ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The New England Patriots’ defense finally allowed a touchdown for the first time since last winter’s AFC Championship Game win over the Kansas City Chiefs, but they also turned in another dominant performance Sunday.
The Patriots’ defense is to thank for the team’s 16-10 win over the Buffalo Bills in a game when New England’s offense generated just 224 total yards. The defense, meanwhile, finished the game with five sacks, four interceptions and a goal-line stand.
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy led the way with eight tackles, two sacks, a quarterback hit and two forced fumbles. Cornerback JC Jackson contributed with two interceptions and a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown. Linebacker Jamie Collins finished with a sack and closed out the game with an interception.
That interception was caused by pressure from Van Noy.
“Just wanted to let (Dion) Dawkins know who we are,” Van Noy cracked after the game.
Dawkins, the Bills’ left tackle, delivered some bulletin board material leading up to Sunday’s game.
“We don’t care what they’ve done the games before because they haven’t played us yet,” Dawkins said. “Once they play us and if it doesn’t change then that’s when y’all could start talking. … You guys have seen Josh (Allen), our coaches, really all of us, we’re just on a different mission. We have something going and I don’t really care who it is (that we play).”
Well, the Patriots did it to the Bills.
Van Noy wasn’t the only one who took motivation from Dawkins’ comments, though he was the most vocal about them.
“Yeah, we heard it as a defense,” safety Devin McCourty said Sunday. “Turn on the film, we feel like we’re playing decent football, and the guy said we haven’t against them. We got an opportunity to play against them today. We got the win. That’s what it’s about. I think that’s everybody. Everybody that like competing. When someone says something, you hear it, and you want to play to it.
“As you guys know, KV can get really emotional and get into things. So, I always tell him if he can troll and make plays like that at the end of the game, we’ll take it.”
This was the fourth two-sack performance of Van Noy’s career. He’s never had two forced fumbles in a game, however, and he’s only had three total quarterback hits in a game once before.
So, what got into him Sunday?
“I feel like I’ve been doing this,” Van Noy said.
Patriots safety Duron Harmon messed around with Van Noy a little bit for that answer.
“Yeah, I mean, he had a good day,” Harmon said smiling. “He can take it for what it was. He had a good day.”
Van Noy also was asked after the game about his motivation.
“I just want respect,” Van Noy said. “I feel underrated and just want some respect.”
Van Noy wants the same for the Patriots’ defense as a whole.
“We just got really good football players,” Van Noy said. “Maybe people will start noticing that.”
It won’t count on the stat sheet as a turnover, but the Patriots’ goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter was as impactful as any interception or fumble recovery. The Patriots led 16-10 and let the Bills get down to New England’s 8-yard line with 13:14 left in the game. The Patriots stonewalled the Bills even after Buffalo got as close as the 2-yard line.
“Badass,” Van Noy said. “That (expletive)’s fun. That’s kind of football, right? Any time you get that, it gives me chills thinking about it because that’s football at its core right there — 1-on-1, you know they’re trying to run the ball. … You gotta stand up.”
Van Noy also had some thoughts on Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s play. Before getting knocked out of the game with a concussion, Allen completed 13-of-28 passes for 153 yards with three interceptions and four sacks.
“He didn’t know what we were doing,” Van Noy said. “He was shook back there.”
The Patriots take on the Redskins in Washington next Sunday. We’ll see if Van Noy and the Patriots’ defense can keep this party rolling into October.