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NFL

The Bills Pitched A Perfect Game

Josh Allen #17 and Emmanuel Sanders #1 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a touchdown against New England Patriots during the third quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.
Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

On Nov. 18, 2007, the New England Patriots traveled to Buffalo in the middle of what would be a 16-0 regular season. That iteration of the Pats steamrolled almost everyone it came into contact with, and Buffalo was no different: New England scored a touchdown on its first seven drives of the game before adding a fumble recovery touchdown en route to a 56-10 win. History is said to repeat itself, but on Saturday night, the echo of that game 14-plus years ago came back to haunt New England, as Buffalo reversed the result in symmetrical and brutal fashion.

In bone-chilling weather, the Bills romped all over their division rivals, scoring touchdowns on their own first seven drives before the final kneel-downs sealed the team’s Wild Card victory to the tune of 47-17. New England’s defense was helpless to stop Josh Allen and co. in Orchard Park, as Buffalo got whatever it wanted both in the air and on the ground. It was as thorough of a dismantling as can or has happened in a playoff game. In fact, Buffalo is the first team to ever score a touchdown on its first seven drives in the postseason. Even more impressively, they were the first NFL team in recorded history to go an entire game without punting, kicking a field goal, or turning the ball over.

It didn’t look so bad for New England early on. The Bills did march straight down the field for a touchdown on their first drive, but the Pats offense looked solid in response. Mac Jones moved the ball with a 30-yard pass to Hunter Henry and then with a rare scramble for 16 yards that brought New England to Buffalo’s 34-yard line. That’s when perfection met something even better: On first down, Jones uncorked a gorgeous pass to Nelson Agholor, who had a step on his man but not enough free space to deter Micah Hyde, who zoomed over from his safety slot to rip the ball down just before it reached Agholor’s outstretched arms:

It’s hard to say that one single play decided the course of such a colossal ass-beating, but Hyde’s interception and Buffalo’s subsequent touchdown drive seemed to sap all of the hope from New England. At the very least, Bill Belichick did not react to the imminent threat of the Bills’ offensive domination, choosing to punt on fourth-and-1 on the ensuing drive from the team’s own 34-yard line. For the most part, Buffalo’s drives weren’t fueled by huge plays, and their third on the day following New England’s decision to punt was exemplary in that regard: 10 plays, 81 yards, finishing with a three-yard Devin Singletary touchdown run that effectively ended the game halfway through the second quarter:

It got worse for New England before it ever got better. The teams went into halftime with Buffalo up 27-3, the only blemish on a perfect half coming from a partially blocked Tyler Bass extra point. New England received the opening kickoff of the second half, only for Jones to throw another interception after a deflection. You know where this is going by now: Buffalo scored on its next drive, Bass inexplicably missed another extra point, and it was suddenly 33-3. The rest of the game played out in perfunctory fashion. Though New England scored two consolation touchdowns, it never got closer than 23 points, as Allen kept his size 14 cleats directly on the neck of the AFC East’s longest-tenured tormentors.

Speaking of Allen, one of the narratives entering Saturday’s game was that he could not play in the cold. Five games into his below-freezing career in the NFL, he had been somewhat pedestrian, but he blew that narrative away as if it were carried by a gust of Buffalo wind. Allen finished 21-for-25 through the air for 308 yards and five scores, adding 66 yards on six rushes. The big man got whatever he wanted against a clearly overmatched Patriots defense, finding wide open receivers all over the field.

Perhaps more impressive and encouraging for Buffalo was how easily they were able to move the ball on the ground. If there’s a way to slow down this Bills attack, it’s to take the game away from Allen and put it directly in the hands of its running backs. That didn’t particularly work for New England, though. Given Allen’s domination through the air, the Pats couldn’t send extra men into the box, and both Singletary and Isaiah McKenzie got whatever they wanted: The former rushed for 81 yards on just 16 carries, while the latter notched 29 on three attempts and added 45 yards on three catches.

In all, this was an era-defining victory for Buffalo, who exorcised the demons of the last two decades of Patriots dominance with brutal efficiency. Bills fans, as is in their rowdy nature, even got in on the humiliation, throwing a dildo into the end zone during the Pats’ second touchdown. You can’t rub it in better than that.

New England will likely come out of this season with a positive mindset, making the playoffs with a rookie quarterback a year after floundering to a 7-9 season in the opening of the post-Tom Brady era. That will likely not serve as any consolation after getting obliterated by a division rival in the playoffs, though. Instead of an improbable run fueled by the Macpill and their intimidating coach, New England was rightfully sent home by a better team on both sides of the ball. Buffalo now waits to see its fate for next week, but the Bills will surely believe they can beat anyone remaining in the playoff field. With Saturday night as a main point of evidence, I don’t see how anyone can doubt them.