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Patriots Running Game, Defense Throttle the Bills 23-3

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
December 3, 2017 at 7:33 pm ET

Patriots Running Game, Defense Throttle the Bills 23-3(PHOTO: Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 5 minutes

The Patriots offense this year is no longer the chuck-it 50 times a game and run it once in a while kind of show. For the second week in a row, they took advantage of a team trying to sell out to protect against the passing of Tom Brady and they made them pay. Buffalo couldn’t stop the Patriots running game and New England for the second week in a row running for nearly 200 yards on the day and the defense stuffed the Bills in a 23-3 blowout win in Buffalo.

With the victory, the Patriots improved to 10-2 and for the next 24 hours hold the top spot in the AFC until Pittsburgh plays Cincinnati on Monday Night Football. They have effectively clinched a tie for the AFC East once again, they are four games up on Buffalo with four to play. Tom Brady improved to 27-3 against the Bills all time which is a new NFL record for wins against one franchise.

There was also some fireworks at the end of the day with Rob Gronkowski that may see him get a hefty fine for an inexcusable cheap shot. Other observations include:

Pass Defense Steps Up Big Again: Remember the calls that Stephon Gilmore is a bust? That the pass defense was historically bad? Well in the last eight games the Patriots allowed 17 points or fewer in each of them, averaging 11.9 points allowed. The pass defense? Buffalo had 85 net passing yards today. Stephon Gilmore was outstanding once again in coverage on Sunday. Buffalo tried to make some kind of point by repeatedly trying to beat him for a touchdown down in the red zone. They didn’t and turned the ball over on downs….that is so Buffalo.

In the last six games, the Patriots pass defense is allowing 195.1 yards per game. Let that one roll around for a minute. What a turnaround for Matt Patricia’s crew.

“Who the H**L is Eric Lee?”: I must have heard this about 3-4 times during the game today. The youngster, plucked off of Buffalo’s practice squad just last week had himself a day in just his second NFL game.

Lee stopped the Bills’ first drive of the game, Buffalo took the opening kickoff and drove easily down the field. But inside the 10-yard line, Lee dropped back into the passing lane where the Bills like to throw a slant and Tyrod Taylor obliged by the throwing a pass right to him.

Lee’s stat line on the day? One and a half sacks, a tackle for a loss, three QB hits and an interception. These last two weeks have to be a whirlwind for the young man. He gets plucked off of the Bills practice squad, gets pressed into action just a few days later and gets his first sack against Miami. Then coming back to face his former team, has a tremendously productive day.

Brady Has Mostly a Quiet Day: Tom Brady’s stat line on the day was a modest 21-30 for 258 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. The pick shouldn’t have counted as there were at least two fouls on Gronkowski on the play but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Brady did, however, move in the pocket extremely well and it was his ability to slide away from pressure, step up and deliver is what separates the men from the boys so to speak. He did this time and again. He had a bit of frustration as he and Josh McDaniels had a small tiff on the sidelines.

Brady’s best drive was the opening one in the second half, Brady moved them easily down the field for the first touchdown of the game. On the drive, he mixed in runs and passes and hit Gronkowski three times for 50 yards before Rex Burkhead powered in for the score.

The Two-Headed Monster With Lewis and Burkhead was Outstanding: Buffalo tried to stymie Tom Brady by selling out in pass defense. The Patriots made them pay by gashing them for 193 yards on the ground before two Brian Hoyer kneel downs. This offense is varied and versatile and led by Lewis and Burkhead, they’re getting better and better every week.

Lewis led the way with 92 yards on 15 carries and narrowly missed back-to-back 100 yards games. He’s having an incredible season. Hard to believe Lewis was the subject of trade rumors in October. Burkhead had another very solid outing rushing for 78 yards on with two touchdowns. Burkhead had a long for 31 yards while Lewis added a 44-yarder as the running game is beginning to break some big chunk plays every week.

Gronkowski Has a Big Second Half Until a Huge Gaffe: The Patriots and Brady didn’t target Rob Gronkowski much in the first half, the big man had just a pair of catches for 28 yards. But all of that changed after half-time.

As we mentioned above, Brady targeted him three times for 50 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter. Gronkowski ended up with nine catches for 147 yards. And that is when all hell broke loose.

Facing a 3rd and long, Brady was looking for Gronkowski who was held and interfered with twice by TreDavious White. White actually came down with the ball, having intercepted it on the play. Gronkowski’s frustration spilled over and he delivered a very cheap shot to the head of White on the ground. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior however and Gronkowski should know better.

We get that no one is held more and interfered with more than Gronk. He also always gets these ticky-tack BS offensive pass interference penalties that no one else ever gets called on. As he said after the game, it has been going on for seven years.

As for a suspension? No. He’s never been accused of anything dirty before. Usually, it is him that opponents are taking cheap shots on, going after his knees and his head. Micah Hyde rushed to judgment saying that the league can’t tolerate plays like that. He conveniently neglected to mention that on the same play, he ripped Danny Amendola’s helmet off his head in a very dirty and unnecessary as well move. And then complained that he didn’t know what he had done… so Buffalo.

Gronk has no priors so a healthy fine should be on the way. But 9-147? He definitely likes playing in front of his old hometown. Just imagine the day he could have if he wasn’t held or interfered with on every play.

Tyrod Taylor Crowd is Eerily Quiet: We’ve been saying this for three years that Taylor is not a good QB. It isn’t rocket science why Buffalo averages under 200 yards passing a game for the past several years. It is why stats, which are good, can be very, very misleading. Taylor was 9-18 for 65 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. He lost 25 yards on three sacks so he netted 40 yards passing. That’s a 2.2 yard net on every pass attempt.

But the Twitter-verse is chocked full of Taylor apologists and they continually sing this guy’s praises. When Buffalo’s running game isn’t operating at peak capacity, he’s incapable of putting a team on his back and leading them to a victory.

Taylor suffered a leg injury and was carted off the field late making way for Nathan Peterman. On the day, the Bills averaged 3.4 yards per pass play.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

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Gronkowski May Have Put Himself in Harms Way For Rematch With Bills

About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Tags: 2017 Patriots Season Buffalo Bills Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Eric Lee James White Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rex Burkhead Rob Gronkowski Stephon Gilmore Tom Brady

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