The Patriots are well-known for adjusting to any situation and any opponent. So, when Bill Belichick and his crew came into Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. and faced a snow globe situation with driving winds and wintry precipitation, you knew that Mac Jones wasn’t going to be throwing the ball all over the field. In the end, Jones attempted three passes, completing two for 19 yards. It was New England’s ground game and defense that got things done, not to mention a weather situation that didn’t really help the Bills, who have not had a great run game all season, and whose defense has been great for the most part, but vulnerable to power-running teams.
The last time a team threw fewer passes in a game than the Patriots did? Well, we have to go back a ways, though we’re staying in the AFC East.
September 29, 1974 — Week 3 of the season — saw similar weather conditions in Rich Stadium in upstate New York. As William M. Wallace of the New York Times News Service pointed out, the game featured winds at 20 miles per hour, with gusts doubling that. Rain was also a major factor. The ball had to be held on kickoffs, an American flag was frayed by the wind, and about half the crowd of 76,978 had left by halftime.
Joe Namath attempted 18 passes, completing two to his own receivers, and three to the Bills. Buffalo quarterback Joe Ferguson threw two early interceptions to the Jets, but both were erased by penalties, and after that, head coach Lou Saban decided to stick with the ground game. Those were the last two passes Ferguson attempted — just two attempts with no completions in the entire game.
Like the Patriots on Monday night, the Bills went on the ground pretty much exclusively, with O.J. Simpson gaining 117 yards on 31 carries, Jim Braxton gaining 84 yards and scoring a touchdown on 17 carries, and Ferguson gaining 14 yards and scoring a touchdown on 10 carries.
That was enough for the Bills to come out of the muck with a 16-12 win. The Jets scored one touchdown on a John Riggins run, and Bobby Howfield kicked two field goals in the third quarter, but the Bills had a bit more juice on the ground — which did not happen this time around.
“It was murder,” Saban said after the game. “Absolute murder.”
Namath echoed Saban’s thoughts.
“It was absurd. Ridiculous. If it was a golf tournament, they would have canceled it… I was missing guys on little cuts — six, seven yards out.”
Which is why Belichick wanted his quarterback to avoid the same fate.