The Patriots barely got passed the Buffalo Bills in an unimpressive first game off the bye week. Thanks to a near record day of penalties (14 for 148 yards), the Bills practically handed this game over. The way the Patriots played raises questions about what they did and what changed during their week off.
Devin McCourty saved the game with an end zone interception but the Patriots showed no improvement and barely got a win against the Bills. (FILE:USPresswire)
The only thing that seemed to change was the Patriots run defense. And in this case, change was not a good thing. Heading into Sunday’s game the Patriots were allowing opponents just around 88 rushing yards per game. Against the Bills, the once strong front seven allowed 162 yards. That far outpaced the Patriot’s 117 rushing yards. While there were glimpses of a pass rush and Ryan Fitzpatrick was taken down three times, it seemed like the defense was getting fooled. They were biting on delayed passes and the screen pass got the better of them. Not to mention the usual problem, there was still an open gap in the middle of the field that Scott Chandler got very comfortable with. He was the Bill’s answer to Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots got to see how difficult a guy of that size is to cover. And what seemed to be a distant problem, missed tackles, popped back up again on Sunday, a sign of a defense in reverse.
Offensively things didn’t get much better for the Patriots. Stevan Ridley struggled and finished with 22 carries for 98 yards. He did have a touchdown but his day against that Buffalo defensive line was not easy. The amount of times he tried to bounce the ball outside and was denied was uncharacteristic. So for a Patriots offense that is trying to find its stride and make a name for itself, today was not its day. Fitzpatrick walked away from this game having thrown 100 yards more than Tom Brady and completing a higher percentage of passes. Receivers dropping balls wasn’t any help but it takes eleven players to make an offense run smoothly.
It’s easy to say that the Patriots just needed to shake some rust off and this won’t happen again. But this was the perfect opportunity to get off to a strong start. What they should have done was force Buffalo to play at their level instead of lowering themselves down. The only change I saw was the incorporation of Deion Branch. After Wes Welker he was the most targeted with eight balls thrown his way but unfortunately he only came up with four receptions. The history between Brady and Branch is no secret and this could be signs of a wrinkle in which Branch will become more of a focus for this offense.
This game clearly was not the best way to start the second half of the season. The Patriots should have dominated just as they did in London. There were a lot of errors on both sides of the ball that overshadowed any positive improvements. Once again this team allowed a less than average quarterback to take control and make them sweat it out. Next week they will not be so lucky against Andrew Luck. They have to correct these mistakes and get serious about their schedule. The road from here on out isn’t easy and next week we’ll see what kind of team they’re truly going to be.