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Patriots vs. Bills score, takeaways: Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs cruise past New England to take AFC East lead

With their respective seasons on the line in January, the Bills beat up on their rival Patriots, sending New England home for the winter. Almost a calendar year later, Buffalo delivered another beatdown, this time in Foxborough. Looking to take a temporary lead in the crowded AFC East, Josh Allen and Co. didn’t have a perfect night on Bill Belichick’s turf. But they never needed to, using a couple of pristine connections to star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, plus a stellar defensive showing for much of Thursday night, to cruise past New England 24-10 in their first meeting of the 2022 campaign.

Rested up after a promising outing against the Vikings on Thanksgiving, Mac Jones and the home team initially threatened to take the Bills to the wire, claiming an early lead on a trick touchdown to cornerback Marcus Jones. That gadget score proved to be the last reliable, explosive play for New England’s offense until late in the fourth, working against a Bills “D” missing injured pass rusher Von Miller. Allen, meanwhile, played with fire on occasion but never lost control of the contest, also leaning on rookie running back James Cook, who emerged as both a runner and receiver.

Here are additional takeaways from Thursday night’s Week 13 kickoff:

Why the Bills won

Stefon Diggs worked his magic. Josh Allen was obviously a big reason, too, as per usual, and his efforts were never more invaluable than on Buffalo’s second touchdown of the night — a highlight-reel scramble in which Allen found Gabe Davis in the end zone after waiting until the last minute on the sideline. But Diggs is so often the catalyst on otherwise stalled drives, and his numbers (seven catches, 92 yards, one TD) would’ve been even better if not for a ticky-tack holding call. James Cook also did well with 20+ touches, leading the backfield, and Isaiah McKenzie was an effective safety valve. The defense, of course, deserves just as much, if not more, credit. Despite logging just a single sack deep into the fourth, that unit was dominant on third downs, bottled up the Pats’ signature ground game and got big-time pressures and/or deflections from veterans like Tremaine Edmunds and Jordan Poyer.

Why the Patriots lost

A week after teasing an offensive revival against Minnesota, the offense fell back to Earth — and perhaps even into the Earth, like in a grave. Mac Jones started out well enough, and the creative use of speedy corner Marcus Jones paid off with six. Rhamondre Stevenson also showed toughness on every carry. But once again, there was no real downfield rhythm with their attack; until the waning minutes, four of their top five offensive pass catchers averaged fewer than nine yards per reception. The play-calling and clock management from Belichick and/or Matt Patricia in certain spots, such as just before halftime, didn’t help. Defensively, keeping Buffalo under 30 might be considered a success, but special teams affected them, too, with Nick Folk failing to kick a 48-yard field goal past the crossbar in the second quarter.

Turning point

Second down. Early second quarter. The Patriots had just scored a TD on their previous drive to go up 7-3 and now trailed 10-7 following the Bills’ answer. And then, backed up to their own 8-yard line, they stumbled over themselves. Mac Jones nearly got hit in the end zone for a safety, barely getting rid of the ball beforehand, and Cole Strange was flagged for holding, to make matters worse. The near-turnover, which also saw Jones penalized for roughing the passer, essentially killed the drive but also all of the Pats’ momentum up to that point. Buffalo easily punched the ball in on its ensuing drive with such good field position, quickly taking a 10-point advantage that would keep them in front.

The Pats also shot themselves in the foot at the end of the first half, cementing their hole. Despite Josh Uche putting on a pass-rushing clinic to strip-sack Allen, the offense played it overly safe while using timeouts curiously before Nick Folk’s 48-yard kick off the crossbar failed to net them any points off the turnover.

Play of the game

Few QBs can pull off what Allen did on the Bills’ second TD drive, rolling all the way to the sideline, shaking off a defender and then, just before stepping out of bounds, delivering an on-target ball past two Patriots to Gabe Davis. Every angle of the throw proved how acrobatic it was, recalling some of Patrick Mahomes’ best work in Kansas City, as well as his own stunt pass in the Bills’ playoff win over New England last season.

What’s next

The Bills (9-3) will return home in Week 14 for the second of three straight divisional matchups, this time against the Jets (7-4), who play the Vikings this weekend. The Patriots (6-6), meanwhile, will hit the road for another prime-time affair, this time against the Cardinals (4-8) on “Monday Night Football.”

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