By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

FOXBORO (CBS) — The New England Patriots are 3-5 in their home stadium this year. That’s not something that seems possible. Alas, it’s the reality for the team that’s now lost two straight to fall out of first place in the AFC East.

It was an ugly afternoon for the Patriots, who couldn’t stop the Bills’ offense and who came up short on offense. As such, the Four Ups, Four Downs may skew heavily toward the Downs this week.

The write-ups also may be a bit short, as not much needs to be said.

Without further ado.


Damien Harris

Damien Harris (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

Harris was the lone bright spot offensively for New England, rushing for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. It was the first three-touchdown game of his career, and he now has 12 touchdowns this season. That’s fourth-most in the NFL. He also converted two fourth downs on the day.

Fourth Down Offense

The Patriots were dreadful on third down, converting just one of their 10 opportunities. They made up for that some by going 5-for-6 on fourth-down attempts. The one failed attempt was at the end of the game, when Jones essentially threw a prayer toward the goal line while trailing by 12 points.

In addition to Harris’ two conversions, Jones converted another on a QB sneak, and he connected on passes with Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne for two more.

Red Zone Defense?

This one might be a stretch, but in the effort to at least include a third Up, there is the fact that the Patriots kept the Bills out of the end zone on three of their seven red zone trips. One of those resulted in a turnover on downs at the 1-yard line, and the other two led to the Bills settling for field goals.


J.C. Jackson

The cornerback spoke earlier this week about how he’s a lockdown corner deserving of his own island. He followed that up with a rough performance.

While there’s no shame in getting beaten by Stefon Diggs, it nevertheless was back-breaking for Jackson to twice give up passes to Diggs on slants on a touchdown drive before halftime. The first came on a fourth-and-2 and went for 23 yards. Three plays later, on third-and-11, Diggs beat Jackson on a slant for a 12-yard touchdown.

Making matters worse, Jackson rejected a gift offered by Josh Allen when he dropped a pass thrown directly at him in the fourth quarter.

Had Jackson made that pick, he likely would have been able to return it for the go-ahead touchdown. Instead, he dropped it, and the Bills drove 75 yards for the game-sealing score.

Mac Jones

Mac Jones. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A couple of passes were dropped, but the bottom line is that Jones finished 14-for-32 (43.8 percent) for just 145 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Thought not long ago to be the surefire Rookie of the YEar, Jones has thrown two touchdowns and four interceptions over the past three games.

Everything Defensively

The Bills had 428 yards of offense, and they didn’t punt once. That’s an issue. The middle of the field was open all day for Allen to either make easy 10-yard completions or run the ball himself. The defense allowed the Bills to convert three of four fourth-down attempts and half of their third-down attempts. They forced no fumbles and made no interceptions in a game where a turnover might have been what they needed.

The Patriots just couldn’t get the Bills off the field all day long.

N’Keal Harry

The third-year receiver seemed to have been given a bigger role in the game plan, after Kendrick Bourne missed practice all week due to COVID. It didn’t work out. Harry had just two catches for 15 yards on six targets. He dropped a pass that would have gone for a big chunk gain, and a pass thrown in his direction on the very next snap was tipped and intercepted.

Trent Brown, David Andrews, Christian Barmore

You can disagree with the way the NFL calls penalties all you want, but in a bottom-line business, these two offensive linemen committed some penalties that made life difficult for the home team.

Andrews’ didn’t hurt as much, as his taunting penalty prevented the Patriots from getting seven penalty yards after a dirty hit on Jones. The Patriots dealt with that, though, scoring a touchdown two plays later.

Brown’s was more impactful. After Shawn Smith’s officiating crew picked up a flag for a late hit by Jerry Hughes on Jones, Brown was penalized for yapping a bit too aggressively at his counterparts on the Bills’ defensive line.

That moved the Patriots from a second-and-3 near midfield to second-and-18 at their own 32-yard line. They ended up punting instead of potentially scoring before halftime.

Rookie Christian Barmore also committed a tough penalty, jumping offside on a fourth-and-7 for the Bills. Allen ended up hitting Diggs for the 23-yard gain on fourth-and-2, so perhaps the five yards didn’t matter. Still, that type of mistake has been easy to find in most of the Patriots’ losses this season.

Pass Rush

This could technically be filed under the “Everything Defensively” category, but the nonexistent pass rush warrants its own entry. The Patriots just didn’t get to Allen at all. They didn’t have any sacks, and they recorded just four QB hits total — Kyle Van Noy, Kyle Dugger, Lawrence Guy and Christian Barmore registered one apiece. The Bills’ offensive line committed no holding penalties all game, either.

Never was the lack of pass rush more evident than on Allen’s first touchdown pass of the game:

Some of the lack of pass rush appeared to be by design, to try to limit the damage that Allen could do. Didn’t work. Allen ended up with 314 passing yards and 64 rushing yards.

Jake Bailey/Punt Team/Kick Return Unit

The punter isn’t the Patriots’ biggest problem, but Bailey’s dropped off quite a bit since his All-Pro season a year ago. The Patriots could’ve used a boomer after quickly going three-and-out to start the game, but Bailey’s kick was not his best, and the Bills took over at their own 39-yard line. Punting from his end zone late in the second quarter, Bailey got the ball out to the Buffalo 43-yard line, but a 15-yard return gave the Bills possession at New England’s 42-yard line.

Bailey’s final punt of the day came before halftime, and though it went 63 yards, another 15-yard return allowed the Bills to safely get out of trouble before the break.

Keeping an eye on special teams for some hidden yardage, Gunner Olszewski returned two kicks. He took one to the 19-yard line, and another short kick to the 17-yard line.

It wasn’t quite as obvious as last week, when a blocked punt changed the entire game. But special teams left a little something to be desired.

Jonnu Smith

The tight end’s only contribution on the play list was a holding penalty that negated a 19-yard gain on a flea flicker. Smith’s big breakout game as a Patriot has still yet to take place.

The Start

Lastly, we’ll end where the game began.

After the Bills deferred the opening coin toss, the Patriots’ opening drive against a team they steamrolled three weeks ago looked like this:

Damien Harris, no gain
Mac Jones incomplete pass
Mac Jones sacked for loss of 6 yards

The Bills then marched 61 yards for a touchdown drive, facing a third down just twice and ultimately scoring on a fourth-and-2 from the 3-yard line. The Patriots did answer, but for the second straight week they found themselves playing catch-up against a team that hit the ground with more energy.

That’ll need to get cleaned up in a hurry if the team is to capitalize on the seven-game winning streak that elevated them to a certain level in the AFC and raised expectations for this season.