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Ground attack prevails, Pats make it 7 straight with 14-10 win in Buffalo

Bill Belichick calls in to the Greg Hill Show each morning after the Patriots play. He’s known for his one-liners, but this one has potential for best of all time:

GREG: “How are you doing this morning?”

BILL: “A little run down, but good.”

This was a victory that Bill Belichick, Bob Kraft, the Pats players, and every fan on earth will remember forever. The New England Patriots ran the football a whopping 48 times, and toughed out a 14-10 win over their division rival in the Buffalo Bills. It was certainly not a pretty one; Josh McDaniels only called three passing plays all night, and they relied significantly on the services of Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden, and the offensive line to lead them into the promised land. It was a ground attack in all ways, shapes, and forms. The Pats ran the football for 32 consecutive plays, which was the longest streak of ANY team in the last 40 seasons. And to think the only certainty this year was veteran Brandon Bolden!

Even on a night where wind gusts eclipsed 50 miles-per-hour, Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills still tried to play their run-and-gun game. Allen threw 30 times, but only completed 15 passes for 145 yards (I suppose it’s 126 more yards than Mac Jones did, but I digress). The Pats defense surrendered one touchdown, with the Bills breaking off what felt like the only solid pass attempt of the night which led to Gabriel Davis finding paydirt. Other than that minor blunder, the Pats defense turned in one of their most solid performances of the year.

“Look at the great generals, you exploit your strengths and attack weaknesses,” said Belichick a couple of weeks ago. “If there’s something that you can do well, you want to try to do it. If there is something that your opponent is weak at, you want to try to attack it, and if you can match those up, then that’s a good way of attack.” And sure enough, they delivered.

Adrian Philips had another great performance on Monday night. PIC: David Silverman

Note: we owe a lot of the statistics you see here to ESPN’s Patriots Beat Writer, Mike Reiss, who worked in tandem with the ESPN Stats & Info group and Elias Sports Bureau to dig up a lot of this information. However, we’d be remiss to not call specific attention to these groundbreaking numbers that truly tell the story of how rare this win really was.

History was made.

Credit to ESPN for digging up these statistics, and Mike Reiss for qualifying them:

  • The three passing attempts that New England registered are the fewest in team history. Two completions also matched the franchise’s fewest in a game.

  • Three passing attempts were the lowest of any team since the Bills called only TWO in 1974 against the Jets.

  • Mac Jones only threw one pass in the first half - it was a leaping, one-handed grab by Jonnu Smith. The 1 pass attempt was the lowest in a half on record since Elias Sports Bureau started tracking half-by-half data in 1978. The previous record in a half was only 2 pass attempts, set by the Colts in 2017…in Buffalo, where snow was falling fast.

  • There are only 2 other games that the Pats couldn’t eclipse 2 completions, and both of them came against the Dolphins: December 1982, and November 1969.

6 o-linemen - huh?!

In a game full of statistical anomalies, we’ve got more. The Pats played 61% of their offensive snaps with six offensive linemen - the core group of Isaiah Wynn, Ted Karras, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Trent Brown played each and every snap, and 61% of the time, guard Mike Onwenu came in and reported eligible to round out the efforts. This reinforced the “run-baby-run” game plan and allowed the Pats to do what they do best. In its wake, it was a season low pitch-count for Hunter Henry, who turned in only 15 snaps - a very low 29% of total play on Monday night.

The curious case of N’Keal Harry

This conversation was coming. What on earth was this performance from the former Arizona State standout & first-round pick? Sure, he contributed to some run-block plays, but Harry is routinely causing more harm than good for this team. If not for this muffed punt, the Pats could’ve won this one 14-3, totally out of harm’s way. I would be shocked if Harry is on this team this year.

Nick Folk is automatic.

I hated Nick Folk for many years. He hit too many clutch ones while he was with the Jets (this was the Mark Sanchez era), and was a thorn in the side of the Pats. Now, I get to root for him…and man, it feels good. After a 2-for-2 performance on Monday, Folk is now up to 28 for 28 on kicks inside 50 yards this year. He’s 33 for 36 on the year; that’s tied for most field goals he’s ever made (he hit 33 in 2013 with the Jets). I love seeing Folk revitalize his career when most thought he’d fizzle out and lose his job to Justin Rohrwasser (RIP to the 2019 third-rounder), but he’s proving he’s got a lot left in the tank. Folk is at least a top-10 kicker in the NFL this year.

UP NEXT: The Indianapolis Colts are the next victim. I’ve been an outlier in being very vocal that the Colts are good. I think Carson Wentz is looking more comfortable than he did in Philadelphia, Jonathan Taylor is one of the best RB’s in the league, and the defense is holding up really well. The Patriots cannot do what they did against the Bills and win this game. They need to restore their faith in Mac Jones, trust him to make big plays when they need him, all while playing excellent run defense like they did on Monday. Hammer Pats money line!


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