Orchard Park, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills were not particularly sharp on offense or defense in the first two-plus quarters of their Week 18 matchup, yet the team was able to defeat the New England Patriots 35-23.
One player who came ready to play, however, was Nyheim Hines. The Bills’ returner, acquired at the trade deadline, opened Sunday’s game with a 96-yard touchdown return and later added a 101-yard kick return in the third quarter after the team found themselves trailing the Patriots 17-14.
Hines became the 11th player in NFL history to have two kick return touchdowns in the same game and the first player to do it since Leon Washington in 2010.
Buffalo’s offense would come alive after Hines’ second score with 40-plus yard touchdown passes to John Brown and Stefon Diggs and the Bills would go on to defeat the Patriots (FINAL SCORE)
Following their victory, Buffalo sealed the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Here is how the team graded out.
Josh Allen had a bad interception deep in Patriots territory and a few balls that he would like to have back, but overall the quarterback had a strong game despite some blocking issues upfront.
Allen threw for three touchdowns in a win, a 4-yard throw to Dawson Knox, and two 40-plus yard touchdown throws, one to John Brown and the second to Stefon Diggs.
Allen’s finished the game completing 19-of-31 passes for 254 yards. He was kept in check on the ground in the win.
RUNNING BACK/FULLBACK: B-
James Cook and Devin Singletary both averaged over four yards per carry in Sunday’s win. An argument could be made that the backs did not get enough carries in the win, but Singletary fumbled once to set up a Patriots chip shot field goal.
The backs combined for a total of 83 yards in the victory.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: A
Touchdowns by Knox, Brown and Diggs made this one an easy decision.
Diggs went over 100-yards on the day (7-104-1) while Knox scored a touchdown for the fourth straight game. Brown, a practice squad elevation, was also a bright spot with a 42-yard touchdown reception.
Khalil Shakir added a 28-yard reception in the victory while Isaiah McKenzie finished with a 2-19 stat line.
Gabe Davis logged a 3-39 stat line in the win on 10 targets. Buffalo needs more from their No. 2 receiver.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-
Buffalo’s offensive line struggled in the first half. They were better in the second half, but the unit could be an issue come playoff time. Josh Allen had plenty of pressure in his face at times in the win and had to use his legs to keep plays alive.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C
Greg Rousseau had a sack early in the game, but the defensive line was not able to sack Mac Jones again after that point. A.J. Epenesa added a QB hit, but the unit was not able to get home to make consistent plays.
In run defense, Buffalo held the Patriots to 107 yards rushing on 23 attempts (4.7 YPC).
Buffalo is missing Von Miller as a difference maker and it shows.
Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds both walked away with interceptions late in Sunday’s game. Milano’s came on a deflected pass in the end one while Edmunds added one with just under three minutes remaining.
The duo finished with 15 total tackles, five passes defensed and one QB hit in the win.
Tre’Davious White logged an interception in Sunday’s season finale, but the secondary was on the receiving end of three touchdown passes by Mac Jones.
With much better quarterbacks on the horizon in the playoffs, Buffalo’s secondary has a lot to clean up.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Buffalo would have come out of this game with an A+ on special teams had Taiwan Jones not made the mistake of having a punt bounce off of his leg in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots the ball in Bills territory.
Minus that play, the unit was outstanding. Hines had two kick return touchdowns and Tyler Bass was perfect on the day, albeit just on five extra points.