What We Saw: Week 16

It was a big week for young WRs

Bills @ Patriots

Final Score: Bills 33, Patriots 21

Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)

 

The first half of this game was mostly dominated by Buffalo, thanks to Josh Allen who dinked and dunked his way down the field against New England’s soft zone defense. New England was able to force a stop on 4th and goal at one point, but Allen threw two touchdowns and easily looked like the best player on the field.

On New England’s final drive of the 2nd half, they quickly went three and out but were bailed out on a helmet-to-helmet roughing the passer penalty that gifted them another chance with decent field position. Then, one of the most controversial series of events this season cost New England their shot at points before the half. Mac Jones scrambled for a first down and was dragged down from behind by Jerry Hughes. It was initially flagged, but the flag was picked up.

 

 

This set off both Bill Belichick on the sideline and the Patriots on the field. What would have been a 15 yard penalty in favor of New England quickly turned into a 15 yard penalty against them when OT Trent Brown taunted the Bills’ defense while the officials were still trying to sort things out after the Hughes flag.

 

 

Despite the near-lack of turnovers (Mac Jones had an INT), mistakes were an issue for both teams in this game as they both made mental mistakes that resulted in penalties.

New England’s defense couldn’t stop Buffalo in the 2nd half either, and Isaiah McKenzie came up with multiple clutch third-down receptions to keep drives going. CB Myles Bryant manned up against McKenzie for much of the second half and simply couldn’t keep up. All but two of Buffalo’s drives resulted in points; The two that weren’t scoring drives were a failed fourth-down conversion at the three-yard-line and their drive at the end of the half.

The Patriots’ offense got off to a slow start and never really got it going in this one. Damien Harris scored three TDs on the ground and looked fully healthy after returning from a hamstring injury, but everyone else struggled to get in a rhythm. Read on to see what went right and what went wrong for both teams.

 

 

Buffalo Bills

 

Quarterback

 

Josh Allen: 30/47, 314 yards, 3 TD | 12 carries, 64 yards

 

Josh Allen was the entire offense for the Bills on Sunday and New England’s defense had no answer for him. The Patriots primarily played zone defense for much of the first three quarters and Allen had no problem dinking and dunking to work his way down the field while chewing up clock at the same time. New England didn’t have an easy time getting pressure on him with their four-man rush, but when they did Allen was able to either get rid of it quickly or roll out of the pocket to extend the play. The Patriots didn’t dial up many blitzes either, so Allen had plenty of time to throw for most of the day.

Allen and the Bills were 6/12 on 3rd down and 3/4 on 4th down, thanks mostly to Allen. Their only miss on fourth down was a drop in the end zone by Emmanuel Sanders. Allen showed off his rushing ability on multiple occasions, including a 25 yard run right up the heart of the Patriots’ defense.

 

 

He did make a couple of poor throws on the day, including on 3rd and goal to Dawson Knox. It’s a tough throw to begin with, but Knox was wide open and it should have been a score.

 

 

At one point, Allen overthrew a wide-open Jake Kumerow in the end zone which ended up costing Buffalo four points.

 

 

He was also nearly intercepted twice. The first one was in the end zone and would have been a difficult one to come down with anyway, but it hit J.C. Jackson in the hands and he should have come down with it.

 

 

The second near-INT came on Buffalo’s final scoring drive, and it likely would have swung this game in New England’s favor considering the field position. It might have even been a pick-six if Jackson would have been able to get up off the ground quickly.

 

 

Allen would go on to lead the Bills down the field for a score and bleed another five-plus minutes off the clock before New England got the ball back. This was the nail in the coffin for New England.

 

Ultimately, this play pretty much sums up the day for both Allen and the Patriots’ defense:

 

 

Running Backs

 

Devin Singletary: 12 carries, 39 yards, TD | 6 targets, 5 receptions, 39 yards

Zack Moss: 3 carries, 12 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 13 yards

 

Once again, the running game (besides leading rusher Josh Allen) wasn’t much of a factor. Devin Singletary got shaken up at one point and missed a few plays, but he was fine and even ran over New England’s best run-stuffing LB Ja’Whaun Bentley for a touchdown.

 

 

Zack Moss was active for this game and his most notable touch came on a carry late in the 2nd quarter. He had a huge hole in front of him for a touchdown, but instead, he was tripped by his own teammate and got stuffed at the one-yard line.

 

 

He was a nonfactor otherwise.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Stefon Diggs: 13 targets, 7 receptions, 85 yards, TD

Isaiah McKenzie: 12 targets, 11 receptions, 125 yards, TD | 1 carry, -1 yard

Emmanuel Sanders: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards

Dawson Knox: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 11 yards, TD

Jake Kumerow: 3 targets, 1 reception, 13 yards

Reggie Gilliam: 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards

 

Besides Josh Allen, Isaiah McKenzie was the star of the show on offense for Buffalo. He started the game with two huge catches on the Bills’ first drive. The first came on a third-down drag route where Allen scrambled out of the pocket and was able to find McKenzie underneath New England’s zone, and McKenzie fought for the first down to keep the drive going.

 

 

His second catch of the drive was on 4th and 2 at the three-yard line, catching a bullet of a throw from Allen for Buffalo’s first TD of the game. It was a nice adjustment on the route as he saw some open space in the zone, recognized that a linebacker was on him, and he found the space and caught the ball. Easy peasy.

 

 

McKenzie was Allen’s go-to for much of the day, but especially so late in the game once the Patriots switched to man coverage. Corner Myles Bryant simply couldn’t keep up with McKenzie on Sunday. Check out this catch over safety Kyle Dugger.

