Patriots won pivotal AFC East showdown vs. Bills after attempting just three passes

The skies were angry that night, my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

So the New England Patriots, determined to avoid the constant 25-35 mile per hour winds and 55 mph gusts that battered Highmark Stadium, opted to run a throwback offense. An extremely throwback offense. A 1927 Pottsville Maroons offense.

That’s how Mac Jones, clubhouse leader for offensive rookie of the year honors, wound up throwing three passes in a marquee showdown with the Buffalo Bills. And, even more absurdly, that’s how the Patriots escaped with their seventh consecutive win to head into their bye week as the AFC’s top seed.

Behold, a box score brought to life five days too early to belong to Army-Navy.

♦ Mac Jones: Two completions on three pass attempts for 19 yards.

It was the fewest passes thrown in a winning effort in an NFL game since 1974. It was the fewest passes thrown in a single game in Patriots history, knocking Steve Grogan (five in a snowy 1982 game vs. the Dolphins) out of a very specific record book. And it was all thanks to a dominant defensive effort and gale-force gusts rolling into Western New York from Lake Erie.

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Patriots won pivotal AFC East showdown vs. Bills after attempting just three passes

We knew this game would be a challenge from the outset. The pregame hosts were nearly toppled from their stools an hour before the coin toss. The opening kick, rolling with the wind, soared 30 yards over the nearest returner’s head and into the stands. New England’s All-Pro punter attempted to tempt the weather gods and uncorked a full-legged kick that went all of 15 yards.

But the Patriots offense chugged along in the first half thanks to dynamic runs from Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. It took the sting off the fact when Jones *did* attempt a pass, it … wasn’t especially encouraging:

But the Patriots powered through, even as the Bills’ run defense stiffed in the second half to regularly contain Harris and Stevenson. Rather than turn to a second page in his playbook, Bill Belichick stayed the course and trusted his defense to bend, but not break.

It worked to perfection. The Bills led two fourth quarter drives inside the New England 15 while trailing 14-10. Thanks to some clutch stops, they scored zero points.

The win improves the Patriots to 9-4 after a 1-3 start and ensures they’ll remain the AFC’s top seed through at least Week 14. It also gives them a 1.5-game lead in the AFC East and locks in the team’s first winning season since … 2019. Just as importantly, it proved New England can win in absurd conditions, with or without a passing game, against one of the conference’s top teams.

The Patriots won a game in which they passed for 19 total yards. In 2021, in the middle of a boom period for vertical offensive attacks.

That is wild.

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