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Worth the Watch: Yay or Nay? Week Thirteen, Patriots vs. Bills

In the wake of the New England Patriots’ victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week Thirteen of the 2021 season, Patriot Maven provides analysis for the players on whom Pats fans might have wanted to keep watch. Were they worth the attention?

The New England Patriots improved to 9-4 on the 2021 season with an unorthodox, yet gritty Week Thirteen victory over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones would finish the night 2-of-3 for 19 yards. Still, the story on offense was all about the run. The Patriots rushed for 222 yards on 46 carries, paced by Damien Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson. Cornerback Myles Bryant batted away Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen's last-gasp pass attempt near the goal line as the Patriots secured a 14-10 victory over the Bills on Monday at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

With the victory, the Patriots remain in the top spot in both the AFC East, as well as the AFC overall.

Prior to this Week Thirteen matchup, Patriot Maven highlighted three players on offense and three players on defense on which the fan base might have wanted to keep watch.

Let’s examine whether this six-pack of Patriots was ‘worth the watch’ on Monday:

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Mac Jones - Nay

Though Jones’ aforementioned stat line is being heavily used as a punchline, his placement in the ‘nay’ category this week is more about the team’s strategy than it is about poor performance. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seized the opportunity to use a peaking offensive line to facilitate a power running game. To the surprise of most, and the chagrin of some, it worked well enough to deter the Pats from straying from the formula. While the outcome was positive for the Pats, Jones’ stat sheet suffered. It should be noted that the rookie did not play poorly. Conversely, he did exactly what the Patriots asked of him. However, to justify a ‘yay’ from going 2-of-3 for 19 yards is too much of a stretch.

Damien Harris - Yay

Despite leaving Monday’s contest with a hamstring injury, Harris was a key component in the success of the Pats running game. The Alabama product rushed for 111 yards on just 10 carries and an impressive 64-yard touchdown run. It was the Patriots’ longest run since a 73-yard scoring run by former Pats running back LeGarrett Blount in 2014. Harris continues to demonstrate an ability to run both for power and finesse. As a result, he will be a potent weapon for the Patriots running game down the stretch for New England, as they head for the playoffs.

Hunter Henry - Nay

Much like quarterback Mac Jones, the Patriots tight ends were largely invisible on Monday, especially as targets in the passing game. Hunter Henry took a season-low 15 offensive snaps. Through Henry demonstrated his prowess as a blocker, in both run and pass protection, his failure to be targeted made him a ‘nay’ by default on Monday night.

Christian Barmore - Yay

Barmore may not have set his stat line ablaze, but he was a notable contributor to the Pats success in both run and pass defense. As Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen is typically at his best when making plays outside of the pocket, the Patriots set out to pressure him in a manner which contained him within its confines. As a result, Allen was forced to step up in the pocket to make plays, which occurred with mixed results, at best. Barmore contributed to the pass defense with one quarterback hit and one quarterback hurry. The rookie defensive tackle was also instrumental in aiding the run defense. Barmore chipped in on settling the EDGE, allowing Patriots’ interior tackle Davon Godchaux to work down the line, earning 10 total tackles in the process.

Adrian Phillips - Yay

In the absence of safety Kyle Dugger, Phillips elevated his game to a level which allowed him to make Buffalo’s top tight end, Dawson Knox, a non-factor on Monday night. Phillips took away Knox’s ability to utilize the middle of the field, holding him to merely two catches for 14 yards. Phillips was credited with two pass break-ups on Kno, each of which significantly shifted the momentum in the Patriots’ favor. While the Pats will continue to monitor a potential knee injury, which forced him to leave the game late in the fourth quarter, Phillips' performance was a key reason for the Pats win on Monday.

Myles Bryant - Yay

Though Bryant occasionally aligned as the third safety in the Pats customary three-safety set, his primary focus was Buffalo’s receiver Cole Beasley. The Bills’ slot target was held to only one reception or 11 yards. However, Bryant made arguably the play of the game late in the fourth quarter. In man coverage on Beasley, Bryant made a heads-up read on quarterback Josh Allen. He made the move to Allen’s intended receiver, Gabriel Davis, batting the ball down and securing the victory.