New England Patriots

New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots huddles with teammates during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots improved to 2-5 on Sunday, and in thrilling fashion, as they upset the Buffalo Bills 29-25 after a last-minute game-winning drive by Mac Jones. Here are 14 players we graded either “UP” or “DOWN” based on their performance in the game…

UP: QB Mac Jones

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots calls for a two point attempt after throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 22: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots calls for a two point attempt after throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

There’s going to be a bit of a different theme with this week’s Ups & Downs, focusing mainly on who made the biggest plays to help New England win (and who didn’t), rather than overall stats or performance. We’ll start at quarterback, where Mac Jones finally, mercifully, earned a win over a superior team by legitimately leading his team to a game-winning touchdown.

Jones went 6-of-7 for 64 yards and a go-ahead touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki on the final drive. The score came with just 15 seconds left in regulation, a true game-winner. Jones was decisive and accurate with the ball, and he avoided turning it over while rarely putting it in danger. He finished 25-of-30 (83.3 percent) for 272 yards and two touchdowns, a 126.7 passer rating – the third-best single-game rating of his career.

“We left some stuff out there, as always. But at the end of the day, we fought back,” Jones said. “And the offensive line, especially, just gave me the time I needed today. And when I have time, I can read the offense how we’re supposed to and I really appreciate those guys.”

This is why it was still premature to label Jones some kind of “bust” or a quarterback that can’t play in the league. He may not be an elite guy or win at the highest level possible on his own, but with actual protection and weapons, he’s capable of getting the job done. And he can finally add a bona fide clutch win to his resume.

  • DOWN: WR Kendrick Bourne

    Kendrick Bourne gets hit and fumbles a ball that will be recovered by the Bills after a 4th quarter reception.

    Kendrick Bourne gets hit and fumbles a ball that will be recovered by the Bills after a 4th quarter reception. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)

    Bourne was actually on his way to another “UP” this week, as he finished with a team-high six catches and 63 yards with a touchdown. But his fourth-quarter fumble nearly cost the Patriots the game, and so that undid a lot of good. The Pats came dangerously close to their most heartbreaking loss yet, and much of the scrutiny would’ve fallen on Bourne’s shoulders for that turnover.

  • UP: TE Mike Gesicki

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Mike Gesicki #88 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Mac Jones #10 after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 22: Mike Gesicki #88 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Mac Jones #10 after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    An easy one here. Gesicki had a quiet day leading up to his last-second touchdown catch, so the stats don’t look spectacular on paper, but Gesicki made the biggest catch of the day when the Patriots needed it the most. Jones and Gesicki built chemistry on those back-of-the-end zone passes in camp, but misfired in Las Vegas, so it was a great sign to see them connect against the Bills, and to do it in a clutch moment.

  • DOWN: WR DeVante Parker

    Devante Parker

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – OCTOBER 15: DeVante Parker #1 of the New England Patriots drops a pass while defended by Marcus Epps #1 of the Las Vegas Raiders during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    We have to use a photo of Parker from last week, because he didn’t do much to draw attention in this game. Just one catch for eight yards for Parker, despite playing 35 offensive snaps. That was a reduced workload for him, though, and it’s been trending in this direction based on his performance. It will be worth monitoring to see if his snaps keep dropping in Miami.

  • UP: WR Demario Douglas

    Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Demario Douglas (81) runs with the ball during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Demario Douglas (81) runs with the ball during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Douglas caught 4-of-6 targets for 54 yards. Again, not eye-popping numbers. But anyone who watched him make those four catches could see his dynamic abilities on display. Douglas is the quickest receiver on the team and clearly the best after the catch, and it’s no coincidence the offense moved the ball better with him on the field. He needs to keep playing more.

