FOXBOROUGH – Sooner or later, football fans in general and Patriot fans in particular need to stop paying Rex Ryan so much attention.
After New England’s 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night at Gillette Stadium, Ryan showed once again that he may still know defensive X’s and O’s as well as anyone, but still can’t portray himself as a good head coach. Ryan’s defense blitzed Tom Brady all night long, forced the patchwork offensive line into a ton of errors, but in the end it was the Patriots that made all the plays they needed to to win the game.
The Patriots won despite having a certain touchdown negated thanks to an inadvertent whistle early in the third quarter. They won despite still another wide receiver getting hurt. They won despite the Bills shutting down the Patriot rushing attack until the fourth quarter. They won despite Brady throwing away one pass after another to avoid sacks and interceptions. Buffalo took it to the Patriots for most of the game, but the championship ability of Brady combined with the bumbling tendencies of the Bills proved decisive in the end.
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor played the last offensive series for the Bills with a sore collarbone and could not get anything on his throws, but was never lifted for EJ Manuel. The Bills had 1:54 and 84 yards to navigate to get a game-tying touchdown. The Patriot defense pressured Taylor and gave him anything over the middle as the Bills were out of timeouts. Taylor could only make it to the 48 when time expired. Taylor was strip-sacked on the game’s penultimate play, and the time it took to reset the ball after the fumble took precious seconds off the clock, and on the final play Taylor hit Sammy Watkins for 16 yards, but went out of bounds going backward instead of forward, causing the clock to run down to 0:00.
The final series was a microcosm as to why the Bills lost the game as well as why the Patriots won it. Despite a Bills defense which was pressuring Brady all game long, the game came down to key Buffalo mistakes in the end. Not having enough timeouts was one problem. Not going with a stronger arm in Manuel when Taylor was obviously hurting was another. The Patriots were left to take what the Bills gave them, and turn it into a victory and a still-perfect 10-0 record.
A strange occurrence happened early in the third quarter which, if the Bills were capable of doing so, could have turned momentum in favor of the Bills permanently. Once again, the Patriots won the toss and deferred. A James White touchdown late in the second quarter gave the Patriots a 10-3 halftime lead, and the Patriots had the ball to begin the third quarter.
On the third play of the second half, first and ten at the Patriot 31, Brady was flushed out of the pocket and rolled to the right. Just before running out of bounds, Brady threw down the right sideline and hit a wide open Danny Amendola. Amendola had 20 yards of open real estate in front of him and may have, but not definitely, scored a touchdown. Just as Brady let go of the ball, referee Gene Steratore blew his whistle. The play stopped right there as Amendola caught the pass.
The officials huddled for about 3-4 minutes, then Steratore announced that an inadvertent whistle sounded. By rule, he said, the Patriots get the ball at the spot where Amendola caught the ball, which was the Patriot 45. Steratore then tacked another 15 yards onto the play, saying that Ryan interfered with him on the play, though replay showed that to be more or less a mystery. The whistle may have taken a touchdown off the board, but the Patriots did get the ball at the Buffalo 40.
The Patriots proceeded to go three and out, and Stephen Gostkowski had his long consecutive field goal streak snapped by missing a 54-yard field goal wide right. Buffalo took over at the 44 and went 56 yards in five plays, with LeSean McCoy scoring the game-tying touchdown on a 28-yard run around right end. At this point, the bad whistle seemed a huge play in the game.
But the tide turned the Patriots’ way soon after. The Patriots were stuffed three and out, but on the following drive the Patriot defense did the same. Chandler Jones stuffed Taylor on a designed quarterback run for a six-yard loss, then the Patriots took over at their own 36 and drove 64 yards in six plays. A terrific 41-yard right seam pass to Amendola was followed by a six-yard touchdown run around right end by White. Two drives later, Gostkowski kicked a 35-yard field goal to make it 20-10 Patriots going into the fourth quarter.
Jerry Hughes was a one-man wrecking ball and perhaps the best player of the night for Buffalo. He constantly hurried Brady and even hurt Brady on one play. Hughes constantly forced the offensive line into blocking mistakes, with Brady flinging the ball into the ground for much of the evening.
Brady finished with 20 of 39 passing for 277 yards, one touchdown, one interception (off a deflection), and a 72.3 passer rating. Taylor was 20 of 36 for 233 yards and a 75.3 rating. White had both Patriot touchdowns, one receiving and one rushing.
The injury bug hit the Patriots again, with Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson both sustaining injuries that did not seem catastrophic but prevented them from re-entering the game. It forced Brady to have to go with Brandon LaFell and former practice squad player Chris Harper.
The Patriots may not be able to cover up all their injury problems next week at Denver. Of course, the Patriots will be dealing with Brock Osweiler and not Peyton Manning at quarterback. But if Brady is so depleted on offense that the Denver defense will swallow them up, it will be a long afternoon for the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Just make sure the officials know when to blow their whistles. Give the Patriots a fighting chance, at least.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary