New England Patriots rookie Mac Jones left Highmark Stadium on Monday night as the winning quarterback in a showdown for the AFC East lead with the Buffalo Bills. And the former Alabama All-American needed to throw only three passes to help the Patriots secure their seventh consecutive victory by a 14-10 score.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you run it or throw it,” Jones said, “as long as we win, everyone’s going to be happy.”
· JALEN HURTS WILL REMAIN PHILADELPHIA’S QUARTERBACK, EAGLES COACH SAYS
· RAVENS GET BAD NEWS ON MARLON HUMPHREY’S INJURY
· TUA TAGOVAILOA EFFICIENT AGAIN AS MIAMI POSTS FIFTH WIN IN A ROW
With the conditions at kickoff of 36 degrees and a west wind of 27 mph, the blustery evening in Orchard Park, New York, convinced the Patriots to stick to the ground game.
“We played kind of the way we felt like we needed to play to win,” New England coach Bill Belichick said, “and in the end, we scored enough points. It was a lot of situational football that I thought we, for the most part, handled fairly well. Just got to give the players a lot of credit for being tough, being disciplined, being resilient and dealing with a really good football team and conditions that were somewhat challenging.”
New England gained 222 yards on 46 rushing attempts. Damien Harris had half the Patriots’ total with 111 yards, even though the former Alabama standout had only 10 carries because of a hamstring problem.
Before leaving the game, Harris scored the Patriots’ only touchdown on Monday night on a 64-yard run with 5:18 left in the first quarter. The longest run of Harris’ NFL career was the longest touchdown run for New England since a 70-yarder by Curtis Martin in 1997.
Damien Harris is GONE. 64-yard touchdown! #ForeverNE
📺: #NEvsBUF on ESPNDecember 7, 2021
The Bills did not follow the Patriots’ strategy. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen completed 15-of-30 passes for 145 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Leading by four points, New England turned back Buffalo twice in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.
The Bills had first-and-goal at the Patriots 6-yard line with 9:04 to play but ended up with a wind-affected miss of a 33-yard field-goal attempt.
On its next position, Buffalo reached the New England 13 but was stopped on downs with 1:55 to play.
Monday night’s game was the second game in the past half-century in which a team had no more than three passes. On Sept. 29, 1974, the Bills defeated the New York Jets 16-12 during another windy game at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park without quarterback Joe Ferguson completing either of his passes. Jets quarterback Joe Namath completed 2-of-18 passes for 33 yards with three interceptions.
And there’s been only one other such game since 1950 – a 24-10 victory for Kansas City over the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 20, 1968, in which the Chiefs’ Len Dawson completed 2-of-3 passes for 16 yards.
Against Buffalo, Jones completed 2-of-3 passes for 19 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
“We have a game plan, and, obviously, that changes a little bit with the elements,” Jones said. “But at the end of the day, I think we had the looks that we were looking for to run the ball, and we just kept doing it. Like I said, the offensive line created the holes, and those guys did some tough running, not even to mention the receivers getting in there to block to, so everyone played a role, and it was just great to watch and see everyone have that effort. …
“We knew it was going to be windy. You can’t control it. There’s no on-and-off switch. But you can just go out there and have the right mindset and just understand that everything’s not going to be perfect.”
Jones’ only pass of the first half resulted in a 12-yard completion to tight end Jonnu Smith and a first down at the New England 47-yard line on a field-goal drive.
Jones didn’t throw the football again until the fourth quarter, when he cut loose on back-to-back snaps. The first pass went incomplete. The second was caught by running back Brandon Bolden for a 7-yard gain on a third-and-11 snap.
“It was just a good football game,” Jones said. “It was loud and it was what we expected and it was windy and all of the above, so it was kind of one of those ultimate testers, and we did a great job responding to the test.”
Jones became the fourth rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl Era to start seven consecutive victories, joining the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, the Chicago Bears’ Kyle Orton in 2005 and the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott in 2016. And he joined Roethlisberger and Prescott as the only rookie quarterbacks to win their first six NFL road starts.
In addition to Jones and Harris, 12 other players with Alabama football roots were involved in the New England-Buffalo game:
· Bills defensive end Mario Addison (Tarrant, Troy) played but did not record any stats.
· Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore (Alabama) made one tackle and registered one quarterback hit.
· Patriots defensive tackle Byron Cowart (Auburn) is on the physically-unable-to-perform list and not eligible to play.
· Dont’a Hightower (Alabama) started at right linebacker for the Patriots. Hightower made seven tackles.
· Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings (Dadeville, Alabama) is on injured reserve.
· Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (Auburn) is on injured reserve.
· Patriots linebacker Brandon King (Thompson, Auburn) played but did not record any stats.
· Bills cornerback Siran Neal (Eufaula, Jacksonville State) recovered a muffed punt at the New England 14-yard line with 2:07 left in the first quarter. Buffalo scored on the next play to cut the Patriots’ lead to 8-7.
· Bills safety Josh Thomas (Montgomery Academy) is on the practice squad and not eligible to play.
· Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) was designated as a game-day inactive.
· Patriots punter Corliss Waitman (South Alabama) is on the practice squad and not eligible to play.
· Levi Wallace (Alabama) started at right cornerback for the Bills. Wallace made three tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage.
By improving to 9-4, New England has the best record in the AFC. Buffalo missed its chance to retake the AFC East lead from the Patriots and dropped to 7-5.
New England heads into its bye week and will return to the field on Dec. 18 when it visits the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL’s Sunday night game for Week 15.
The Bills visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
FOR MORE OF AL.COM
’S COVERAGE OF THE NFL, GO TO OUR NFL PAGE
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at i">>@AMarkG1.