By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 34-20 on Sunday.
While the team did get the victory, they still have a lot of work to do moving forward. Here is my report card for week seventeen. —
Offense Grade: B +
The Patriots struggled a bit through the air, but dominated on the ground led by tailback LeGarrette Blount. The 27-year-old running back rushed 24 times for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The Pats rushed for 267 yards on the day, controlling the line of scrimmage, one of the many key takeaways from the contest.
While the Patriots did put up 34 points, the team was inconsistent throughout the day. New England went 4-for-13 on third down and only scored 16 points through three quarters of play. The past two weeks, the team has finished strong against opponents — at Baltimore, vs Buffalo — which is great heading into the postseason.
Defense Grade: C
The Patriots made stops when they needed to, but it wasn’t a pretty performance by the defense.
The weather and Buffalo’s ineptitude offensively helped New England secure their twelfth win of the season. The Bills only managed to score 10 points during the first three quarters, but racked up 392 yards of total offense.
With two more starters out this past week in safety Devin McCourty and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, their were big holes open at times. Still, Buffalo failed to capitalize on key opportunities and the Pats were able to yet again, overcome significant injuries defensively.
Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga was a bright spot on the day. While the Bills were able to accumulate 169 yards on the ground, Siliga clogged up much of the middle and added a sack. His ability to control gaps and shed blocks has been a much needed presence for the interior of the line that lost so much in Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly’s season-ending injuries. His development has been fun to watch.
Special Teams Grade: A
The Patriots special teams play has been solid all year.
This game was no different for the Pats. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed four field goals, adding to his already stellar season. Punter Ryan Allen pinned the Bills inside their own 20 yard-line once, but flipped field position when given the opportunity.
While I have been critical of New England’s ability to return kicks this year, Blount had an exceptional day with two huge returns. The tailback had 145 total yards on both attempts, one going for 83 yards. The ability he has in open field is incredible for his size. Perhaps this is what Bill Belichick envisioned from the beginning. We’ll see if Blount can build off this performance in the playoffs.
Overall Grade: B +
Overall, the Patriots capped of the 2013 regular season with the second seed in the AFC playoffs. Despite a season of bumps, bruises and season-ending injuries, the team has found a way to come out on top more often than not.
New England has built up some momentum in the past two weeks, defeating the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills by a combined score of 75-27. With the bye week a key chance to rest up and gameplan for a pending divisional opponent, only time will tell if the Patriots can put together a championship run.
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