By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
In a virtual must-win against the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots went 59 minutes and 29 seconds without a turnover.
But with a game-tying (or go-ahead) score in sight, and with a first down in Cam Newton’s sights, a successful punch from the Bills’ Justin Zimmer knocked the Patriots down for the count in a 24-21 final.
Without their top two wideouts, and with just one tight end dressed for action, Newton and the Patriots got off to a slow start in the first half, and were held to just two Nick Folk field goals by the half’s end.
Nevertheless, the Patriots found themselves down by just one point at the half.
The Bills pushed their lead to eight on their first possession of the second half, however, and put a sluggish Patriot offense in must-score territory. And after they were held to just two field goals in the first half, and after failing to score a touchdown in last week’s blowout loss, they finally put themselves on the board with a touchdown on a 22-yard run from Damien Harris.
Down by two after the second-year pro’s first career touchdown, the Patriots tied things up on a two-point conversion connection from Newton to Jakobi Meyers to make it 14 all with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
But the tie wouldn’t last long for the Patriots — and largely thanks to a curious call — as the Patriots unsuccessfully tried an onside kick following the game-tying drive. The Bills recovered and drove down the field in just nine plays (and 50 yards) with a Josh Allen rush into the endzone to reestablishing the Bills’ touchdown lead.
Newton and the Patriots countered, however, and it was No. 1 who capped a 72-yard drive with a two-yard keep of his own.
The score marked the first time all season that the Patriots scored touchdowns in back-to-back drives.
New England then held Allen and the Bills to a field goal, and set themselves for a game-winning drive. But the Newton fumbled wiped what would’ve been no-doubt points on the game, robbing the Patriots of either overtime or an outright game-winning drive, and saw a few noteworthy performances fall by the wayside in the process.
Harris finished with 102 yards and a score on 16 carries, while Meyers hauled in six of his 10 targets for 58 total yards.
J.C. Jackson also stepped up as the Patriots’ No. 1 corner with Stephon Gilmore out of action, too, and picked off Allen for his NFL-leading fourth interception.
With the loss, the Patriots have suffered four straight defeats for the first time since 2002, and find themselves three and a half games out of first place in the AFC East.
The Patriots will travel to MetLife Stadium next Monday for a primetime meeting with the winless New York Jets.