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The Patriots only managed two assists in Win Over Bills

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The Patriots only managed two assists in Win Over Bills

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Mac Jones, the Patriots rookie quarterback, threw a 12-yard pass to tight end Jonnu Smith in the first quarter Monday night in Buffalo. In the fourth quarter, he threw an incomplete pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor and a 7-yard accomplishment to running back Brandon Bolden.

What was so interesting about those three seemingly unimportant passes? They were the only ones that Jones pitched the entire game.

Faced with the strong winds in Buffalo, New England coach Bill Belichick backed off and made the NFL a racing league again, and the Patriots beat the Bills, their title rival. AFC East. The final score also looked like a throwback: New England 14, Buffalo 10.

“It was just a weird day,” Jones said, adding, “I’ve probably never seen so much wind.”

Still, the concept of going back doesn’t really do justice to the strangeness of Monday night’s game. Even in the days of shattering football and three-yard runs and a cloud of dust, NFL coaches and their quarterbacks still tossed the ball every now and then.

An NFL team attempted three or fewer passes in a game just seven times in the 1940s, and only once each in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. But no team had done so since.

Until Monday evening.

Asked about the game plan, the laconic Belichick only said: “This is how it happened.” He attributed it all, in fact, to the weather conditions which he described only as “somewhat difficult”.

Was the innovative game plan successful? Not really, given the number of Patriots records that ended with three and-outs and punters. But in a broader sense, certainly yes, given the dashboard.

The Call to Play was sort of a microcosm of the Patriots’ season. Belichick was careful to give Jones, his rookie quarterback, a fairly unambitious menu. Jones has 384 attempted passes this season, below the average for a regular holder, but his 70 percent completion rate ranks third in the league.

Across the line of scrimmage, Josh Allen and the Bills opted for a more traditional, albeit not very effective, take-of-play pattern: Allen completed 15 of his 30 passes for just 145 yards.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Allen said of the wind after the game. “A few throws obviously, that could have affected. You have to play the conditions here.

It’s not just the collars that have been affected. It was never clear, for example, where the kicks were going to go. Jake Bailey of the Patriots threw one that ran 71 yards and one that only traveled 15 yards.

The last time a team attempted three or more passes in a game was in 1974, at the same stadium in Buffalo, in windy and rainy conditions. That day, the Bills’ Joe Ferguson attempted just two in a 16-12 win over the Jets. Both were incomplete. Instead, he handed 51 times, including 31 times to OJ Simpson.

Joe Namath generously threw 18 passes for the Jets, completing just two. Many more have gone in unexpected directions. From an interception, Namath joked, “The best cursor you’ve ever seen.”

However, all wins, no matter how strange, count as a single victory. Beyond its idiosyncrasy, Monday night’s game was crucial for the AFC East race. The Patriots are now 9-4 to 7-5 for the Bills and appear increasingly well positioned to reclaim the title they won 11 years in a row before handing it to the Bills last season.

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