You've got to learn to read between the lines when it comes to the Buffalo Bills.
Their public lauding of the New England Patriots was par for the course throughout the week; head coach Sean McDermott isn't keen on inflammatory remarks to the media. But every compliment of the Patriots and every reminder that New England had dominated the division for the past 20 years was essentially code for one thing -- the Bills were ready to make another late-season statement on Monday Night Football.
Buffalo delivered that statement with a 38-9 rout of the Patriots, securing its first win in Foxborough, Massachusetts, since 2016 and its first sweep of the Patriots since 1999. It marked the Bills' largest margin of victory against New England since winning 31-0 on Sep. 7, 2003.
Beyond officially handing New England its first losing season since Bill Belichick's first season as coach in 2000, the Bills hung on to the No. 2 seed in the AFC. They can secure the 2-seed with a win against Miami in Week 17.
Jerry Hughes, who is Buffalo's longest-tenured player and has seen his share of losses to New England said that it's "a great feeling" to leave Foxborough with a win.
"I was telling some of the guys on the sideline, I haven't had this feeling in Foxborough ever. I think we beat them one year when we were 9-7 but they sat out a lot of their starters to get ready for the playoffs. This was a nice feeling to come back here in this stadium and return a nice punch in the face."
Beating the Patriots was one of the Bills' top goals entering the season -- general manager Brandon Beane said as much in September. But even against a limping New England team that's already out of the playoff picture, Buffalo wanted to leave no doubt as to who the AFC East belongs to now.
Describe the game in two words: Early dominance. The Bills threw the Patriots to the ground early on and kept punching. Once quarterback Cam Newton scored to cut Buffalo's lead to 10-9, the Bills scored 28 unanswered points before pulling QB Josh Allen with more than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
QB breakdown: Speaking of Allen, there might not be another quarterback in the NFL playing better than him outside of Aaron Rodgers. He had historically struggled against the Patriots but turned in a masterful performance Monday night, completing 27 of 36 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns. He once again funneled targets to Stefon Diggs, who in turn torched New England for 145 yards and three touchdowns on nine catches. Allen was seen as a possible third wheel in a two-horse race for MVP between Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, but that dynamic has shifted over the past four weeks. In Buffalo's four prime-time games since Week 13, Allen sports a 12-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, adding another two scores on the ground. If Rodgers is the front-runner, Allen is not far behind.
Promising trend: During their first 11 games of the season, the Bills were a first-half team that jumped out to early leads and often had to battle its way to a win in the second. But since Week 13, Buffalo has outscored opponents 75-31 in the second half. Especially coming off a playoff loss last season in which they blew a 16-point lead to Houston, the Bills have learned how to close opponents out, and that is a positive sign entering the playoffs.