The New England Patriots won the weirdest NFL game of 2021. It was the oddest game in recent memory. And it’ll have to go down as one of the strangest games of this decade. The Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills, 14-10, on Monday night. You get it: a bizarre one.
The winds gusted from between 28 and 22 miles per hour. Snow blew sideways at Highmark Stadium in Buffalo. And the Patriots were determined not to throw the football with rookie quarterback Mac Jones, a Jacksonville-native that went to college in temperate Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama. He was 2 of 3 for 19 yards.
The Patriots ran 46 times for 222 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills threatened the Patriots in the fourth quarter with a final drive that faltered on the 18-yard line. Buffalo actually made it to the 13-yard line, but committed a false start penalty that killed their momentum. The Patriots defense bent on the drive but — yes, it’s the old cliche — did not break.
Here are our six takeaways from the game.
An unlikely hero, Myles Bryant, saved the Patriots from letting up a game-tying touchdown
On the Bills’ final drive, they faced a fourth-and-14 and Allen had a receiver open. The quarterback fired the ball that way, but the wind hung the ball in the air, which allowed Bryant to read Allen’s eyes — and cheat off his man — to make the play of the game for the defense.
Bryant had a rough few games with the Patriots, and needed to step up with safety Kyle Dugger on the COVID-19 list and Adrian Phillips suffering an injury. He did just that on the defense’s final snap,
That was insane
The game got rolling with a fumbled pitch from the Patriots and a botched handoff from the Bills. It seemed like the wind was so severe it influenced the RB-QB exchange. That’s bonkers.
There’s no doubt that it influenced the Patriots passing game and play-calling. At halftime, the Patriots ran one passing play and 23 running plays. That one-pass first half meant that the Patriots had the fewest first-half passes by a team in at least 30 years. Also bonkers.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen blasted balls both upwind and downwind, but not to the usual suspects. Stefon Diggs did lead the team with four catches for 51 yards. But Dawson Knox had six targets and two catches. Gabriel Davis was the early go-to target, with two catches for 30 yards and a TD.
The Patriots threw the ball three times in the modern era of passing-centric football — and won, locking up a 9-4 record, continuing a seven-game win streak and taking a massive lead in the AFC East.
Strange decisions were happening everywhere. Receiver N’Keal Harry, for example, was back returning punts despite never fielding an NFL punt in his career. More on that…
Bill Belichick made a terrible decision putting N’Keal Harry into the game as a punt returner
This felt like a moment that Julian Edelman will feature on his segment: What are we doing?!!?! Edelman, now an NFL analyst, rips into players and coaches for making fundamental errors.
Technically, Harry made the mistake on this play, trying to field the punt, deciding not to at the last minute but failing to get out of the way. It’s just a massive mistake. But you can’t blame the guy. He may have been a punt returner in college but he’s never fielded a punt in the NFL.
But Belichick thrust Harry into that role in one of the most challenging games to field a punt in recent memory. It’s just not a good idea. And the results showed as much.
No thank you.
This was a silly game. Let’s revel in the jokes.
The Patriots’ best passing play of the day was pure chaos
You’ve got to love this.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels appeared genuinely upset after Jones’ pass. Was it because he was not supposed to throw the ball? That’s what Peyton Manning thought on the “ManningCast’” on ESPN2.
Either way, the throw was high, which meant that tight end Jonnu Smith had to leap into the air, bat the ball and then juggle it for a catch.
So impressive (by Smith), considering the conditions.