 

 

Stefon Diggs wasn’t the #1 option on offense today but he still delivered with a solid output that likely helped many fantasy teams to a championship matchup. His lone score of the day is notable mostly for his (NSFW) interaction with the fans afterward, but he was involved all day long.

 

 

Diggs also had a clutch fourth-down conversion late in the game to keep Buffalo in the driver’s seat.

Emmanuel Sanders was targeted twice in the end zone but was unable to come down with either. The first ball was tipped but the second was a flat-out drop on 4th and goal to end the drive. Otherwise, he was a non-factor.

 

 

 

Dawson Knox actually should have had three touchdowns. The first was the poor throw by Allen shown above, and the second was one he scored that was called back by an illegal formation penalty. He finally found the end zone late in the game thanks to a fantastic play by Allen.

 

 

New England Patriots

 

Quarterback

 

Mac Jones: 14/32, 145 yards, 2 INT, 1 sack | 6 carries, 33 yards

 

Like Indianapolis last week, Buffalo wanted to force Mac Jones to win this game for New England and he was unable to do so. Accuracy was an issue for Mac for much of this game, and it was partly due to Buffalo’s front four getting good pressure all day long. Mac scrambled six times and was able to pick up some yards on the ground, but he was forced to step up in the pocket or move to his right to avoid the rush on multiple occasions and that’s not exactly his bread and butter.

Mac has shown this season that in a balanced game plan he’s able to pick apart a defense, but when forced into a throwing situation he can be predictable and stopped. This was the case on Sunday. Once they were down 20-7 in the 3rd quarter they had to abandon the heavy run-based attack they wanted use, Mac was asked to throw more than anticipated and he looked uncomfortable for much of it. His pinpoint touch, which has been so good in previous games, was an issue in this game and one has to wonder if that was a result of throwing under pressure or if the frigid Foxboro temperatures had an effect.

Stupid mistakes killed the Patriots today. As I mentioned in the opening blurb, Trent Brown had a bad one that killed their momentum on the drive before the half. Later in the game, David Andrews was called for taunting after trying to defend his QB after a late hit. Say what you will about how weak of a call this is against Andrews (the league should be embarrassed), but the rules are the rules and the Patriots are usually so good at being disciplined and not doing junk like this. They simply deserved to lose today.

 

 

Running Backs

 

Damien Harris: 18 carries, 103 yards, 3 TD | 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards

Brandon Bolden: 2 carries, 4 yards | 5 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards

Jakob Johnson: 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards

 

Rhamondre Stevenson missed this game after being placed on the COVID list earlier in the week. Damien Harris had himself a day, topping 100 yards and scoring three touchdowns. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for the Patriots to win, but it was a very welcome sight from fantasy managers everywhere. Coming back from a hamstring injury, Harris ran well against a loaded box for much of the day. The Patriots came out run-heavy and struggled on their first drive, but they were able to move the ball down the field on the ground on their second drive and were able to punch it into the end zone. Harris converted a fourth and short on this nice toss from Mac Jones:

 

 

Then, on the very next play, Harris took another toss to the house for his first score.

 

 

Harris’ longest run on the day went for 31 yards but even without that run he still averaged over four yards per carry. He’d punch in two more scores on the day despite the game script getting away from the run game due to a 13 point 2nd half defecit. A closer game likely would have resulted in an even better day for Harris, but this will still work just fine.

 

 

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Kendrick Bourne: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 33 yards

Jakobi Meyers: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 59 yards

Hunter Henry: 6 targets, 1 reception, 9 yards

N’Keal Harry: 6 targets, 2 receptions, 15 yards

Gunner Olszewski: 1 carry, 9 yards

 

Nelson Agholor missed this game with a lingering head injury sustained in last week’s game, which meant it was time for N’Keal Harry to step up and get targeted six times. Which makes no sense, because Harry couldn’t catch a beach ball if his life depended on it. He had this bad drop in the second quarter:

 

 

Then, on the very next play, Harry was targeted once again and the ball was tipped before it got to him.

 

 

Micah Hyde got his first of two interceptions on this play, but Harry simply gave up on the ball after it was tipped and he stopped competing on the play. Would he have been able to prevent the interception if he kept going after the ball? Probably not, but this is a bad look and the Patriots have to be second-guessing their insistence to feed Harry as much as they did in this game.

 

 

Meanwhile, Kendrick Bourne, who cleared COVID protocols just in time on Saturday, didn’t catch his first pass until early in the fourth quarter. He wasn’t able to practice with the team all week but he still had to be a better option than Harry was.

Hunter Henry didn’t find much open space on Sunday, so his few targets weren’t all catchable balls as Mac looked to limit mistakes rather than force something in there. Mac did overthrow Henry at one point, however, when he was wide open on the left side of the field, but it still wouldn’t have mattered for fantasy purposes. Henry’s fantasy output comes from red zone targets, and on Sunday the Patriots instead decided to pound the rock with Damien Harris in their few red zone trips.

For fantasy purposes, Jakobi Meyers was okay. He didn’t kill you, but if you were hoping for a high-volume day you were likely disappointed. For football purposes, however, Meyers was a stud for the New England offense. He made multiple key receptions to help keep drives going, including one on third and long to set them up with a fourth and short in the red zone. Meyers got upended and hurt his leg on the play, but he stayed in the game and caught the fourth-down reception to keep the drive going.

 

 

He would convert another third down try on the sideline and he was clearly dealing with an injury as he hobbled back to the huddle. Even with his limited production on the field, it was an impressive day for Meyers.

 

Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)

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