FOXBORO, Mass. — Two stats tell the story of the last two Patriots-Bills matchups:
80 points, zero punts.
Those were numbers Josh Allen and Buffalo’s vaunted offense put up across their Week 16 visit to Gillette Stadium last December and their wild-card playoff game against New England at Highmark Stadium last January.
The Bills won the first 33-21, then cruised to victory in the second, prevailing 47-17 in the Patriots’ most lopsided postseason loss of the Bill Belichick era. They did not punt in either game and scored touchdowns on every offensive possession in the latter.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has had a photo emblazoned with that embarrassing final score line hanging in his locker all season. And you can be sure New England’s defense will enter this Thursday night’s Pats-Bills showdown motivated to atone for last year’s ugly outings.
“I mean, definitely,” linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley said Sunday. “You obviously see that, and it gets you amped up for this game, for sure. But at the same time, you’ve got to go through the process. It’s a whole process of the thing. If you look too deep into it, you kind of let things slip through the cracks. I’m a person of the process. You can’t skip days.”
Asked whether he and his players take last season’s Buffalo results personally, linebackers coach Jerod Mayo replied: “I think you have to.”
“Each game is its own game; let me start by saying that,” Mayo continued. “But at the same time, it wasn’t our best showing the last time we played these guys.”
The Patriots’ defense looked like one of the NFL’s best for much of last season, but it cratered down the stretch, allowing 27 or more points in four of the final five games. Likewise, this year’s unit entered Sunday ranked seventh in points allowed and first in expected points added per play, but it’s surrendered 30-plus points three times, including in Thursday’s 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
New England is deeper defensively than it was last season — especially in the pass-rush department and at cornerback — but its remaining schedule features games against several of the NFL’s most prolific offenses, including two against Buffalo and one each against Miami and Cincinnati.
The Bills have looked vulnerable of late, losing two of their last four games and needing a last-second field goal to beat the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, but boast a star-studded collection of offensive talent headlined by Allen — whom Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Sunday called “an MVP candidate” — and All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
“I’ll be honest with you, coming off a loss, I think the guys are tuned in and ready to go and get back on the field and try to perform a lot better than we did the last time stepped foot on the field,” Mayo said. “… For us, every game is a playoff game, and we have to go out there and play that way each and every week.”