ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Taking the ball out of rookie quarterback Mac Jones‘ hands in wind gusts over 40 mph and relying on their running game, the New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 14-10 at Highmark Stadium on Monday night to enter their bye week as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Overall, Jones was just 2-of-3 passing for 19 yards, while the Patriots ran for 222 yards on 46 carries.
“Just a crazy game to be a part of; it was just a weird day, but at the end of the day, you just get more points than the other team and it’s a great day,” Jones said. “I haven’t seen that much wind, probably ever.
“Hats off to the offensive line for doing what they did; knowing we were going to run the ball and just putting their nose in there every play and making it happen was incredible. I’ve never been a part of something like that.”
The three passing attempts are the fewest in Patriots history, while the two completions match their fewest, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The three pass attempts were the fewest by any team since the Bills attempted just two in Week 3 of the 1974 season (vs. the New York Jets).
“We played kind of the way we felt like we needed to play to win. In the end, we scored enough points,” New England coach Bill Belichick said.
“Just have to give the players a lot of credit for being tough, being disciplined, being resilient and dealing with a really good football team and conditions that were somewhat challenging.”
Patriots center and captain David Andrews called it one of the most memorable games he has been a part of: “I don’t know if I’ve ever played in a game where we’ve thrown the football three times, and I’ve been playing football since I was 6 years old. Six years old, [we] threw the football more than that.”
The Patriots’ fewest pass attempts was previously five, which came in the 1982 Snow Plow Game, a 3-0 victory against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Massachusetts, that was played in a driving snowstorm and was scoreless in the fourth quarter when stadium worker Mark Henderson drove a tractor on to the field to clear a spot for the only field goal of the game.
The Patriots improved to 9-4 with Monday’s triumph, with the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs all 8-4. The Bills, meanwhile, dropped to 7-5, and their margin for error to win the AFC East has been thinned.
Jones threw just one pass in the first half — when the Patriots led 11-7 at the break — and completed it for 12 yards. The pass sailed high in the wind, and tight end Jonnu Smith pulled it down.
That was the fewest first-half pass attempts by a team since at least 1978, which is as far back as data is available, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The previous record was two, which happened three times, most recently by the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14 of 2017 — also in Buffalo, in snowy conditions.
Overall, Jones’ only other completion was a screen pass in the fourth quarter.
The only other games in Patriots history in which they completed just two passes came in December 1982 and November 1969 — both against the Dolphins.
The Patriots’ one passing first down tied for the second fewest in franchise history, and it was their fewest since Dec. 4, 1983. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the last team in the NFL to win a game with one or fewer passing first downs, doing so in 2010 with Dennis Dixon as their quarterback.
“I don’t think there will be a game like that in a long time,” Jones said.
Outside of a jubilant locker room, outside linebacker Matthew Judon joked that the Patriots’ offense deserved a lot of credit: “Everybody, probably besides Mac.”
The run-first approach was reflected in how the team had six offensive linemen on the field for 61% of their offensive plays, the highest such usage for any team over the past five seasons.
New England safety and longtime captain Devin McCourty said the team’s willingness to play the game that way reflected something greater.
“That’s why I loved playing here,” he said. “This team isn’t about one person, it isn’t about egos, it isn’t about ‘this is what we do, so we’re going to do it.’ It’s about winning. We’re going to adjust and find a way to win.
“I think everyone will look to this game and say, ‘They played to their defense.’ But we ran the ball. To me, that’s a team performance.”