BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots have lost three straight, falling to 2-4 on the season. They face an absolute must-win this weekend against the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills.
With the Patriots offense currently stuck in the mud, unable to put points on the board with any consistency, a win on Sunday will likely come down to the New England defense. The Pats’ defense hasn’t been playing particularly well either, but they’ve also had to defend a lot more thanks to the bevvy of turnovers the offense has committed over the last three games.
At least the New England defense will be matching up against an offense that has gone a bit cold. Buffalo just snapped its two-game losing streak on Sunday with an 18-10 win over the New York Jets, but they failed to score a touchdown against one of the NFL’s worst defenses. They trailed 10-0 to the winless Jets at one point, before Tyler Bass connected on six field goals to lift Buffalo to a win.
During that two-game skid, the Bills scored just 16 and 17 points against the Titans and the Chiefs, respectively. It has been a real test to score points for Buffalo after averaging over 30 points during their 4-0 start.
But that doesn’t mean the Bills won’t find the end zone in Orchard Park this weekend. Quarterback Josh Allen had an impressive performance against the Jets, completing 30 of his 43 passes for 307 yards while adding a team-high 61 yards on the ground. He did most of his damage in the second half, when he hit on his checkdowns and his receivers turned short routes into big gains.
During his Tuesday morning video conference, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that Allen’s ability to find his secondary receivers has been a big part of the quarterback’s maturity in his third NFL season.
“I think that Josh does a good job of going to some of the secondary outlet receivers based on the coverage, where that takes him and if it’s open he’ll throw it for sure, and if it isn’t then he’s, I would say, not as quick to pull the ball down to run. He finds secondary receivers and outlets and check downs and that kind of thing,” said Belichick. “He’s still a dangerous runner – I’m not saying that. He can run and he does run, but I think he’s become more patient and just does a better job of dealing with outlet receivers in the coverage or secondary receivers in the pattern than he did.
“He can certainly make all the throws. He’s got a great arm and he can run, he’s athletic, he’s hard to tackle. But, I’d say his overall execution in the passing game has improved each of the last three years,” added Belichick.
It helps that Allen has a legit No. 1 receiver this season in Stefon Diggs, who leads the Bills in just about every receiving category. Diggs tops all Buffalo pass-catchers with 48 receptions for 603 yards and three touchdowns through seven games. With eight receptions of 20 or more yards, Diggs has big-play potential every time he touches the ball.
“He’s had a big impact,” Belichick said of Diggs. “He’s really become the go-to guy for them. He’s made a lot of big plays. He’s an excellent receiver, gets good separation, very good hands, really attacks the ball, catches in a crowd, takes the ball away from defenders. He’s done that multiple times. He’s made big plays down the field, catch and run plays in a red area. He’s an excellent player.”
While the Buffalo offense didn’t produce any touchdowns on Sunday, receiver Cole Beasley had a huge game against the Jets. He set a new career-high with 11 catches, tying his career-high with 112 yards in Week 7. Like Diggs, Beasley can also turn short catches into big gains, with seven receptions or 20-plus yards. He leads the team with 179 yards after the catch.
While Buffalo’s once dynamic offense has hit a cold spell, the Patriots’ defense is going to have its hands full as the team desperately tries to snap its three-game skid.
Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Bills matchup on WBZ-TV! Pregame coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay, kickoff is set for 1 p.m., and after the game stay tuned for full reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!