Very few people I know had the Patriots beating the Bills on Thursday night as their pick. I can’t think of a single person who watched that game and came away with a favourable impression of the Patriots.
No, it wasn’t a thrashing in any conventional sense. At the end of the first period, the Patriots held a lead. At halftime, they were down by ten points. They were trying to drive the ball down the field late in the game so that the score would look acceptable.
However, it was all cosmetic. At no point did the Bills look like they were in danger of losing. This game was always under the Bills’ control. The Bills never had any reason for concern.
The Bills maintained their status as the best team in the AFC, which is currently divided into the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills.
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The Patriots proved they are the same team they’ve been all year.
The Patriots’ 3-for-12 performance on third down on Thursday made them one of the worst third-down offences in the league.
The Patriots, who have the league’s worst red-zone offence, failed to score in their lone red-zone possession on Thursday, instead retreating out of the red zone.
The Patriots, who have one of the league’s worst offences, had only two drives of at least 31 yards in total. They had to punt the ball six times, once from midfield in the fourth quarter when they were already down by 17.
Perhaps the Patriots’ decision to punt was meant to show that not even they have faith in their own team. Not if they play the Bills.
That is to say, not much has changed since this time last year.
Of course, the Patriots prevailed in Orchard Park despite a tornado, as Mother Nature evened the playing field. Once the playing field was level, however, Buffalo easily won. At Foxboro, the Bills prevailed 33-21, but in Buffalo, they triumphed 47-17 in the playoffs.
After three punts, a final score of 24-10 could be considered a win for the Bills. Nonetheless, what use does that serve?
The Patriots can’t beat the Bills unless there’s a hurricane or a blizzard. They don’t look like they have what it takes to challenge the Bills. Since Tom Brady left town, Buffalo has a 5-1 record against their former bully.
Last season, New England was competitive enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to go far.
Now? They have finally reached the point where they are merely adequate. It’s a tie, 6-6. They are contending for first place. If they can find some wins over easily defeated opponents in the next few weeks, they should be able to keep that spot for the foreseeable future.
However, until or unless the Patriots demonstrate that they can compete with the real iron of the AFC, it all feels like a case of a team spinning its wheels, making little or no progress where it is needed most.
If you’re just average, that won’t cut it in most situations.
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