  • UP: RB Rhamondre Stevenson

    Rhamondre Stevenson tries to shake the grasp of Buffalo defender Dorian Williams in the first half. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)

    Rhamondre Stevenson tries to shake the grasp of Buffalo defender Dorian Williams in the first half. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)

    As great as Mac Jones was on the game-winning drive, Stevenson provided a serious spark when he caught a swing pass and turned it into a 34-yard gain. Stevenson broke two tackles and threw a stiff-arm as he tightroped down the sideline, helping set up the eventual go-ahead touchdown. He caught all six of his targets, which was a good development after he had a few bad drops in recent weeks.

  • DOWN: CB J.C. Jackson

    Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) breaks the tackle of New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (29) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) breaks the tackle of New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (29) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Jackson and the Patriots’ cornerbacks held Stefon Diggs in check for most of the game, but Jackson whiffed badly trying to tackle Diggs on his late touchdown that got the Bills rolling on their fourth-quarter comeback. Diggs got back up before he was touched, then escaped Jackson’s grasp to run for the end zone. That was a tough moment for Jackson, and one we’d be looking at more closely if the Patriots ended up losing.

  • UP: S Jabrill Peppers

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the New England Patriots intercepts the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 22: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the New England Patriots intercepts the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

    Peppers forced a turnover for the second straight week, this time baiting Josh Allen into an ill-advised throw for an interception on the Bills’ very first play from scrimmage. He’s having a great season in his second go-around in New England, emerging as one of their top playmakers on defense.

  • UP: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley

    Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox (88) drops the ball after getting hit by New England Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley (8) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox (88) drops the ball after getting hit by New England Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (8) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Bentley’s game was a little iffy up to the point of his fourth-down pass breakup on Dawson Knox, a huge play at the time and the kind that can make up for a lot of mistakes. Bentley ended up with a team-leading nine tackles.

  • UP: DT Christian Barmore

    Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley (8) and defensive tackle Christian Barmore (90) tackle Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 22, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (8) and defensive tackle Christian Barmore (90) tackle Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Barmore was credited with a sack and three total tackles in another disruptive effort up the middle. He was key to the Patriots’ ability to flush Allen out of the pocket, and the approach worked because Allen was erratic throwing on the run. Barmore has really stepped up his game since the Patriots lost Matthew Judon, which is big for their banged-up pass rush.

  • UP: RT Mike Onwenu

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots kneels after being sacked in the fourth quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 22: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots kneels after being sacked in the fourth quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    As well as Jones and most of the pass-catchers played on Sunday, the move of Onwenu to right tackle was arguably the key to the whole thing. Onwenu had easily the best game of anyone they’ve tried at right tackle so far this season, and the domino effect was evident. The improved offensive line play with Onwenu at tackle could be a way for the Pats offense to turn a corner.

  • DOWN: OG Sidy Sow

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots scrambles with the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 22: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots scrambles with the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

    Sow has been playing well at right guard, and deserves credit for facilitating the team’s decision to kick Onwenu out to right tackle in the first place. But he appeared to flub a substitution on a kicking play, which forced the Patriots to take a timeout. That could’ve proven costly, if that timeout was needed later in the second half. Something for the rookie to correct going forward.

  • DOWN: OT Vederian Lowe

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 15: Maxx Crosby #98 of the Las Vegas Raiders and Bilal Nichols #91 of the Las Vegas Raiders sack Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots for a safety while Vederian Lowe #59 of the New England Patriots looks on during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – OCTOBER 15: Maxx Crosby #98 of the Las Vegas Raiders and Bilal Nichols #91 of the Las Vegas Raiders sack Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots for a safety while Vederian Lowe #59 of the New England Patriots looks on during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium on October 15, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    An injury to Trent Brown forced Lowe into the game at left tackle … and he immediately committed an illegal man downfield penalty. Brown’s health will be a big thing to watch this week, because the O-line is going to have problems if they have to go back to Lowe after appearing to solidify without him.

  • READ MORE:

    Takeaways from Patriots win
    How the Pats pulled off the upset
    Belichick shuts down contract talk


    Next Patriots Ups & Downs will come after they play the first-place Miami Dolphins on the road in Week 8.

    Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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