Due to the high winds, with gusts reaching 50 miles per hour, the Patriots completed just two of three passes for 19 yards, the fewest attempted passes since the Bills’ two against the New York Jets in 1974, according to the Patriots’ post-game stats.
Not only did the players have the wind — which was strong enough to nearly push ESPN’s gamecast crew off their chairs — to contend with, but the real feel temperature inside the stadium was only in the 20s.
Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones was largely limited to handing off the ball and allowing his teammates to run, with the team rushing 10 consecutive times to begin the game.
“You just have to go out there and do your job, and for us to run the ball like we did was incredible.”
Fans of high-flying passing football would have found the lack of an air game drab, but the focus on running the ball was a throwback to the league’s early days.
Jones’ first pass of the game, a 12-yard completion caught brilliantly by Jonnu Smith, wasn’t thrown until 1:22 was left on the clock in the first quarter. The Patriots QB didn’t throw his second until there was just 6:51 remaining in the game.
Jones’ high number of handoffs — 46 to be exact — drew comedic analysis from the Manning brothers, Eli and Peyton, on the Monday Night Football broadcast. “Do you think he is enjoying playing this game?” Eli asked.
When asked what Jones and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels were taking about, Peyton replied: “Nothing.”
“You see this, nice handoff here, Mac [McDaniels]. Nice job on the quarterback sneak. Nice — leg drive,” Peyton added.
Long run saves the game
While the ball didn’t see much air time and the game was more of a grinding affair, one New England player made sure there was a highlight on the frigid night in Buffalo.
With 5:18 left in the first quarter, Pats running back Damien Harris scored on a career-long 64-yard touchdown, eclipsing his previous personal best of 41 yards set last year at Kansas City against the Chiefs. It was also the Patriots’ longest run since Curtis Martins’ 70-yard rush against the Chicago Bears in 1997.
Harris finished the game with 111 yards on the night but left the game because of a hamstring injury.
The win improves the Patriots’ road record to a perfect 6-0 and moves Bill Belichick’s side to 9-4 on the season, while the Bills, widely considered a Super Bowl contender in the preseason, fall to 7-5.
“What a memorable game that will be for me in my career,” Patriots center David Andrews said, as reported by ESPN.
“One, it’s a win. Two, I don’t know if I’ve ever played in a game where we’ve thrown the ball three times — and I’ve been playing football since I was six years old, so that’s 23 years.”