FOXBORO — Damien Harris became the 16th Patriot to have double-digit rushing TDs in a single season, rushed for 100 yards, and scored three touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough.
“We didn’t do a good enough job executing,” Harris said of the Patriots getting points out of just one of their first five drives in eventually losing to the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
“We didn’t do enough of the things that we needed to do, have enough positive plays,” Harris said. The third-year running back totaled 103 yards on 18 carries for his fifth 100-yard game of the season, and the eighth of his career. He scored the first of his three TDs on a 16-yard run 32 seconds into the second quarter, then added a 1-yard TD run in the third quarter and an 8-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
Since 1970, only Curtis Martin (nine in 1995) and Corey Dillon (nine in 2004) have had more than five 100-yard games in a season for the Patriots. John Stephens also had five 100-yard games in 1988.
Harris joined LeGarrette Blount, Martin, Dillon, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Steve Grogan, Cam Newton, Stevan Ridley, Antowain Smith, Horace Ivory, Jim Nance and Tony Collins as the only Patriots players to reach 10 rushing touchdowns in a season. Harris became the first Patriot to reach double-digits in rushing touchdowns since Blount set the team mark with 18 during the 2016 season.
“We didn’t move the ball well enough, score enough points to come out with a win,” Harris said. “No excuses, at the end of the day we didn’t execute. Our job is to score points, we have to figure out a way.”
- Patriots QB Mac Jones finished with just 14 pass completions and a 31.4 passing rating, along with a pair of pass interceptions. “I think every day is a new day and is a learning experience,” Jones said as the Patriots netted just 107 yards and were 0-for-5 on third downs during the first half. “Whether it’s Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, you’re just trying to fix the things that you can fix and then improve on the things that you know what you need to do, like your fundamentals. For me and everyone else, it’s just improve your fundamentals. Then, by the time Sunday comes, you’re just playing the game that you know how to play and have played for a really long time.”
Jones was sacked just once, but had many a hurried or inaccurate throw. “It just goes back to execution, throwing it to the right guy, regardless of the weather. I don’t think there’s any excuses. If the guy is open, you’re supposed to throw it to him and he’s supposed to catch the ball. We’re supposed to move the sticks. The accuracy needs to improve.”
- The Patriots began three of their five first-half drives at the 25-yard line, but could only manage seven points. “Whatever the play call is, go out there and do your job. I didn’t do that early on in the game, I didn’t do it throughout the game. You can’t have successful plays when your quarterback’s not doing the right thing. I have to play better and get the ball to the people that need to get the ball.”
According to center David Andrews, “First down, first play, just getting a positive play, getting the drive going. Second-and-10, third-and-10, that’s a hard way to play the game, and we played that game a little too much. Hard to against a good defense (ranked No. 1 in the NFL) and good football team, play the game in long yardage like that.”
Bills QB Josh Allen threw for 37 TDs last season and has 34 this season, the lone Buffalo QB to have back-to-back 30 TD seasons, and WR Stefon Diggs is the first Bills receiver with over 80 catches and 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. “Running, rollouts, naked (bootlegs), quick game, quick shots. It forces the defense to play all types of situations and really every inch of the grass,” Allen said. “We had a lot of key plays that maybe the game’s different if it goes the other way. We can’t figure out what makes us go in the past. We have to figure out what makes us go in the future.”
While the Patriots were without RB Rhamondre Stevenson (COVID protocol, 465 yards) and WR Nelson Agholor (concussion, 450 yards), the Bills were without two injured WRs, Cole Beasley (76 catches, 640 yards) and Gabriel Davis (29 for 470 yards).
“That’s football,” WR Jakobi Meyers said. “There are going to be some dog days. There are going to be some bad plays, bad possessions. At the end of the day, you’ve got to come in, come into work, and do the best that you can with every opportunity that you have. It’s on each man to contribute to this family.”
New England has a 77-46-1 advantage against Buffalo in the series dating back to 1960, having won 36 of the past 44 meetings.
WR Kendrick Bourne caught two passes for 33 yards to push his season totals to 47 receptions for a personal-best 700 yards. He had 667 yards receiving in 2020 with San Francisco. He needs three receptions to surpass the 49 receptions he had in 2020 for a single-season personal high.
WR N’Keal Harry (two catches for 15 yards) blundered with a wide-open drop of what could have been a 12-15-yard first-down gain out to the New England 45-yard line in the first half. A play later, Jones was intercepted by Micah Hyde, with the ball initially being tipped by LB A.J. Klein. The Patriots survived when Allen’s fourth-down pass to a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders in the end zone went through his arms.
The Patriots converted five of six fourth-down attempts, the first time since 2012 against the 49ers.