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FOXBORO, Mass. — Buffalo Bills players were floating back to their locker room after this 33-21 victory over the New England Patriots and celebrating as they went.
“Boston ain’t nothin’,” one of them said as he whizzed past a group of reporters.
“I don’t even like lobster,” defensive end Jerry Hughes chimed in.
“Where’s Jerry Sullivan at,” safety Jordan Poyer screamed, “What the [expletive] he got to say?”
And then this:
“Put you team on your back,” one Bills player told quarterback Josh Allen as they both walked to the locker room.”
This is what victory and maybe sweet revenge sound like in their most unvarnished and raw form before the NFL’s 10-minute cooling off period calms emotions and a press conference tames quotes after a huge win.
This is a peek perhaps of what the Bills have been really feeling and thinking since their loss to the Patriots in the teams’ first meeting on Dec. 6.
This is a testament to how players on a team that is now in charge of its own destiny in vying for the AFC East title — if Bills win their final two games they win the division — understand that they rise and fall as their quarterback plays.
“Man, that guy is unbelievable,” defensive tackle Harrison Phillips said of Allen. “He deserves all the accolades and that stuff you guys throw on him and put positive stuff on his name because that guy is the real deal.
“He works so hard and this is his life. We all trust the ball in his hands when the game is on the line and we’re down or we’re up, whatever it is. No. 1-7 is who we trust. We love that guy and we’re very happy with his success.”
Josh Allen had himself a game against the Patriots.
It wasn’t only that he threw for 314 yards, including three touchdown passes and had a 104.4 quarterback rating. It wasn’t that he rushed 12 times for 64 yards.
It was that Allen affected this game in ways only elite quarterbacks can.
The Bills, you must understand, put a makeshift offensive line on the field because the unit had been struck with injuries and Covid and then it got worse when starting left guard Ike Boettger ruptured an Achilles in the second quarter.
But with Allen making quick decisions, or moving in the pocket, or outright scrambling, that depleted unit held up. The Patriots managed zero sacks this game.
The Buffalo rushing attack, an orphan within a scheme built to throw the football, managed 114 yards against the Patriots. And that made the Buffalo offense multi-dimensional and harder to defend.
Yeah, well, it was Allen who led the team in rushing.
That’s not all. The Bills played this game without receivers Cole Beasley or Gabriel Davis because of Covid-19 protocols. So Allen decided to throw to backup Isaiah McKenzie time and time again as if they’ve been doing this every week.
Except they hadn’t been doing this every week.
McKenzie had 7 receptions this season when Sunday dawned. He’d been a healthy scratch for a couple of games recently. But Allen threw to him in key situations as if they were connected via mind meld.
So McKenzie finished with 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ve got all the faith in the world in him,” Allen said. “For him to come out and play this way the day after Christmas, it means a lot to him, but I think it means a lot to everybody on this team. Just seeing a guy like that who has his ups and downs throughout the year, loses the returning position, is sacked for a couple games, comes out and he was unbelievable today.
“Just an absolutely phenomenal day for him. I’m so, so happy for him. I can’t express that enough.”
Allen affected and upgraded every part of the Bills offense which is what great quarterbacks must do. He elevated the players around him even when they were reserves. He covered obvious holes.
And this: He put pressure on the opposing quarterback to keep up.
New England rookie Mac Jones wasn’t up to the task. Unlike the first meeting between the teams in which the Patriots needed Jones to pass only three times, they needed to him to be more of a factor this game.
Because the Bills offense run by Allen scored four touchdowns, two field goals, and didn’t punt all game.
So the Patriots needed plays from their quarterback to match Allen but what he delivered was two interceptions, a 43.7 completion percentage and an abysmal efficiency rating of 31.4.
“Obviously Buffalo made more plays than we did today,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
The last time these teams played the Patriots made more plays by running the football and brutal wind conditions limited what Allen could do with the Buffalo passing game.
So the Patriots ran almost exclusively in a 14-10 decision that left Western New York in an uproar because the Bills defense knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop it. Local columnist Jerry Sullivan asked Poyer and fellow safety Micah Hyde if they were “embarrassed” by their performance.
From Poyer’s comments as he skipped to the locker room, the question and all its implications had not been forgotten.
This game likely puts that to bed.
“Obviously it was huge game with huge implications and obviously the last game we played them it left a bad taste in our mouth,” Poyer said. “We were able to get a win last week and bounce back and carry that momentum into this week.
“Obviously the game had huge implications and we were able to play well and execute and play complimentary football. Shout-out to the offense, they played a hell of a game. Josh played a hell of a game and the offense did exactly what they can do …”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero