Instant Analysis: Bills get payback vs. Patriots, move to top of AFC East

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The Buffalo Bills displaced the New England Patriots at the top of the AFC East standings after a 33-21 win over the Patriots in Week 16.

The Bills (9-6) were far and away the better team on Sunday, reigniting the discussion of Buffalo being among the best in the AFC.

The Bills’ play-calling was aggressive from the nose of the game. And, it was part of the overall game plan, as both sides of the ball put the heat on New England.

Buffalo was two-for-three on fourth-down conversions in the first half. They added another fourth-down conversion to extend a dominant drive late in the fourth quarter. The fourth-down conversations paved the way for the Bills two first-half touchdowns, as receiver Isaiah McKenzie scored a three-yard touchdown reception on fourth down. No. 1 wideout Stefon Diggs added a first-half touchdown reception, following a 23-yard fourth-down conversion on the drive.

The most impressive fourth-down conversion took place in the fourth quarter with four minutes remaining in the game. Up by five points, Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott decided to extend the drive instead of attempting a 51-yard field goal.

The Patriots got pressure into the backfield, but quarterback Josh Allen dodged the linemen and gained eight yards. The Bills marched down the field and finished with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox:

Buffalo’s defense squashed any talk of Pats QB Mac Jones being mentioned in the same breath as Allen.

The Bills did not record many quarterback hits, but the line consistently forced Jones out of a rhythm. Several passes were off target and hit the turf. Jones ended the day 14-of-32 for 125 passing yards.

Buffalo safety Micah Hyde pick off Jones twice during the game, including the fourth-quarter pick that sealed the game in Buffalo’s favor:

The Patriots offense was one-dimensional, moving the ball adequately on the ground. While the final stat line for Harris was impressive for fantasy football implications, it would not be enough for the Patriots on this afternoon. Harris ended the day with 18 carries for 103 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

Isaiah McKenzie stepped up in impressive fashion, setting career bests with 11 receptions, 125 receiving yards, and one touchdown reception. New England had no answer for McKenzie, as he provided Allen with a reliable target all game. In fact, McKenzie reeled in 11 of 12 targets on the afternoon.

Interestingly enough, McKenzie’s emergence seemed to give Stefon Diggs some space. Diggs and McKenzie were a nuisance for the Patriots secondary.

Diggs caught seven passes for 85 receiving yards and one touchdown reception.

Allen had another great day. Allen was 30-of-47 for 314 passing yards and three touchdown passes. He led the way for Buffalo on the ground as well, rushing 12 times for 64 rushing yards.

Once again, Allen created space with his feet, buying time to allow routes to open up and to avoid pressure.

McDermott & Co. did a nice job with formulating the game’s strategy. Buffalo committed to getting a lead and building upon it as quickly as possible.

It’s easy to see that Jones would not be able to lead the Patriots offense back through the air, and New England could only chip away at the score deficit.

After a brief deviation, Buffalo is back atop the AFC East standings. The Bills final two games will have Buffalo as heavy favorites. As of now, the Bills hold the No. 4 seed in the playoff standings. However, a great deal can shake out, and Buffalo has a decent shot at moving up the AFC playoff standings.

The Bills host Atlanta (7-8) next Sunday at Highmark Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

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