By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots had another commanding performance in defeating the Buffalo Bills 34-3. This victory was the 15th in a row against the Bills.
The Patriots did not start the game on a positive note on defense. However, as in many games this year, the Pats offense gave the defense a good lead to make their adjustments and improved as the game went along. By half-time the Patriots were up 24-3. As a result, the second half was more about the defense taking advantages of the Bills mistakes. Overall, this was a 60 minute dominating performance by the Patriots.
So what did we learn from watching the game on Sunday?
The first thing we learned is the defense is continuing to make big plays when they need to. At times early on the defense looked vulnerable, especially against the run. However, when the Bills were deep into Patriots territory, it seemed the Pats defense would step up and make the play to stop the Bills drives.
The second thing we learned is how valuable the Patriots running game can be as it continues to improve. When you run for 217 yards a team can completely control the game. The Patriots took advantage of a very weak Bills defense against the run.
The third thing we learned is that numbers can be very deceiving sometimes regarding Tom Brady. If you look at his statistics you might think Brady had a bad game. He was just 15-of-27 for 140 yards, but he threw 3 touchdowns. When the opportunities came, Brady took advantage of Bills mistakes and made them pay. Yesterday’s performance was more about his leadership skills rather than his overall statistics. Yesterday showed me more of why he should be the MVP of the NFL this season.
The Bills going into the game had won 4 out of their last 6 games and had really improved over the course of the season. Instead the Patriots just showed the Bills how far they have come since their first match-up at Gillette Stadium earlier in the year and never gave them a shot at winning this one.
On offense, the Bills came out running the ball very effectively against the Patriots. Fred Jackson found huge holes to run through, and made the Patriots pay early on. He had 81 yards on 13 attempts. The shocking thing about the Bills offensively is after their first drive, they went away from the run and started throwing the ball. This was a huge mistake. As the game went on the Patriots did make adjustments and were able to control the Bills running game in the second half. I will never understand why the Bills did not run the ball more.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had a rough day in the passing game. He was 18-of-37 for 251 yards and 3 interceptions. His turnovers really changed the game as the Patriots took advantage of each of his mistakes. He has that gunslinger mentality that can be exciting but can lead to trouble.
On defense, the Bills were horrible at stopping the run. This was the Achilles heel of this unit on Sunday. The Patriots had complete control of the game with their ability to run the ball. The Bills did a decent job in the passing game, but if you can’t stop the run you are going to have a hard time winning games.
For the Patriots, on offense it was about Brady being in command of his unit, and the Pats being able to run the ball at will. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 104 yards and Danny Woodhead ran for 93 yards. This was a balanced performance from the offense.
On defense, the Pats did have a hard time stopping the run. Players being out of action for this game were likely the biggest factor in the run defense. However, they will need to do a better job against the run in the playoffs and I expect as they get healthy we’ll see an improvement there.
The defense was again making big plays with turnovers. The young defense is continuing to play fast and aggressively. This unit is continuing to show improvement.
The most important thing we learned on Sunday is that the Patriots can defeat a club they should beat on the road. Now, they are in the best possible position they can be with home-field throughout the playoffs with a first round bye, and a number one seed.
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.”
1. Ryan Wendell or Quinn Ojinnaka need to protect Tom Brady in the place of Dan Connolly at guard. Wendell was given the assignment to replace Connolly at guard. He did his job on Sunday as Brady was only sacked once, and had plenty of time to throw the ball.
2. The Patriots need to run the ball and control the game. Well, the Patriots certainly succeeded in this key. They ran for 217 yards and had no problem moving the ball on the ground. The running game was vital Sunday.
3. The Patriots need to contain Fred Jackson. The Patriots did a poor job against Jackson in the opening drive. However, for some reason the Bills went away from him after that possession. Later in the game the Patriots did a much better job in containing him, and the Patriots are lucky he was not featured more earlier in the game.
4. The Patriots need to win the turnover battle. The Bills had a total of 7 turnovers. There is no question that this key was very important in this game as the Patriots capitalized on the Bills mistakes.
5. Shayne Graham needs to be very solid in the kicking game. Graham did a decent job on Sunday with his kick-offs. The Bills a few times got beyond the 30 to start possessions, but it did not really hurt the Patriots. Also, he was 100% in extra points and 2-2 in field goals, and was solid on Sunday for the Patriots.
So what did we learn from this game? I think we saw a team maturing and taking care of business when it needed to. Their reward for this victory is home-field throughout the playoffs. For a young team their progress is quite amazing. They are now in position to possibly do something special. What more can you ask for as a fan of the New England Patriots?
What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 34-3 victory against the Bills.