Despite the apparent disparity between the Bills and Patriots heading into their Week 17 matchup, there was some belief that New England may play a tougher game than anticipated. Their defense has been a consistent problem for opposing defenses, and they've continued to play hard regardless of what their record says.
That determination to keep fighting even after being eliminated from the playoffs early on has kept them in games for most of the year. It was a significant factor in how the Patriots walked out with the win in their first matchup with Buffalo, and there was hope they could do the same thing on Sunday.
Because it's a late-season game in a hostile environment, that's not exactly what happened. Bailey Zappe was off from the get-go and remained erratic for much of the game. He threw three interceptions, which allowed the Bills to score 17 points, And a fumble by Pharaoh Brown added another field goal to the scoreboard.
It has been the main issue this season with this Patriots team; they can't seem to get out of their own way. This game was far closer than maybe it should have been, mainly because Buffalo scored 20 of their 27 points from basically being handed the football and told to run with it. But that's what makes the game far more interesting.
The Bills are supposed to be the dominant team in the AFC East, but they only scored a single offensively driven touchdown in the third quarter. What would the final score have been if it had not been for the four turnovers?
When speaking to the media after the game, Josh Allen seemed to understand that reality, admitting his team reaped the benefits of the Patriots' mistakes.
“Three possessions down there in the first quarter and we only scored one touchdown. That’s not good enough on our end. We got to be better prepared to go and get six and seven there. We lucked out. Our defense played a heck of a game and we got to just try to find a way to win.”
He's not wrong, and it's nice to see he actually admitted it because his team did not look like the potential winners of the division in this game.
The quarterback went on to credit the defense specifically, mentioning how disruptive they were when trying to read the field, which led to a rough day for a typically poised player.
“I think they did a good job of rushing and just making me feel some stuff at my feet and just got the timing off just so ever slightly and that’s all it really takes. They played good coverage in the back end.”
It was a great effort from the defense, who is hellbent on remaining competitive when other teams would have given up by now with nothing to fight for. But players have lauded playing for pride to end the year, and it seems for some, they're playing for Bill Belichick, who may be coaching his final game in New England next week.
It is undoubtedly a testament to who these players are and how much respect they have for one another. They will be a really fun group to watch next season, especially with Christian Gonzalez and Matthew Judon back in the lineup.