The New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills at home in Foxborough Saturday, claiming the AFC East crown for the 11th straight season.
Falling into a 17-13 hole in the third quarter, a struggling Patriots offense found a way to make big plays and scored the final 11 points of the game, then made a tremendous defensive stand late en route to a 24-17 victory.
These were the biggest winners and losers from the Patriots’ AFC East-clinching victory over the Bills in Week 16.
Winner: Tom Brady was sharp
Tom Brady has been off the mark for well over a month now, completing no better than 55.3% of his passes the past five games. He’s quite honestly been among the least efficient passers in the league during that stretch. But when he needed to come up big Saturday night against a very good Bills defense, he found his groove.
Brady completed 26-of-33 passes for 271 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, showing a level of precision we haven’t seen in a long time. Combined with a strong run game, Brady’s passing attack kept the Bills off balance all game and was a huge reason why the Patriots won.
Loser: Bills couldn’t run the ball
Overall, the Bills didn’t run many plays on offense because they never found a real rhythm. A lot of that had to do with the fact that Devin Singletary couldn’t find any room to run, which set the Bills up behind the sticks far too often.
New England has a stout run defense, but it’s a unit that’s allowed 4.3 yards per carry this season. Buffalo, however, managed just 3.06 yards per carry outside of Josh Allen scrambling, and Singletary ran for 46 yards on 15 attempts.
Winner: Sony Michel was a workhorse
One of the biggest reasons Brady and the Pats’ passing attack was effective Saturday night is that Sony Michel was relentless on the ground. Buffalo’s defense made him earn every single inch, but despite a strong effort from the Bills the second-year running back continued to churn out positive yardage. Toting the rock 21 times, Michel pounded out 96 total yards on the ground.
Loser: Buffalo’s defense with zero sacks
The Bills have one of the best pass-rushing defenses in the league. They came into Saturday’s game with 42 sacks, tied for seventh in the NFL. On Saturday, this defense came up shockingly empty against Tom Brady, who isn’t exactly Mister Mobile these days.
The Bills did bring the heat a few times and knocked Brady down four times. But their lack of consistent pressure was a major reason why the veteran got back on track with a strong passing performance.
Winner: Patriots own this division, still
The Patriots swept the Bills this year, winning two very tough games against a darn good Buffalo squad. In the process they won the AFC East for the 11th straight time.
Really, considering how mediocre the team’s offense has been this year, and considering how hard it is to stay consistently great in the modern NFL, this is an incredible accomplishment.
It’s debatable whether Bill Belichick and Co. have enough juice to win another Super Bowl at the end of it all this season. But what they’ve accomplished so far is amazing all by itself.