6 takeaways from the Patriots’ devastating playoff loss to the Bills

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There was nothing the New England Patriots could do. It felt like the Buffalo Bills would score on every drive — because they did. It felt like the Bills would stop the Patriots from scoring on every drive — and they almost did. It felt like Buffalo had the upper hand in every phase of the game — because, of course, they did.

The Bills were a vastly superior team in their 47-17 win over the Patriots in the wild-card round of the playoffs. This season, New England proved it could win one way and one way only. They had to build an early lead and protect it. Otherwise, they got into a hole and had no way of getting out, with an offense that was too inconsistent to mount a comeback. The Bills knew that and immediately built their lead. Then they buried the Patriots with touchdown after touchdown from Josh Allen and Devin Singletary.

Here are our six takeaways from the Patriots’ loss.

Josh Allen made difficult plays look easy

Allen made a number of hero throws against the Patriots. The quarterback has been sensational against the Patriots this season — he just seems to have a level of comfort against New England that didn’t seem fathomable.

It was a tremendously bad sign that he looked as ease when he got the Bills on the board on the opening drive with a touchdown. Allen, rolling to his right, eluded the Patriots’ pass-rush and dodged a would-be sacker. Then Allen flicked the ball into the air over the Patriots defense and found tight end Dawson Knox in the corner of the end zone.

The degree of difficulty on that throw — and a number of others on Saturday night — was far higher than Allen made it seem. When the Patriots made things hard for Allen, he found ways to work around their defense.

Allen, for example, was targeting cornerback J.C. Jackson throughout the game, even when Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross, Myles Bryant and De’Vante Bausby were on the field. Jackson is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The other cornerbacks are … not. And still, Allen targeted Jackson.

The Patriots defense also made all the Bills plays look ridiculously easy

But then there was the rest of the game — where the Patriots were not making it hard on Allen. He was able to do whatever he wanted to New England’s defense, whether it was running the ball or throwing it.

Here’s a look at a few highlights, where Allen posterized cornerback Joejuan Williams with a deep ball and cornerback Bausby with a scramble.

With Allen enjoying so much success, the Patriots seemed unable to pay much attention to the run game. At least, that’s the only excuse I can think of for New England. The defense couldn’t tackle anyone.

Receiver Isaiah McKenzie looked entirely too fast for New England to catch along the edges. The Bills may not have been built to beat the Patriots. But it felt that want, with Buffalo’s offense having an answer to everything Belichick threw at them.

Mac Jones came out gunning, as if he didn't have his first-quarter issue -- but then he had first-quarter issues

Jones looked good for his first few throws. And then he chucked the ball downfield to Nelson Agholor. Safety Micah Hyde, instead, caught the ball. It wasn’t a terrible throw from Jones. (Though, of course, it wasn’t a good one.) Hyde just made a sensational play.

Sure it was a mistake. But it also provided a sense of (false) hope. For a second, the Patriots seemed interested in going toe-to-toe with the Bills offense. For a moment, it seemed like maybe New England could go toe to toe with Buffalo. Jones threw a few good balls, even if Hyde stole away a touchdown. Maybe the Patriots could make something happen.

But then the Bills went on to prove that wasn’t true — at all.

Mac Jones' 2nd interception was ... quite bad

It was easy to make excuses for Jones after his first interception. He should have placed the ball over Agholor’s left shoulder, where only he could catch it. But that would’ve been the perfect throw.

Jones never should have thrown the ball on his second interception. There was nothing there. He forced a pass to Hunter Henry, who was covered on the play. So the defensive back batted the ball into the air, and cornerback Levi Wallace tracked down the pass for an interception.

The game was pretty much over after the first half. But when Jones opened up the second half with a stupid interception, that cemented the losss.

Bill Belichick's defense has never played so poorly

The Patriots allowed 47 points, the most ever by a Belichick defense during his New England career. This will likely go down as the worst defensive performance of Belichick’s career — and not just in the postseason.

That’s a bleak graphic.

There is reason to find optimism from the season, even if there's little positive to take from the game

Jones didn’t look good against the NFL’s top defenses this season, but he did have a number of good games for New England. I won’t go so far as to say the Patriots have found their franchise quarterback. That remains to be seen. But they certainly didn’t whiff. Jones is an excellent prospect, around which New England can and should build for the next few years.

Under Tom Brady, fans have begged the Patriots to go get a No. 1 receiver. Brady was just fine without one. But Jones actually needs one. Nelson Agholor and Jonnu Smith haven’t produced. Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Henry are great complementary pieces. New England needs a No. 1 wideout. Jones’ development may end up depending upon it. They will have options this offseason. They should pursue them, especially considering that their offensive line looks so solid. A big-play receiver could chance the complexion of this offense.

The defense isn’t as simple of a fix. They lack speed — and they have for years. But again, staying optimistic, if there’s one person you’d have to trust to revamp a defense, it’s Bill Belichick.

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