Just as Patriots quarterback Cam Newton was regaining his mojo, he fumbled away New England’s opportunity to beat the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots were in field goal range down 24-21 with 37 seconds left in the Week 8 game when Bills defensive tackle Justin Zimmer popped the ball out of Newton’s hand on a designed run. Buffalo safety Dean Marlowe hopped on the ball, and the Patriots lost.
Here’s what else we learned in the devastating loss:
— Jakobi Meyers should be starting the rest of the season. He led the Patriots with six catches on 10 targets for 58 yards plus had two catches for 31 yards erased by penalties. He connected with quarterback Cam Newton on a two-point conversion, as well.
Meyers came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent but has outperformed 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry every step of the way. It’s OK for the Patriots to make the admission that Meyers is the better offensive weapon. It’s clear to everyone.
— The Patriots’ run defense might be unfixable as they let up 190 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries to a Buffalo team that came into the game ranked 32nd in the NFL in run offense DVOA.
It very well could help to activate defensive tackle Beau Allen off of injured reserve, but is one player really enough to fix the front seven? One of the biggest problems is the play of inside linebacker and defensive captain Ja’Whaun Bentley, who missed multiple tackles before leaving the game due to a groin injury. But unless the Patriots commit to playing rookies Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings in the middle of the field, then there’s little linebacker depth behind Bentley.
— The Patriots viewed Uche as a situational pass rusher in his NFL debut before Bentley left the game. Then Uche was inserted into the middle of the field at inside linebacker. Uche made some plays, getting pressure on third-and-long and making a key stop on a scrambling Josh Allen on another third-down situation. We’d like to see him get more of a shot moving forward. He has the best combination of size and speed on the Patriots’ defense.
— The Patriots played uber conservatively on offense but did take other risks, including the two-point play while down 14-12. It’s fair to question the Patriots’ decision to kick onside with three minutes left in the third quarter. Onside kicks are much harder to convert under new player safety rules. The decision came back to bite the Patriots when the Bills charged 45 yards down the field for a quick score. The Patriots did match that touchdown with one of their own.
— If Patriots running back Damien Harris (16 carries, 102 yards, TD) continues to run hard, then there’s no reason for Sony Michel to be active once he’s healthy enough to return off of injured reserve. He’s a redundant player with Harris and Rex Burkhead providing similar — but more versatile — skillsets.
— The matchup between JC Jackson and Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs came out fairly even. Jackson let up five catches on seven targets for 84 yards while covering Diggs but picked off quarterback Josh Allen once.
— Patriots outside linebacker Chase Winovich still didn’t play a heavy role despite the Patriots going heavy on sub packages.