ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Some assorted notes and nuggets from the New England Patriots’ 16-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at New Era Field:
— The Bills were forced to finish the game with backup quarterback Matt Barkley behind center after a hard hit from Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones left starter Josh Allen in concussion protocol.
Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said Jones, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, should have been ejected. Conversely, a few of Jones’ fellow Patriots defensive backs questioned whether the hit even warranted a penalty.
“We all know J-Jones is a striker,” safety Duron Harmon said. “He can hit pretty hard. And just the way the league is, if it looks too hard, they’re going to just call a penalty on it. It’s unfortunate. But we’ll learn from it, we’ll work through it and then we’ll get better from it.”
The hit in question occurred while Allen was scrambling toward the first down marker on third-and-8 early in the fourth quarter. Harmon wrapped his legs, and Jones delivered the finishing blow, making contact with the QB’s helmet. Harmon said it’s “extremely tough” for a defender to alter his path in a situation like that.
“But we know the rules,” he said. “We know what they’re looking to call. Sometimes it’s going to happen. Sometimes you’re going to get the penalty for playing hard and playing fast.”
He added: “(Allen) is running for the first down. It’s third down, and he’s running for the first down. But at the end of the day, the rules are the rules. We’re going to watch it, we’re going to learn from it, we’re going to get better from it.”
Safety Devin McCourty also lamented that Jones’ hit, which prevented Allen from gaining first-down yardage, was penalized. Both, like Harmon, acknowledged the need to play within the NFL’s increasingly strict guidelines for defensive players.
“That play right there, it’s just tough,” McCourty said. “How are you supposed to hit a guy? For one, Josh Allen’s not a small guy. And he’s competing, he’s leaning, he’s trying to get a first down. I think he was, like, a yard short. We always talk about it, though. We’ve got to try to hit guys and not hit them in the head, so we’ll watch it and try to do a better job of it, because it’s a key point.
“No one wants to hurt anybody out there, but this game is very physical.”
— Patriots punter Jake Bailey was the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week last week, and he might have been even better Sunday. The rookie punted nine times and averaged 48.1 yards per, and his hangtime and placement helped limit All-Pro return man Andre Roberts to 46 total yards on six runbacks.
“Huge,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said of Bailey’s performance. “I can’t say enough good things about Jake. He’s fantastic. He really is. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done it. He’s got a howitzer of a leg. I mean, he’s blasting the ball. He’s putting it right where we want it.
“And when you’re playing against the best returner in the league in Andre, we needed all those punts. We knew they wanted to get the ball in his hands and let him make plays, and Jake really helped us try to contain him as best we could.”
— Stephen Gostkowski’s afternoon was not so positive. The veteran kicker missed an extra point for the third consecutive game. He’s now missed five kicks this season: four extra points and a 48-yard field goal.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who expressed confidence in Gostkowski earlier in the week, sidestepped a question about the kicker’s struggles during his postgame news conference.
“Well, I think we’re all going to look back on this game and say, ‘There are some things we can improve on,'” Belichick said. “Certainly, I know I feel that way. We have a hard-working team. I have a lot of confidence in our team. We’ll just keep working hard to do things better and do them better next week.”
Thumbnail photo via Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports Images