BOSTON (CBS) — That was brutal. Embarrassing. Toss in whatever adjective you’d like to describe the Patriots’ 47-17 Wild Card loss to the Bills.
No matter how you define it, the loss ended New England’s 2021 season. It was a year that started with some extra juice with rookie quarterback Mac Jones taking over and a defense that looked to be one of the best in the NFL. There was a lot of hope that the Patriots would be back in the postseason after a one-year absence, and those expectations felt a little low when the Pats shook off a tough start to the season and rattled off seven straight wins to temporarily claim the No. 1 spot in the AFC.
But a 1-3 tumble down the stretch followed that win streak, and the season ended Saturday night with the ugliest loss of the Bill Belichick era in New England.
The defense was shredded by Josh Allen on Saturday night, as the Bills offense was nearly perfect. Allen had more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (4) as he torched the Patriots for 308 yards through the air and another 66 on the ground. Buffalo didn’t punt a single time, converting all six of their third downs before Mitch Trubisky took a knee on their final third down to end the game.
“I don’t think we got a stop on defense,” said safety Devin McCourty. “Not how you want to end any season or play any playoff game. The reality is anytime you step on the field for a playoff game, it’s the last chance for a team to step on the field. That is at stake every time.
“It was embarrassing,” he added. And McCourty wasn’t the only one to feel that way.
“It wasn’t one drive, one play, one player. It was everything. Everything was frustrating,” said Matt Judon, who had no sacks and just one QB hit in the loss. “Start to finish we were getting handled and lost the game. We’re disappointed. There are no more games this year.”
Bill Belichick was not a happy camper and a man of few words after the loss. He gave credit to the Bills and repeated a number of times that they were too much for his team on Saturday night.
“They did a great job and we just couldn’t keep up with them. They certainly deserved to win, a well-coached team that executed well. We just couldn’t do much of anything,” Belichick said after his worst loss with the Patriots. “We’ll pick up the pieces, get back to work and find a way to be more competitive.”
He didn’t say much else, saving his overall thoughts on the season for another day.
Jones was OK in his postseason debut, one of the few Patriots players who showed up to play. The moment didn’t look too big for him, with some big throws and a few nice scrambles, but he suffered from some drops and he some of his own mistakes too. His end-zone interception to end New England’s first drive was an unreal play by Buffalo safety Micah Hyde, but it was a throw that Mac wanted back. It wasn’t a bad throw by any stretch, but it needed to be a little bit better for it to end with a Patriots touchdown and not a Bills pick. As Jones learned quickly, the margin for error in the NFL is even thinner in the postseason.
The Bills turned that interception into a touchdown (because the Bills turned everything into a touchdown on Saturday night) and swung momentum completely on Buffalo’s side.
“We didn’t have a chance to win the game and it starts with me,” a dejected Jones said after the game. “I could play better. … I wish I could have played better.”
Jones finished his first playoff game 24-for-38 for 232 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The future does appear to be bright with Jones under center, so long as the Patriots can now solve the Bills, who are 4-1 against the Patriots since Tom Brady’s departure.
Saturday’s loss left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. It will linger throughout the offseason, and Jones promises that it will fuel him and everyone else to come back stronger in 2022. There were a lot of building blocks put in place throughout the 2021 season; now it’s up to the Patriots to keep building up.
“Losing is terrible and none of us wanted to do that tonight. But there is nothing we can do about it. There is a lot to look forward to and be positive about,” said Jones. “There is a lot to look back on and learn. There is nothing to feel sorry about, just an experience to get better for next year.”
But as center David Andrews pointed out, this could be it for some members of the team. That just makes Saturday night’s outcome all the more frustrating.
“There’s finality in everything, right? There’s guys who will leave, there’s guys who will retire. There’s coaches that will leave,” said the New England captain. “Whatever it may be, it’s a finality, and that’s just part of it. It’s part of this business and it makes it hard.”