By: Ian Logue
Sunday’s game had its ups and downs and after looking back there’s one word that really seems to fit what will likely be the theme of this 2013 season.
Patriots fans watched New England’s normally prolific offense struggle on Sunday, with quarterback Tom Brady battling to try and get on the same page as his rookie receivers. As we saw yesterday the Bills came after Brady all afternoon and the veteran quarterback slid left and right, stepped up, and then made a lot of throws that didn’t quite hit their mark, especially when throwing to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins. Brady looked his way 14 times on Sunday and connected on just four, which means the two clearly still have some work to do. The odd part of that situation was the fact that out of everyone, he and Thompkins were the two players who were the most in sync during the preseason, having only failed to connect twice on 10-of-12 passes.
It’s going to be a long season as the Patriots work out the kinks in their offense.
(USA TODAY Images)
Joining Thompkins was rookie Josh Boyce who only saw two passes thrown his way, neither of which were receptions and tight end Zach Sudfeld didn’t fare any better. The one attempt Brady sent in his direction went off his hands and ended up being picked off. That left Brady to rely on getting the ball to Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, who both were big in Sunday’s win. Amendola had 10 catches on the afternoon, 9 of which went for a first down and 7 of those converted 3rd down plays and kept the chains moving. Edelman was targeted 9 times with 7 receptions, and was a perfect 3-of-3 on third down including two touchdowns. Shane Vereen also was big out of the backfield, finishing with 7 receptions for 58 yards.
It’s never a good sign when it takes over 50 throws to barely squeak out a game like the one we saw Sunday, but there’s probably going to be quite a few of these early in the year. Anytime you make the type of significant transition that the Patriots are in, unfortunately there’s no substitute for experience and the only way they’re going to get it is to go through games like these so that they can go back and look at film and start working out whatever the issues are.
“This is our first opportunity so things are a lot different on the game field,” said Brady after yesterday’s game. “Things are very unpredictable on the game field, there’s nothing you can talk about, you’re just trying to react. So you’ve got to build confidence in each other and then go out there and make the plays if you can. It was a good experience, a good learning experience, all these games are going to be tough.”
One other big problem the Patriots experienced yesterday was the early fumble trouble from running back Stevan Ridley, who lost a second quarter fumble that Buffalo returned 74 yards for a touchdown. That turnover cost Ridley any chance of getting back on the field, with head coach Bill Belichick benching him for the rest of the game. In Ridley’s absence Vereen stepped up and carried the ball 14 times for 101 yards, and also had a critical 15 yard run at the end of the game that helped set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game winning field goal.
However, in Ridley’s case it’s a situation where you basically need to look at it as having something like this occur in the opening game is better now than later in the year. In all likelihood this was an unfortunate lesson for Ridley that will probably help him for the rest of the season. He had played very well before he left, having carried 9 times for 46 yards (5.1 avg) including two runs of over 10 yards. His 1200+ yard season last year wasn’t a fluke, and as well as Vereen played it’s tough to ask him to do absolutely everything when they have someone who spent all of last season being a strong asset for them.
“I never get too high, never get too low,” Ridley told the Boston Globe. “This was the first game of the 2013 season, and what happened last year just goes to show you that things can change day to day. Coming in and having two turnovers, I can’t blame anybody but myself. I have to man up and come back to work. I’m just going to put my nose in the dirt and keep grinding, man, that’s all I can do.”
It all comes down to showing patience and not making rash decisions over results from just one game. It’s a long year, and there’s still fifteen games left. As we saw last year where they were as a team in week one was light years from where they finished. Needless to say fans are going to need to show a lot of patience and restraint this season, because by the time the year is over we’ll all probably be feeling much better about where they’re headed after all is said and done.
ARRINGTON COMES UP BIG SUNDAY
While the focus will be on the offense following Sunday’s game, it’s tough not to appreciate what the Patriots defense was able to accomplish, and Kyle Arrington was a player who definitely stood out. The veteran defensive back forced two fumbles, the second of which they were able to turn into a touchdown. Overall their pass defense was terrific, with the most important number that stood out being that they didn’t allow any big plays, having not given up a single pass of over 20 yards on Sunday. This is definitely a game they continue to build on, and it should be interesting to see how they follow up this one against the Jets on Thursday.
“We made just enough plays,” Arrington told the Boston Globe. “We’re definitely more focused this year on there being other ways to cause turnovers at our position besides intercepting the ball. When you see an opportunity to cause a fumble, seize it.”
PATRIOTS RUN DEFENSE WAS SOLID:
Looking back at yesterday’s game, another thing worth mentioning after looking at the numbers was how impressive the Patriots run defense was against the Bills. They held Buffalo to 19 rushes of five yards or less, and just two over 10 yards. CJ Spiller was held in check, with 9 of his 12 rushes being held to 5 or less yards. It’s a tall order to slow down someone of his caliber, so it’s hard not to appreciate just how well New England’s defensive line played yesterday.
