Mac Jones played only a minor supporting role in the New England Patriots’ Monday night win over the Buffalo Bills — a fact Matthew Judon was sure to point out in his postgame news conference.
Judon took a playful jab at his rookie quarterback after Jones attempted just three total passes — the lowest single-game total in Patriots franchise history — in New England’s 14-10 victory at Highmark Stadium.
“Just hats off to the offense — really everybody, probably besides Mac,” a smiling Judon told reporters. “He didn’t really do nothing besides hand the ball off.”
That was both friendly teasing and an accurate assessment.
With heavy winds hammering the Buffalo area, the Patriots opted for an almost exclusively ground-based game plan. They ran the ball 46 times for 222 yards against a Buffalo defense that was expecting handoffs on nearly every snap.
The Patriots’ running back trio of Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden combined to average 5.7 yards per carry despite frequently facing boxes stacked with Bills defenders. Harris led all rushers with 10 carries for 111 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown, before exiting with a hamstring injury.
New England also leaned on heavy personnel packages throughout the game, with third tackle Mike Onwenu seeing significant playing time as a jumbo tight end. The Patriots’ super-sized 22 personnel grouping (Harris or Stevenson, fullback Jakob Johnson, tight end Jonnu Smith, Onwenu and 6-foot-4, 225-pound wide receiver N’Keal Harry) was a favorite of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“They came out there and they executed whatever game plan they had, and it got us a victory,” Judon told reporters. “Kudos to the running backs. You see their defense; it was everybody up on the line of scrimmage, and they were still able to gain yards. That’s on the running backs, Jak, tight ends, offensive line.”
Judon and the Patriots’ defense also did their part, holding the NFL’s second-highest-scoring offense to 10 points. Buffalo’s lone touchdown came after a botched N’Keal Harry punt return gave the Bills possession at New England’s 14-yard.
After a late Judon sack helped set up a missed Bills field goal, the Patriots sealed the win by breaking up back-to-back Josh Allen passes in the red zone in the final minutes.