AFC East is still Josh Allen’s division
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –Jordan Palmer envisioned months ago a version of the scene that hosted Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen late Sunday afternoon. The most critical moment in the most critical training of the Bills’ most critical game of the season, and whether they would win or lose – whether they would cede the division title to New England – depended on the the way Allen, his student, had handled it. .
“Everything in his world,” Palmer said in early September, “is going to come down to it. “
The final score at Gillette Stadium – Buffalo 33, New England 21 – offered quantifiable affirmation. Never lagging behind, the Bills trampled on New England, avenging their loss in western New York three weeks ago amid tornado squalls, for many reasons – a cohesive offensive line, a day inspired by the Alternate wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, two interceptions from Micah Hyde – but none as important as this: The best player on the pitch on Sunday was Allen, and he was all theirs.
“Josh makes a quarter of a billion dollars,” said offensive tackle Dion Dawkins. “Josh is worth every penny.”
The lucrative six-year contract extension Allen signed in August has piled on him – and the Bills – a specific set of expectations that he and they would at least duplicate, if not surpass, their performance in the League. last season, when they reached their first conference championship game in three decades. To propel them closer to a comeback, Allen positioned Buffalo for a second straight AFC East crown by throwing for 314 yards and three touchdowns without interception and running for 64 more. The Bills have never given a punt.
Excluding their late-game winning lineup, the Bills (9-6) scored on all three possessions in the second half. The final touchdown capped a practice masterpiece, Buffalo’s 61-yard minimum fifth, and it featured Allen at his best.
After New England (9-6) moved closer to 26-21 with 7:37 seconds left, on Damien Harris’ third touchdown of the game, Allen curled up with his offense. The imperative, Allen said, was to score points no matter what. He connected with McKenzie – who finished with 11 receptions for 125 yards and one touchdown – in nearly identical passing plays, converting a third and 10 then getting another first down, before later facing a fourth. and 1 to New England. 34-meter line.
Winning on Sunday would require a certain style, aggressive and ruthless, and both coaches knew it. Bill Belichick of New England, one of the most conservative coaches of the season, has tried six times with a fourth try, converting five. Buffalo’s Sean McDermott was successful four times, converting three.
On the last, on that fourth and 1, Allen dodged a defenseman through the line of scrimmage, cut inside and gained 8 yards. He completed another third and 10 pass, avoiding the rush to return the ball to Stefon Diggs, before two plays later found Dawson Knox for the 2-yard touchdown that secured the win, Buffalo reaffirmed as that contender and pushed them into the No. 4 seed in the crowded AFC If the Bills can win their last two games, at home against Atlanta and the Jets, they will win the AFC East again.
“When you convert them and keep converting them,” Allen said, “what a killer that is for a defense. “
Especially in defense of the Patriots. During their seven-game winning streak that ended last Saturday night in Indianapolis, they had allowed a total of 73 points. They’ve given up 60 over the past two weeks, intimidated first by the Colts, then a Buffalo attack that overcame virus-related absences of two top receivers, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, and a revamped offensive line. who has fielded only one starter of week 1. The Patriots could almost have won the division on Sunday with a victory. Instead, they nearly lost a chance to host a home playoff game, doomed by their inability to hem Allen in the pocket, to keep him from extending games or falling out.
“It’s too late in the season not to play your best football,” said Patriots goaltender Devin McCourty.
All week, the Patriots, who dropped to the No.6 seed, shied away from the past – their neglect against Indianapolis, their Week 13 dominance against Buffalo – but they couldn’t escape their present. Their rookie quarterback Mac Jones missed high, wide and behind, finishing 14 for 32 for 145 yards and two interceptions. They committed two crucial penalties in the first half, including an encroachment on Christian Barmore that turned the Buffalo Fourth and Seven into a more manageable situation. Needing 2 yards, Allen got 23, on a pass to Diggs, then found it three plays later, scoring an 11-yard touchdown that extended Buffalo’s lead to 17-7.
When the teams left the field at half-time, the local audience booed. He booed long and hard, in part because he was most likely expecting a similar outcome to what had unfolded just 20 days earlier, a 14-10 New England win known all over Walpole. to Wenham under the name of the three-pass game. This is the number of times Jones has pitched and had to throw.
This time for the rematch, the goalposts did not sway and the passes did not float and the winds evoked gentle breezes instead of swirling gusts. The conditions of what amounted to an unofficial AFC East league game removed the unfavorable variables that defined their last meeting, returning football to its most basic level: the top team on Sunday would win.
And that’s what happened, with an addendum. The top team with the top quarter.
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