SOME FACTS THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
Brady extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 49 straight games during yesterday’s win, which is five short of the NFL record. Meanwhile the defense extended an impressive streak of their own, forcing a turnover in their 28th straight game. The latter fact I wasn’t aware of, but it was pointed out by the team’s official Twitter feed yesterday. The streak was extended on the Spiller fumble to start the game. Also, when the team took the field yesterday, not one player who caught a first down for Tom Brady last season was on the field on Sunday. Last year they finished the game with 33, with the running backs rushing for 19 first downs, while the receivers accounted for 13 of their own – none of which were there this time around. Last season it was Wes Welker (5), Rob Gronkowski (3), Brandon Lloyd (2), Danny Woodhead (1), Daniel Fells (1) and Brandon Bolden (1) who moved the chains for them.
ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:
Patriots start season with shaky win – Shalise Manza Young – Young writes that in case you forgot, Brady still knows how to orchestrate a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.
ON FOOTBALL: Patriots offense could struggle for awhile – Ben Volin – Volin writes that it’s time to be realistic about the Patriots offense this season.
Tom Brady saved the day for Patriots – Christopher Gasper – Gasper writes that it was Tom Brady who was able to mask every deficiency the Patriots had on Sunday.
Shane Vereen steps up with Stevan Ridley benched – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer has an article on Vereen, who was glad he was able to make plays for his team on Sunday.
NOTEBOOK: Kyle Arrington comes up big twice for Patriots – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the play of Kyle Arrington on Sunday.
Stevan Ridley, after two fumbles, focused on earning his job back – Zuri Berry – Berry has an article on Stevan Ridley, who after losing the football and his place on the field is now focused on earning his role back.
Julian Edelman capitalizes on familiarity with Tom Brady in Patriots win – Erik Frenz – Frenz has an article focused on Edelman and the fact his experience with Brady helped the team win on Sunday.
Way to kick off the Patriots’ season – Mike Farrell – Farrell has an article on Stephen Gostkowksi, who nailed the game winner on Sunday and helped get the Patriots off to a 1-0 start.
Patriots win ugly… and they’ll take it – Jeff Howe – Howe writes that despite a massive offseason overhaul, there are enough veterans in the Patriots locker room to understand what happened yesterday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Borges: Healthy return by Danny Amendola good sign – Ron Borges – Borges writes that when Amendola limped off the field Sunday early in the first half, you knew what was happening from Portland to Providence. A lot of pillows were being thrown at television screens.
Best & Worst of Patriots-Bills game – Ron Borges – Borges has his best and worst from yesterday in this entry.
Tom Brady on D&C: Danny Amendola ‘Just Awesome’ in Second Half vs Bills – Jerry Spar – Spar has comments from Tom Brady during his weekly appearance where he talked about a variety of topics, including his praise for the performance Amendola had on Sunday.
Tom Brady Confidence Index Week 1: Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola Up, Stevan Ridley Down – Christopher Price – Price has this week’s edition of this new feature, and it’s an interesting read.
With help of Shane Vereen, Tom Brady again great eraser – Mike Petraglia – Petraglia writes that thanks to the play of Shane Vereen, Brady was able to over come the sloppiness and lack of execution.
Who has guaranteed contracts? – Field Yates – Yates has a list of players with at least four years of experience on their roster who are entitled to their guaranteed salaries.
Bills’ report card vs. Patriots – Mike Rodak – Rodak files his report card after Sunday’s game, although this one focuses primarily on the Bills since he now covers them full time for ESPN.
Stevan Ridley Says He Will Have to Fight to Get Patriots’ Starting Running Back Job Back From Shane Vereen – Doug Kyed – Kyed has an article on Ridley, who obviously had a rough day on Sunday.
Patriots’ Defense Was Impressive Containing EJ Manuel, But Rookie Quarterback Showed Poise in NFL Debut – Doug Kyed – Kyed has a good read on the defense, which did a good job in keeping EJ Manuel from having a huge day.
Yes, a good way to start the season for Patriots – Bill Burt – Burt has a column this morning on yesterday’s game and writes that the drama we saw yesterday is what happens in football games.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
FARINELLA: A win is a win for the Patriots – Farinella writes that Sunday’s game was a win, and Patriots fans should probably revel in it.
Still Brady or bust for these New England Patriots – Tom King – King writes that the Patriots will always have one big advantage as long as he’s still playing: Tom Brady.
Jim Donaldson: Patriots’ Amendola, filling big shoes, hangs tough in opener – Jim Donaldson – Donaldson writes that for a little guy, Wes Welker left some huge shoes to fill and Amendola did a good job Sunday.
Analysis: Patriots-Bills – Erik Scalavino – Scalavino has his take on yesterday’s game in this entry.