By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots may have beaten the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Gillette Stadium 38-30, but this game turned out to be a struggle for New England.
Going into the game I really thought the Pats would win comfortably, and there wouldn’t be any nervous moments. Well, I give credit to the Bills for coming to play. They never gave up, and kept fighting right to the end. I don’t know if we learned anything new from the team today, but they won a game in the division, and that is the bottom line.
The offense looked strong and was clicking the majority of the game. On defense this is a young unit that is continuing to go through growing pains. Special teams also really struggled and actually helped keep the Bills in the game. No matter how they looked today, the Patriots won and in the big picture that is all that really matters.
On offense, Tom Brady looked like he is in mid-season form. He had complete command of the offense, and at times looked impossible to stop. New England was also very balanced on offense, with Brady throwing for 252 yards, and the Patriots runningbacks combining for 200-yards rushing.
In the running game BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a tremednous day, running for 98 yards. Overall this unit is rounding into great form, and I have complete confidence that the offense will continue to get even better. However, Sunday was certainly one of the strongest performances we’ve seen to date.
On defense, unfortunately there are not many positives to to take away from this one. The Patriots defense made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like a Pro Bowl NFL quarterback, and he is a below average player at best. New England also could not stop the Bills running game. The worst part of this unit had to be the mental errors they made on Sunday. Several defenders missed tackles and assignments. They looked like a very young defense that is struggling to find its way. For the Pats to have any chance this season, this unit is going to need to show improvement because from what we’ve seen to this point, they’ve played like a below average defense.
On Special Teams, this unit was very poor. CJ Spiller ran back a kickoff for a touchdown. Zoltan Mesko had a very bad day punting averaging 38 yards per punt. On kick off returns Brandon Tate did not give the Pats great field position to start drives. Stephen Gostkowski was 1-1 in field goals, and was the only bright spot on Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills I believe will be lucky to win 4 games this season. For the Pats to struggle on Sunday doesn’t make me feel comfortable going into next week at Miami. However, in the end they won the game and that is the only statistic that really matters.
As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game. Below is my analysis of “My Five Keys To Victory For The Patriots Against The Bills”, which I posted last week prior to Sunday’s game.
1. The Patriots need to stop the run. The Patriots could not stop the running game of the Bills. As a team The Bills ran for 134 yards and a 5.4 yards per carry average. Marshawn Lynch was the leading rusher with 79 yards.
Pats defenders missed tackles, and were often taking bad angles to the ball carrier which led to more yardage. Many of these mistakes can definitley be fixed. They weren’t blown off the ball. This is just another sign of a young defense. They will have to be better next week at stopping the run against Miami.
2. The Pats need to put serious pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Pats did not put significant pressure on the Bills quarterback. He had more than enough time to survey the field, and find the open man. The defensive backs had a tough day indirectly caused by a lack of pass rush. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 20-28 for 247 yards and two touchdown passes. The Pats did not do a good job of making him uncomfortable in the pocket.
3. The Pats need to get the tight ends involved in the game. This key yesterday was definitely a success for the Pats. Aaron Hernandez is really starting to have the effect on the Pats offense that Dallas Clark has with the Colts. He had 6 receptions for 65 yards. Rob Gronkowski continues to be a major threat, and a go to guy in the redzone. He had 3 catches for 43 yards and one touchdown pass.
These two tight ends have brought a new dynamic to the offense that I have not seen in a long time. The great thing about the tight ends is they are only going to get better.
4. The Pats need to make an effort to run the ball. The Pats were very successful in this key as well. They ran for 200 yards with a 5.3 yards per carry average. BenJarvus Green-Ellis led the Pats with 98 yards.
The crazy thing about the offense is that I had hoped that the Pats would have a balanced attack against the Bills. I wouldn’t have guessed the Pats would have run 59% of the time in the game. The running game was a big part of the victory, as it kept the clock going, and kept the Pats defense off the field.
5. The Pats need to score touchdowns in the redzone. This was another very successful key yesterday. The Patriots were 3-3 with touchdowns inside the redzone. You can’t do any better than that. The Pats will need to score more touchdowns this season to help out the defense, but on Sunday they dominated inside the redzone.
So on Sunday we learned that the defense is still a work in progress. However, the offense is good enough to win a game for the Patriots. Hopefully as the season progresses the defense can improve to the point that they can win games on their own. One can only dream.
What are your reactions to Sunday’s game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 38-30 win over Buffalo.