Despite an opportunity to shine in prime time, the Buffalo Bills faltered.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked four field goals and Devin McCourty had an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown as the New England Patriots defeated the Bills 25-6 on Monday Night Football.
The Bills kept it close for most of the game by holding the Patriots to four field goals. It was a one-possession game entering the fourth quarter.
The crucial drive came in the fourth quarter with the Patriots leading 12-6. The Bills had opportunities to force the Patriots to punt, but New England converted a third-and-8 opportunity to keep the drive alive. James White scored a rushing touchdown to give the Patriots an 18-6 lead.
On the ensuing possession, the Bills drove down the field and nearly scored on a Derek Anderson pass to Jason Croom. On third and long, Anderson threw the interception. McCourty returned it for a touchdown, effectively sealing the win for the Patriots.
Anderson finished with 290 passing yards and an interception. He left the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury. His status is unknown for next week's game against the Chicago Bears.
The Bills fall to 2-6. The Patriots improve to 6-2.
Here is the Buffalo Bills Week 8 report card:
Derek Anderson's stat line doesn't look bad. He threw for 290 yards in a losing effort. However, the Bills' offense only had two scoring drives and didn't find the end zone yet again. Anderson had a costly fumble after left tackle Dion Dawkins missed his block. Late in the game, Anderson threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. This was a better outing for Anderson, but the turnovers are a problem. He needs to protect the ball. The fumble wasn't so much his fault. The interception was on him, though.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll made a mistake by not going to Chris Ivory more against the Patriots. He had success running the ball against this Patriots defense that isn't so great against the run. Ivory finished with six carries for 34 yards, while LeSean McCoy was bottled up. He had 12 carries for 13 yards. It wasn't a good game for the Bills' rushing attack, even with the gadget plays in the first quarter that allowed them to pick up some good yardage. Y
You know who's improving? Zay Jones. He finished with six catches for 55 yards and was the top performing receiver for the Bills. He ran some nice routes and got open. The Bills need playmakers whenever this offense gets a makeover. Jones should be in that mix. Kelvin Benjamin had a 40-yard reception to account for the Bills' longest play of the game. But Benjamin had a bad penalty on a big gain by McCoy and he got called for offensive pass interference on the same drive. The Bills spread it around to 10 different receivers in this game. McCoy led the team with six catches for 82 yards.
An OK game for the offensive line. The pass protection was good for most of the game until late when the Patriots started to blitz more. Dion Dawkins made a costly mistake when he missed the block on the Anderson fumble. The run blocking wasn't good. The Patriots were able to contain the Bills' rushing attack, which made them one-dimensional. Bill Belichick's squad forced the Bills to beat them through their air, which they couldn't do.
Offensive MVP: Zay Jones. A six-catch, 55-yard performance for the second-year player. He is quietly showing improvement and should be considered a true offensive weapon. He can catch passes over the middle and serve as a deep threat. He is definitely part of the Bills' future.
No sacks for the defensive line, but they contained the Patriots' rushing attack and applied enough pressure on Brady to make him uncomfortable. Harrison Phillips, the rookie defensive tackle, finished with four tackles (three solo) in defeat. Kyle Williams had a nice quarterback hit on Brady in the first half.
A good game for the secondary. Tre'Davious White was one of the Bills' leading tacklers and he was great in coverage yet again. Phillip Gaines had an OK game. He got beat on a back shoulder throw by Brady to Chris Hogan on the Patriots' touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Defensive MVP: Matt Milano. Milano was a machine. He made some plays against the run and was a solid defender against the pass. He was the best Bills defender on the field Monday night.
Kicking and punting
Kick coverage and returns
This was a better game for the Bills' coverage and return units. On the return side, Marcus Murphy had three kickoff returns for 63 yards. His long was a 29-yarder. On one return, it appeared he lost a fumble. However, replay showed he was down before the ball came out. Micah Hyde had a 31-yard punt return after taking advantage of a line drive kick. He was able to weave through coverage and get into Patriots' territory.
The lone Patriots return was a 21-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson. Other than that, it was a quiet night for the Patriots' return unit.
Special teams MVP: Steven Hauschka. Hauschka gets the honors this week. The two field goals were the Bills' only points of the game. His 51-yarder was an impressive kick.
OTHER GRADES AND FACTS
Overall team performance
It was, yet again, the tale of two units. The defense had a great game. They held the Patriots to one offensive touchdown and four field goals. The offense, though, was atrocious. The Bills' ineptitude on offense is difficult to watch. It's costing them games and it's scary to think what this team could do even with an average offense. But that's not what they have. The Bills were in this game until the end. The Patriots' interception for a touchdown put this one away.
Stats of the game
0. The number of touchdown passes thrown by Tom Brady. You don't see that a lot when the Patriots come to Buffalo. The Bills defense had a great game. It was spoiled by an inept offense.
2.4. The Bills averaged 2.4 yards per carry against the Patriots. McCoy was held to 13 rushing yards. Ivory fared better, but only had six carries. The Bills need to get the run game going. It will help them win games. At times, they're too reliant on the pass, especially in close games.
2. The number of turnovers committed by the Bills. Anderson's lost fumble was costly, but it was the interception for a touchdown that sealed the win for the Patriots.
If Josh Allen is going to miss more time, the Bills need an answer at quarterback. Derek Anderson is a backup quarterback, but nothing more. Nathan Peterman, as we know, isn't the answer either. The Bills should consider bringing in some free agent quarterbacks. This isn't about finding your quarterback of the future. It's about finding a quarterback who can help you compete and get you through the remainder of the 2018 season.
The Bills (2-6) will play at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears. The game will be televised on FOX.