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The New England Patriots defense will be put to the test Thursday night against a Buffalo Bills team still playing for that No. 1 seed in the conference. It’s a Bills team that has put up 80 points on the Patriots in their last two meetings.

The last time these teams squared off was in the playoffs last season, and the Bills marched down the field all night in a 47-17 victory. In fact, Buffalo hasn’t attempted a punt in their last two matchups, even if Patriots coach Bill Belichick says otherwise.

The New England Patriots face their toughest test of the season

Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills is tackled by Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots during the first quarter at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. | Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images.

Remember when we thought the Patriots taking the Green Bay Packers to overtime in Week 4 was a moral victory? Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe came in to relieve an injured Brian Hoyer, and the Packers outlasted New England 27-24 in OT. Seven games later, that’s a not-so-impressive highlight anymore, as the Packers are 4-8 and have all kinds of problems on the field.

While it’s been the defense that’s helped the Patriots to a 6-5 record, New England hasn’t been tested defensively in two months, outside of Thanksgiving night against the Minnesota Vikings. The Patriots failed that test, surrendering 33 points in a 33-26 loss.

The only real test the defense faced came in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins and Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens, both losses. Prior to the Vikings game, the quarterbacks they faced were Zach Wilson, Matt Ryan, Wilson again, Justin Fields, Jacoby Brissett, and Jared Goff.

The biggest test comes Thursday night when New England hosts Josh Allen and the Bills. Buffalo has owned the Patriots in their last two meetings, outscoring them 80-38. The Bills enter Thursday’s meeting with an 8-3 record but are winless in divisional play at 0-2.

The Bills haven’t needed a punter against the Patriots in two games, despite what Bill Belichick says


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After facing the now-benched Wilson and should-be-benched Ryan in the last three weeks, Allen comes to town. New England is all too familiar with the Bills quarterback, who scored at will the last two times these teams faced off.

Belichick was a guest Monday on The Greg Hill Show on WEEI and was asked how personally he takes it that the Bills haven’t punted against New England in their last two meetings.

“I mean, we had them in punt formation on the first series of the game in the second game and gave up a fake punt,” Belichick said, as transcribed by Chris Mason of Mass Live. “So, I wouldn’t really put that on the defense. But regardless, they moved the ball consistently against us. We certainly didn’t make them punt in the playoff game.”

Zack Cox of NESN personally went back and checked the video of both games and couldn’t find a situation when the Buffalo punting unit came out. The Bills scored touchdowns in all seven of their drives in their last meeting. There was no fake punt.

Belichick’s response is a strange one. It’s one thing if you may have mixed a game up with another (the Bills did have a fake punt against them in 2020), but it’s another to say he “wouldn’t put that on the defense” when the defense saw Buffalo score on every single possession.

If the Patriots have any hopes of making the postseason, they’ll have to knock off the high-powered Bills on Thursday. It all starts with making them punt at least once.