Heading into Week 13 in the NFL, the clear standout matchup was Patriots-Bills on Monday Night Football, as the two AFC East rivals met for the first time this season. The last occasion they collided, also on Monday night, the result was a comprehensive Buffalo victory, 38-9, that improved their record to 12-3 on the 2020 season. But more than a strong victory down the stretch of Buffalo’s most successful year since the early ’90s, that MNF win also felt like the Bills putting a period in 72-point font on the end of Bill Belichick’s reign of terror over their division.
But with a very competent rookie QB in Mac Jones and a beefed-up defense that makes life hell for opposing passing games, the Pats have infuriatingly returned to challenge for the AFC crown (and more!) far faster than anybody expected. This game, then, would not simply be a chance for Buffalo to try for a three-game win streak against New England; it was a legitimate potential conference championship preview, a crucial game in the battle for the AFC’s top seed, and fodder for a whole month of narratives. This was a must-win for both sides if they wanted to claim the mantle of “team to beat” on the road to the Super Bowl.
Or at least, that’s what I would say if the freaking wind didn’t decide to have the rager of the century up in Buffalo on a Monday night. The Patriots survived this one, 14-10, to win their seventh straight and improve to 9-4 (the best record in the conference), but they played something very far removed from a normal football game in gusts that reached up to 55 mph. After watching four hilarious and bizarre quarters that often hearkened back to the days before the forward pass was invented, it’s hard to take anything away from this novelty, except that the Patriots showed off an impressive ability to run the football like it was 1904. God help these teams if they have to play through another one like this before their year is over.
If you didn’t see, here’s how bad the wind was a few hours before kickoff.
And those goal posts did not stop shaking! Look how severely the weather affected Tyler Bass’s missed field goal in the fourth quarter. At 33 yards, it was the shortest miss of his career.
The Patriots had the right idea from the start and took it to unprecedented extremes. Mac Jones, decked out in a SCUBA suit underneath his uniform to combat the freezing temperature, was only called upon to throw the ball once in the game’s first 53 minutes. One time! I swear I’m not making that up. He ended the win 2-for-3 on his passes with 19 yards gained in the air, while New England rushed the ball 46 times for 222 yards, using six offensive linemen on over 60 percent of snaps and forcing the Bills to put depth guys in the box to try and stop them. Most successfully, Damien Harris opened the scoring with a first-quarter toss on a run that sliced through the defense 64 yards to the end zone. I guess, for Jones, this is kind of like a pass.
“We played the way we felt we needed to play to win,” Belichick said after the game. “In the end, we scored enough points.”
The Bills, on the other hand, were more stubborn about clinging to their strengths, calling on Josh Allen to throw the ball 30 times vs. 25 rushes. But Allen’s formidable arm was no match for the pure and noble power of the wind, and the only touchdown the Bills managed came after an early muffed punt that put the ball on New England’s 14. Allen completed just 15 of those 30 passes—his least accurate game since 2019—and particularly as he tried to orchestrate two separate go-ahead drives late in the fourth, the wind foiled his plans by whooshing the ball away from his receivers’ hands. The most evocative of these was probably the out-of-bounds throw to Stefon Diggs by the pylon with two minutes to go—part of three straight incompletions Allen threw in the red zone with the victory on the line.
So are the Patriots actually, already, better than the Bills again? The answer, my friend, is still blowin’ in the wind. All of this nonsense means we’ll have to wait until the Bills and Pats meet in Foxborough on Boxing Day to get a true idea of which is the superior team. Well, probably. Maybe next time they’ll have to play through a rain of frogs.