Patriots commit to run, hold AFC lead, win Wind Bowl in Buffalo
By Joshua Hertz, Sports Director — The New England Patriots(9-4) stuck to running the ball due to strong wind conditions to win at rival Buffalo Bills(7-5) 14-10. While College Football has its official bowl games with prestigious history, today’s unofficial “Wind Bowl” was chaotic and non-traditional. With wind chill making the temperatures feel more than 10 degrees below the actual temperature and winds of 25-45mph with gusts of 50-55mph, standard football was not an option in Buffalo. The Patriots opted to focus on the run game, with quarterback Mac Jones only attempting three passes, completing two for 19 yards. Patriots running back Damien Harris rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown before an injury sidelined him, while Rhamondre Stevenson supplied 78 yards. Despite the wind, the Bills opted for quarterback Josh Allen to pass the ball, as his college experience at Wyoming gave him plenty of games with high wind. Allen passed for 145 yards and a touchdown, but only completed 50% of his passes, many of which were dropped by receivers or broken up by New England’s strong secondary. Allen also led the Bills rushing unit, which struggled to put up big yardage, with 39 yards. In the end, two failed trips to the red zone by the Bills cost them the game, allowing New England to hold their lead on the AFC East and AFC as a whole.
After holding New England to back to back three and out drives, the Bills received a 15 yard punt to set up a drive from the Patriots 40 yard line. After some progress on the drive, Bills running back Matt Breida fumbled the ball during a handoff to give the Pats the ball back. The Patriots broke through on the scoreboard on the next drive, with running back Damien Harris rushing 64 yards for a touchdown and Brandon Bolden rushing to score on the two point conversion. After punting, the Bills got a lucky break when the ball was muffed by returner N’Keal Harry, who didn’t notice the ball hit his facemask, allowing for Buffalo to recover the fumbled ball in the red zone. On the next play, Josh Allen found wide receiver Gabriel Davis for a 14-yard touchdown. The Bills elected to kick the extra-point, and a successful Bass kick brought the game to a 8-7 score.
Early in the second quarter, the Patriots nearly lost the ball early on when Mac Jones threw an interception, but a penalty saved the drive. The Patriots pushed the ball a little bit further through a strong running game, and with the wind behind them set up a 41-yard Nick Folk field goal. The game remained locked at 11-7 going into halftime. In the first half, the Patriots only threw a single pass, the lowest since 1978.
With the wind behind them in the third quarter, the Bills pushed downfield midway through the third quarter to set up a 35-yard Tyler Bass field goal. The Patriots responded with a slow, methodical drive down the field into the red zone going into the fourth quarter.
The Patriots capped off their drive with a 34-yard Nick Folk field goal that the wind wildly pushed but still split the uprights to give New England a 14-10 lead. The Bills responded with a drive of their own, which resulted in a 33-yard field goal attempt into the wind by Bass that went wide right. The Bills got the ball back again with under six minutes remaining in the game, and proceeded to drive down into the red zone, but failed on Fourth and 14 in the red zone to turnover on downs with just under two minutes. From there the Patriots burned the remaining clock to hold on 14-10.
Highmark Stadium’s conditions proved to be challenging, with strong winds over 20 mph making passing difficult and kicking nearly impossible for both teams. Throughout the game, receivers struggled to catch the ball, punts failed to travel far against the wind and soared deep downfield with the wind.
Both teams enter today neck and neck for the AFC East division crown and hope to potentially claim the top spot in the conference.
Ups and Downs
The Patriots entered the game on a 6 game win streak after a 2-4 start to the season. For the Bills, inconsistency has plagued the team, going 3-3 in their last six games entering tonight after starting the season 4-1.
The Patriots(9-4) head into their bye week before a Saturday night Week 15 matchup at the Indianapolis Colts(7-6)
The Bills(7-5) will head south to visit the reigning Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers(9-3) in Tampa.
Featured image by Rich Barnes / USA Today