FOXBORO — Boos rained down on the Patriots as empty possessions piled up one too many late in the fourth quarter, and the reality set in on another brutal loss to a division rival that continued to own them.
As the final seconds waned, Patriots fans mostly cleared out, Bills fans took over the lower bowl of Gillette Stadium, and they let their voices be heard with chants down the exit ramps well after their team’s 24-10 win over the inferior Patriots.
On the field, the Patriots’ frustrations hit a crescendo as Mac Jones appeared to let out some grievances toward offensive coordinator Matt Patricia on the sidelines. The Bills had, once again, flustered Jones’ offense.
A year ago, the Patriots went into Buffalo in a historically windy game and established the run in a 14-10 win. The Bills haven’t let it happen again. Not in their blowout playoff victory in January, and certainly not on Thursday night.
“We knew what type of game it was going to be,” Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson said. “Those guys wanted to run the ball, run the ball like they did last year because it was windy and stuff. We knew we just had to stop the run.”
The Bills executed their game plan and, with the benefit of an early lead, forced the ball into the right hand of Jones, who was unable to generate much of anything offensively beyond his first quarter touchdown pass to cornerback Marcus Jones and a garbage time field goal when the game was out of reach.
Even then, the Patriots had thrown the proverbial white flag. They went on a 17-play, 57-yard drive that included several plays in which Jones ran for his life in the pocket and made desperately failed heaves to the end zone. Down three possessions with less than two minutes to go, the Patriots just opted for a field goal.
The game was lost well before then, but represented the hopelessness they operated for much of the night against a Bills defense that dared Jones to beat them.
“That’s why we play the game,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said. “We want to get them in situations where we feel good about it and we want to be able to stop the run and get Mac into a one-dimensional game and try to win the game with his arm. We called a closer, we didn’t have a closer today, so we were trying to get an interception or fumble to end the game, but we held them to three points at the end of the game and got the onside kick. …
“We got it done.”
Multiple Buffalo defenders echoed that message of their plan to make the Patriots offense one-dimensional. They certainly succeeded.
Jones never looked comfortable behind a shaky offensive line as he led the Patriots on six consecutive empty drives while the Bills built an insurmountable lead. They struggled to get much going on early downs, continued their struggles on third down, where they went 3-for-12 and were unable to advance the ball downfield.
Jones was even lucky to escape a turnover. An interception by Poyer in the third quarter was ruled incomplete because he didn’t maintain possession as he landed out of bounds.
Jones simply couldn’t solve the Bills.
“We just knew we had to make them one-dimensional,” Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said. “Obviously we pride ourselves on stopping the run. It wasn’t always pretty, but I think guys did a good job this week of taking accountability towards that and practicing hard and making sure that we had every assignment taken care of. Hats off to the defense, hats off to the guys up front, because that’s the unit to get this defense going.”
The victory was significant for the Bills, who notched their first division victory of the season as they continued to leave the Patriots in the dust. It was even more significant for Lawson, who has spent his entire career playing in the AFC East – with the Bills from 2016-19 before stops with the Dolphins and Jets and then back to the Bills this season – and won his first game at Gillette Stadium on Thursday.
That Patriots mystique is continuing to wear off, too.
“It’s my first time winning at Gillette Stadium,” Lawson said, excitedly. “I just said that, I said I never won at Gillette Stadium. I ain’t never won. This was my first time, so kind of feel good to get a win at Gillette Stadium.”