After three straight wins with Tom Brady’s backups, New England’s luck finally ran out. Jacoby Brissett couldn’t lead a conservative Patriot offense to paydirt in a 16-0 shutout home loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The rookie quarterback failed to follow up his solid Week 3 performance, instead being outplayed by Tyrod Taylor as the Bills took advantage of Patriot mistakes to earn an important early-season win.
Buffalo managed to pinpoint each flaw in New England’s previously unblemished armor. Taylor’s mobility kept the Patriots’ pass rush from bearing down on him in the pocket. That extra time gave the Bills plenty of opportunities to find holes in the secondary. The young veteran made sure to cycle through all his targets to find open men all afternoon, eventually completing passes to eight different receivers in the win.
If it wasn’t Taylor’s ability to extend plays and flip through targets, it was Buffalo’s running game. The Bills gashed the Pats for long gains early in this game en route to 134 yards. While most of the team’s drives stalled out in enemy territory, they churned up the clock and drained the life out of a hometown crowd accustomed to watching AFC East beatdowns at Gillette Stadium.
As good as the Bills were, New England shot itself in the foot plenty of times. The team’s first play of the game was a screen pass to Julian Edelman that saw the Pro Bowl wideout cover approximately 125 yards of turf before being brought down at the Buffalo 1-yard line. It came back to the opposite end of the field thanks to a pass interference call, making the play an especially cruel prank on the Pats’ backup quarterback.
New England failed to convert a third down until the fourth quarter dawned. The team’s first real scoring opportunity was unraveled by a third-down Brissett fumble in the Buffalo red zone. Another drive left Bills territory with zero points after Stephen Gostkowski pushed a 48-yard field goal just outside the uprights. The two-time All Pro has already missed a pair of kicks this season; he missed two in all of 2014.
The most damaging — and surprising —deficiency for New England was the team’s discipline. The Patriots were flagged 13 separate times for infractions ranging from chop blocks to unnecessary roughness. A Nate Solder penalty took his offense from a first-and-10 situation at the Buffalo 47 to a first-and-25 back in its own territory. The team’s first successful third-down play wound up derailed by a pair of flags that eventually forced a fourth-and-19 punt.
It was a constant deluge of mistakes. All it took was two drives for Bill Belichick to start smashing tablets on the sideline.
Now, despite an 0-2 start, Buffalo is looking like a force to be reckoned with. The Bills have defeated two preseason Super Bowl favorites in as many weeks. Sunday’s win against the formerly undefeated Patriots was just their second win in Foxborough since 2001.
Head coach Rex Ryan didn’t just take another battle in his war with Belichick, he may have secured himself another year in upstate New York. His Bills gave up 37 points to an otherwise anemic New York Jets offense in Week 2, placing the boisterous playcaller on the hot seat less than two years into his tenure with the team. Now he can bank on a road win over Buffalo’s biggest division rival to his resume.
And he didn’t just win; he made New England look bad in the process.