September 23, 2007
Overpowering The Bills After A Bumpy Start
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
FOXBOROUGH -- Believe it or not, at one point it was 7-3 Buffalo and Tom Brady lost a fumble at the goal line.
Up to this point, the trap game angle for this game was never more evident. The Patriots recover a Buffalo fumble deep in Bills' territory, and come away with only three points. Buffalo then answers with a 12-play, 90-yard drive to take the lead. The Patriots answer with a long drive of their own a bit later, driving 71 yards in eight plays before Brady coughed up the ball at the Buffalo one. To make matters worse, Bill Belichick quickly burned his clip of challenges, losing both (although on the second one, replay official Bobby Skelton must have forgotten his glasses as Buffalo reserve quarterback Trent Edwards clearly stepped out of the end zone on a scramble for a safety).
The Patriots did hold the Bills firmly at the one-yard line, then put the Bills in their place with five touchdowns on their next six possessions. The Patriots put 38 points on the board for the third consecutive game, and walked off the field with a very easy 38-7 victory over Buffalo Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Whereas the Bills played the Patriots tough up until the Brady fumble, from that point on the Patriots dominated and the Bills did nothing.
It was a classic case of "waking up and suddenly realizing you're in a football game". For the first 21:53 of the game, Buffalo stood up to the mighty Patriots and played very well, while the Patriots looked exactly like a team caught in a trap game usually looks. Once the defense got the Patriots going with the three and out following Brady's fumble, school was out, and out quickly.
Four runs by Sammy Morris 28 yards set up Brady to Ben Watson from eight yards out for a score, with Watson running a square out in the end zone, leaving Angelo Crowell standing and wondering wha hoppen. The next drive featured three runs by Laurence Maroney for 31 yards and a 20-yard pass to Kyle Brady to set up Randy Moss from three yards out, catching a quick slant from the right side where he outgrabbed Jabari Greer for the ball. It was 17-7 Patriots at the half.
After a three-and-out to begin the second half, Wes Welker caught two passes for 21 yards, Moss grabbed one along the deep left sideline for 45 yards, and Maroney ran for 15 yards to set up Jabar Gaffney from four yards out to make it 24-7. Then on the next possession came the cutest play of the day, with Welker taking a slant pass 26 yards, then lateraling to Moss for another 11 yards to the Buffalo 4. Morris plowed in from four yards out on the next play to put the Patriots up 31-7.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, with second and one at the Buffalo 45, Brady pump-faked and lobbed a deep ball down the right sidelines. Moss took those huge hands of his and hauled it in despite Greer providing good coverage. That completed the scoring at 38-7.
By this time, the Patriots could do whatever they wanted and the Bills' defense was spent. But it really was like this since the first half. Once the Patriots woke up from their first quarter doldrums, there was nothing that could be done to alter the outcome of the game on either side. The Patriots were able to sidestep the trap game syndrome and punish the Bills in exactly the way they were expected to do so.
Brady continues to have a dream cloud season. His final numbers were 23 of 29 passing for 311 yards, a career-best (tied) four touchdown passes, and a passer rating of near-perfect proportions (150.9). Welker led the team with six receptions, while Moss and Kevin Faulk each had five. Moss had the most yardage with 115 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Donte Stallworth had only one catch, but it went for 28 yards.
Maroney finally broke the century mark in rushing with 103 yards and a 5.4 yard-per-carry average. Morris chipped in with 46 yards rushing and an average just a tad under 4 yards per carry.
Edwards, filling in for J.P. Losman who had to leave the game in the first quarter, could do nothing with the powerful Patriot defense following the first quarter. Edwards was only 10 of 20 passing for 97 yards, one interception and a rating of only 43.1. Heralded rookie running back Marshawn Lynch gained 74 yards rushing on 20 carries, but was less of a factor as the Patriots began to pull away. Lynch did score the only Buffalo touchdown, an eight-yard run to cap the Bills' second offensive possession of the game.
But this turned into still another demonstration of an opposing defense which could do nothing to stop the Patriot offense. Moss continues to make plays which are basically undefendable, Welker is proving lethal in the slot, and Brady is still enjoying lots of time to throw and good receivers to throw to. Aaron Schobel did hurry Brady on a few occasions and did register a half-sack (along with John DiGeorgio), but did not impact the game like most folks are used to seeing. The running back combo of Maroney and Morris continues to do its thing, and very well.
Trying to dissect this is simply overthinking. The Patriots have too many weapons to handle all at once. Basically, the only thing that can do the Patriots in right now, until some defensive coordinator out there figures something out, is for the Patriots to either make foolish mistakes, execute lousy, or suffer key injuries.
The defense this week held the opponent to single digits. This was a case of not having a potent offense to start with, and the backup quarterback wound up playing most of the game. But the Patriots continue to flourish on defense even without Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour. Randall Gay and Ellis Hobbs continue to hold the fort down in the secondary while Asante Samuel regains his full capabilities (Samuel did have an interception late in the game, returning it 43 yards for a near-touchdown).
The defense will be tested next Monday night at Cincinnati, with Carson Palmer having laid a 45-spot on Cleveland a week ago (in a losing effort). But the Bengals also gave up 51 in that same game, so Brady and company will be licking their chops somewhat.
As for Buffalo, it's time to go back home, lick their wounds, hunker down and get ready to try and salvage their season.
And keep hoping for the best from Kevin Everett all the while.
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