The list of times Bill Belichick has been embarrassed in the playoffs is short.
The instance everyone will point to is a 2009 wild-card game against the Baltimore Ravens, when the New England Patriots trailed 24-0 in the first quarter. They lost that game 33-14. In 2012 they lost the AFC championship game to the Ravens by 15 points. Those were the only times Belichick's Patriots teams had lost by more than 10 in the playoffs.
A lot about Saturday night's 47-17 Buffalo Bills win was shocking. The Bills scored touchdowns on each of their first seven offensive possessions before running out the clock at the end. It was weird to see Bills quarterback Josh Allen do whatever he wanted, completely picking apart New England's defense. He finished with 308 yards and five touchdowns. The Patriots' offense had its ups and downs in the regular season, but it was hard to predict that New England wouldn't be able to sustain any drives.
Bills fans' fantasies before the game probably included the Patriots getting run off the field. It was weird to see it actually happen.
Bills make a statement
The blowout in Buffalo has two parts to the story, and the Bills' dominance sent a message to the rest of the NFL. For all those who pointed to the Bills' point differential and unlucky record in close games and said they were better than their 11-6 record, Saturday night was the payoff.
Allen played what has to be considered the best game of his career. He had 172 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 149 passer rating in the first half. He had 63 rushing yards in the first half, too. His first touchdown was a pretty floater to Dawson Knox in the back of the end zone, and his second touchdown was an absolute rocket to Knox that beat the Patriots' coverage. He was in absolute control of the game, in a way you rarely see from a quarterback against a Belichick defense. It was the kind of performance that made you wonder if the Bills are peaking at the right time.
The praise for the Bills will trickle in over the next week. Saturday night was more of a funeral for a Patriots team that showed promise in the middle of the season. It would be easy to blame it all on having a rookie quarterback, Mac Jones, in his first playoff start. That wouldn't be completely accurate. At halftime the Bills had 19 first downs, 300 yards and averaged a staggering 9.1 yards per play. All four of their first-half possessions ended in touchdowns. That's a failure of a defense that looked a lot better earlier in the season.
It's not like New England's offense was great either. The Patriots got a field goal with one second left in the half, after the Bills already had a 27-0 lead. The 24-point halftime deficit was the biggest in Patriots postseason history.
If there was any hope that the franchise famous for coming back from 28-3 in a Super Bowl could pull off another miracle, Jones started the second half with an interception and Allen hit Emmanuel Sanders on a pretty 34-yard touchdown to remove all doubt. And it seemed like a little more than a random trick play when the Bills ran a touchdown pass to offensive lineman Tommy Doyle, which pushed their lead over their division rival to 47-10. That had to feel good, considering how often the Patriots tortured the Bills over the Tom Brady era.
The Patriots lost three of their last four to finish the regular season, after winning a game in a windstorm at Buffalo. That turned out to be the high point of their season. We'll all remember the low point.
Patriots on receiving end of rare blowout
The Bills were so dominant, it was reminiscent of some of the vintage Patriots teams in the postseason. The Bills became the first team to score touchdowns on each of its first four possessions since the 2018 playoffs, when the Patriots did it to the Chargers. The Bills scored touchdowns on each of their first seven possessions, which is hard to believe.
The Bills played at a faster speed, with a different energy. It was clear from the first drive, when Allen ran and passed the Bills easily downfield, that the Patriots were in trouble. It would be easy to say this Patriots team, with Jones at quarterback, wasn't meant for a long postseason run. But that's not what people were saying when they were 9-4.
The Bills took some mortifying losses and had some weird struggles in other games this season, making it seem like they weren't the Super Bowl favorite everyone hoped to see after they made it to the AFC championship game last season. The looked like that team on Saturday night. They looked like what we're used to seeing from the Patriots.