On Saturday night, the Bills did something about it by erasing any doubt of who now rules the AFC East.
Josh Allen set a team playoff record with five touchdown passes, including two to Dawson Knox, and Devin Singletary ran for two scores in the first half of a 47-17 throttling of the division-rival Patriots in a wild-card playoff game.
Meanwhile, Hughes was part of a defense that ended Mac Jones’ rookie season by intercepting him twice, sacking him three times and limiting him to throwing two mean-nothing touchdown passes in the second half with the game well out of reach.
In defeating the Patriots for the second time in three weeks, Hughes noted he was motivated by how reporters specifically questioned safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde as being embarrassed following a 14-10 loss on Dec. 6. It was a game in which the Patriots attempted just three passes while trampling Buffalo’s defense with 222 yards rushing to counter wind gusts of 30-plus mph.
“There was a lot of disrespect coming toward our defense. And so we felt like the only way to shut people up is to go out there and play football and let you guys sit and watch and talk,” Hughes said. “And that’s what we’re doing right now, playing football.”
The margin of defeat was the largest in the playoffs for New England in coach Bill Belichick’s tenure, which began in 2000.
And while the winds were relatively calm Saturday, the Bills were hot in frigid conditions, with a game-time temperature of 7 degrees.
Allen finished 21 of 25 for 308 yards in a game Buffalo became the NFL's first team in the Super Bowl era to score on each of its seven possessions that didn’t end with a kneeldown.
“That sounds like some Pop Warner stuff,” defensive tackle Harrison Phillips said.
No need to remind Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon.
“Shoot, every drive we couldn’t get a stop was frustrating,” Judon said. “It wasn’t only one play. It wasn’t one, single player. It was everything. It was the whole game.”
The Allen-led offense was so efficient it gained 480 yards offense on just 51 snaps before backup Mitchell Trubisky finished the game with three kneeldowns.
“I think we feel good,” Allen said. “There’s some things that we can clean up and work on. But at the end of the day, we moved on, we’re on to the next one and it doesn’t matter what we did today. It’s what we do next week."
The third-seeded Bills advanced to the divisional round to host either the Cincinnati Bengals, who beat the Raiders earlier in the day, or travel to Kansas City, depending on the outcome of the Chiefs game against Pittsburgh on Sunday. A trip to Kansas City would feature a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game, which the Chiefs won 38-24.
The 30-point margin of victory and 47 points scored were the second most by the Bills in a playoff game behind a 51-3 win over the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC championship game on Jan. 20, 1991.
The game was essentially over at halftime, when Buffalo gained 300 yards of total offense, had 19 first downs and built a 27-3 lead.
The Bills rolled into the postseason by winning their final four games to clinch their second consecutive division title. After losing 35 of 40 meetings to New England from 2000 to 2019, Buffalo has now defeated the Patriots in four of the past five meetings, coinciding with Tom Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay.
The Patriots limped into the playoffs by losing three of their last four, and were effectively outclassed in Jones’ postseason debut.
“Get ready to go next year. There’s nothing we can do now that can change the outcome of what happened tonight or whatever, the last, since December,” center David Andrews said. “It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. Missed opportunity. It’s fleeting.”
New England’s previous worst playoff loss under Belichick was a 33-14 defeat to Baltimore also in the wild-card round on Jan. 10, 2010.
Jones struggled in finishing 24 of 38 for 232 yards with two touchdowns to Kendrick Bourne, including a 4-yarder in the final two minutes. Jones was also intercepted twice in closing his season with a combined seven touchdowns passing and seven interceptions in his final five outings.
The Bills put the Patriots on their heels from the opening drive, with Allen patiently waiting in the pocket before scrambling to his right and avoiding a sack. Before stepping out of bounds, Allen lobbed an 8-yard pass to a wide-open Knox in the back right corner of the end zone.
Buffalo’s defense then snuffed out the Patriots’ opening drive with Hyde having the speed and angle to make a leaping interception in snatching the ball away just before Nelson Agholor was about to catch it in the end zone. Jones was also intercepted on New England’s opening drive of the second half, when his pass intended for Hunter Henry was deflected by linebacker Matt Milano and picked off by Levi Wallace.
Nick Folk’s 44-yard field goal with 1 second left in the first half extended his streak to 56 attempts made from under 50 yards. That matched the NFL record set by Tennessee’s Ryan Succop, whose mark spanned the 2014-17 seasons. Folk hasn’t missed a field goal attempt of 49 yards or less since missing a 45-yarder in the 2020 season opener against Miami.
The game was the fourth-coldest in Bills history with a game-time temperature of 7 degrees, and the wind-chill making it feel like minus-4.
The coldest game was played 28 years ago to the day in Buffalo’s 29-23 win over the then-Los Angeles Raiders 29-23 in a divisional playoff game en route to the Bills make their fourth consecutive — and last — Super Bowl appearance. The game-time temperature was zero, with the wind-chill making the conditions feel like minus-32.
Patriots: Season over.
Bills: Travel to face either Kansas City Chiefs or host the Cincinnati Bengals.