But the Bills defense wasn't done taking the ball away and forced two more turnovers on consecutive drives.

This time, Douglas jumped the route and made the interception to set the Bills up at the NE 14-yard line.

"We were in a cover three look and he was a solo corner on the backside," Bernard shared. "And something we had talked about was them isolating (the solo cornerback) and trying to throw the slant into it. And he ended up making the play and picking the ball off."

Josh Allen and Co. took advantage with a touchdown on the ensuing 4-play drive to take a 10-7 lead with 6:37 to go in the first quarter. The Bills never trailed the rest of the afternoon.

"Big time plays early in the game," head coach Sean McDermott said.

Buffalo's third forced turnover resulted in another field goal. Allen said the defense's tenacity early on set the tone for the rest of the day.

"We lucked out and our defense played a heck of a game," he said.

2 — Allen: "Not spinning the way you want"

Allen and the offense as a whole struggled to get into rhythm on Sunday as the Bills QB missed on his first five pass attempts of the game. He went on to finish 15 of 30 passing for 169 yards and an interception but did manage to get two TDs on the ground.

Allen offered an explanation on why he was less effective than usual throwing the ball.

"Just didn't find it that much really early today, coming off the hand," he said. "It's a weird feeling as a quarterback when you're throwing the ball and it's just not spinning the way you want it to spin and just again trying to reset and find those techniques that help you out in the offseason. And just getting back to some of that, so I still got to continue to work on it."

Thanks to short field positions created by the turnovers the Bills were able to grab hold of the lead at the end of the first quarter, though Allen didn't feel like the offense started to get in a groove until the second half.

Allen connected with TE Dalton Kincaid on a 51-yard gain on the third play coming out of halftime to set up an eventual 1-yard TD rush by the QB. Kincaid's momentum-swinging catch was his longest of the season and tied the Bills record for most receptions by a rookie in a single season (65).

"Yeah. I think so," Allen said when asked if that throw sparked the team. "That one felt good coming out of the hand."

Allen's TD rush five plays later marked his 15th touchdown run of the season. He's the 4th QB in the Super Bowl era with a rushing TD in five consecutive games.

Kincaid went on to break the rookie reception record later in the game, cementing a place in Buffalo Bills history.

"He's been extremely consistent, very smart finding zones and doesn't feel like he's a rookie," Allen added. "Getting him more involved downfield is something that we've been looking to do."

3 — Douglas has rare instincts at CB position

It's safe to say that Rasul Douglas has been one of the best midseason acquisitions across the NFL this year. In 8 games since joining the Bills at the trade deadline, Douglas has four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

He said after the game that Buffalo's team-oriented approach has made it a seamless transition for him.

"As One, like we One. That's what I think our identity is," Douglas said.

Douglas had the play of the game with his 40-yard pick six in the second quarter. The CB broke down how that play happened, explaining that the Bills blitzed and he knew Zappe would have to get rid of the ball quickly.

"When we send a weak-side pressure, watching on film, he usually throws it quick to the receiver that's usually on the X," Douglas shared. "So I seen a blitz and I was like, 'he gotta throw it hot or he's gonna get sacked'."

"As soon as I got the ball, I'm like, I gotta try to score."

Bernard helped lead the convoy down the field for Douglas to score and shared postgame what makes Douglas such an important player.

"Just instincts, and film study and just his confidence within himself," Bernard said. "He understands what we're trying to get done and he understands how offenses are trying to attack him more than anything."

Since coming to Buffalo midseason, Douglas has been a massive boost to the team and he's learned that the Bills are as resilient as they come.

"We always fight. I think that we got our identity now and we know what we are capable of doing," Douglas said.

The Bills won their 10th game of the season. Check out the best reactions on the field and in the locker room.

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