Former Pitt standout Dion Lewis had the best game of his NFL career on Sunday, when his New England Patriots soundly defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-16 in an AFC East matchup.
The running back rushed for 129 yards on 24 attempts, both of which were career-high totals, and added 24 more yards through the air, bringing his yards from scrimmage for the day to 153. He also found the end zone twice, once on a 12-yard pass from Tom Brady and once on a four-yard run, with both coming in the fourth quarter.
For the second time this season, Lewis faced off against fellow former Panther LeSean McCoy, who got the better of him in terms of individual stats last time around but still saw his Bills lose 23-3 on Dec. 3. He suffered the same outcome this time but failed to outperform Lewis, logging an impressive 147 yards from scrimmage on Sunday but never putting points on the board.
All told, Lewis accounted for just under 40 percent of the Patriots’ total yardage on Sunday, and that doesn’t appear to be a coincidence. After the Pats lost to the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels discussed the need to even out the team’s pass-heavy approach.
"We haven’t had any games this year where we've been that out of balance. That's never our intention," McDaniels said, per Mike Reiss of ESPN. "You never try to go into a game and be that imbalanced and think you're going to do well against a good team."
New England made minor progress to that end against the Pittsburgh Steelers, bringing its ratio of passes to rushes down to 35-19 from the ridiculous 43-10 it posted against Miami. This week saw a more dramatic shift, as the Patriots ran 38 times and passed 28 times, with Lewis getting the bulk of the work.
While Brady obviously remains the focal point of the New England offense, the team’s shift makes a lot of sense based on his recent performance and the consistency Lewis has displayed this season. The longtime Pats quarterback has thrown at least one pick in every game since Nov. 26. Lewis, meanwhile, has averaged 5.2 yards per carry and has not fumbled all season.
With that said, the shift also made sense because the Bills rank near the bottom of the league in run defense. Given that information and the fact that handing off to Lewis appears to reduce the risk of turnovers, the Patriots coaching staff likely planned to run the ball more often Sunday. Whatever the case, Lewis ended up with a rare opportunity to shine and took full advantage.
After Sunday’s performance, Lewis now has a career-high 803 rushing yards this season to go with seven total touchdowns. The Patriots will wrap up the regular season this coming Sunday against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium at 1 p.m.