Bills in familiar spot after repeating mistakes against Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Leodis McKelvin did it again.

Six years after fumbling a kick return that led to the Buffalo Bills losing on Monday Night Football against the New England Patriots, McKelvin fumbled a punt return in Monday night’s 20-13 loss to the Patriots — the Bills’ first MNF appearance since that 2009 game — which was recovered by the Patriots and converted into a field goal.

On a night when they showed they could hang tough with the AFC’s best team on its home turf, McKelvin’s gaffe was one of many self-inflicted wounds that prevented the Bills from toppling the undefeated Patriots.

The Bills could get another shot at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs, but the road back to Foxborough will be tough. Now back at .500, Buffalo will need to clean up its mistakes and claw through the final six games of their season just to give the Patriots another run for their money in January.

In other words, it was more of the same from Buffalo.

What it means: The Bills have yet to win on Monday Night Football this century. They remain in second place in the AFC East, but their playoff chances took a hit with the loss. It’s wild card or bust at this point, as the Patriots are close to clinching the division.

One reason to get excited: The Patriots could be hosting the AFC Championship Game in January and the Bills gave New England plenty to handle on their home turf in prime time. It wasn’t enough Monday night, but if the Bills can make the playoffs, they showed they stand a chance in the playoffs if they have to travel to Gillette Stadium.

One reason to panic: The Bills are still very much in the playoff hunt, but they’re now back in the mix of 5-5 teams in the AFC, which includes the Chiefs and New York Jets. That gives next Sunday’s game in Kansas City — on a short week for their third consecutive road trip — significant playoff implications.

What were they thinking? There weren’t any glaring head-scratching play calls or game-management decisions in this game, but the Bills had no shortage of errors. From Seantrel Henderson‘s illegal formation penalty that negated a first down early in the game, to LeSean McCoy not catching a would-be touchdown, to McKelvin fumbling a punt return, to the Bills’ bench being called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike after a play that was inadvertently blown dead, to the Bills needing to burn a timeout in the fourth quarter because Marcell Dareus wasn’t on the field, Buffalo hurt itself and allowed the Patriots — who committed costly penalties of their own — to take control of the game.

Fantasy watch: Sammy Watkins was held to three catches and was targeted only five times, all in the second half. One of Tyrod Taylor‘s intended passes to Watkins was likely too far out of bounds to be caught. Watkins’ lack of targets was a mixture of strong coverage from Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and Taylor focusing more on Chris Hogan and Robert Woods in the passing game.

Ouch: Mario Williams was sidelined in the second half with a foot injury and did not return. Guard John Miller was carted off in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return. Wide receiver Marcus Easley left in the first half to undergo the NFL’s concussion protocol and did not return.

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