The Patriots took the Bills best shot and like the champion fighters that they are, got off the mat and put up a relentless assault scoring on six straight possessions to pull away from a game Buffalo team late to post a 37-16 victory.
The win puts New England at 12-3 and guaranteed a bye for the Wild Card round of the playoffs. It is also the eighth straight season of 12+ wins for Bill Belichick’s teams. Those are some unchartered waters right there folks. Jacksonville lost today to the 49ers so the Pats are guaranteed a bye. If the Steelers lose either tomorrow against the Texans or to the Browns,…or the Patriots beat the Jets next week they’re the #1 seed.
The Bills played really well for the first half and appeared to score a touchdown right before the half when Tyrod Taylor threw to Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone. It certainly appeared to be a touchdown but upon further review, the officials ruled that he didn’t maintain control long enough. This is a case where the replay officials in New York are just plain over-analyzing these things. Enough already.
But Tyrod Taylor and the offense, while moving the ball all day lacked finish and he made some terrible decisions with the football which killed drives. And while certain people like to denigrate the wins by stating that the opponent “crapped themselves”, the Patriots offense and Brady have a big hand in that as well. They put pressure on opponents by scoring six straight possessions. And for a Patriots offense missing Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Martellus Bennett, James White, Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead and starting RT Marcus Cannon, the 37 points were the second most they scored all year.
Don’t be fooled folks, this was a huge win. The Bills entered this weekend a playoff team and needed this one to stay alive. They weren’t playing out the string and going thru the motions here. The Bills led until late in the third quarter and you could see New England taking over this game, which they did and never looked back. Other observations include:
Brady Starts Slow, Takes Over: I have to shake my head sometimes at the commentary I see. Take a good look at the names on the key missing parts of the offense two paragraphs above. Yes, Brady started slowly and made some poor throws and bad decisions. And yet, given that, and missing the above names, he still scored on six straight possessions and put up 37 points on a pretty good defense.
Brady finished 21-28 for 224 yards with 2 TDs and a pick, for a QB rating of 106.9.
Brady made a poor decision on the pick-six and where he took too long getting the throw out. That was also a great play by Jordan Poyer who jumped the route and picked it off, carrying it for a touchdown.
But Brady got better as the game went on and didn’t have a single incompletion in the second half. “But, but, but he only threw for 224 yards.” For years we’ve been clamoring for the Patriots to get a running game going where Brady didn’t have to throw for 300-350 and 45-50 times a game for them to win. They’ve now got that and despite them missing several key components were asserting their will, with #12 pulling the strings.
Lewis, Gronkowski Lead the Offense: Dion Lewis had a fantastic day running the football, gaining 129 yards on the ground on 24 carries with a touchdown each running and receiving. Lewis, the vertically challenged but tough and incredibly difficult runner to bring down added five catches for 24 yards. He was like trying tackle a ghost out there and consistently made yardage after contact. Mike Gillislee returned to the active roster and provided a solid 28 yards on six carries including a one-yard touchdown.
Gronkowski was a force once again hauling in five catches for 67 yards including a highlight reel touchdown as well as drawing a couple of very big pass interference penalties which were as good as big gains. On Gronkowski’s touchdown, Brady threw a back shoulder throw down the left side to the pylon and the big man snatched it out of the air with a beauty of a one-handed grab.
It should be noted that there was none of the targeting of Gronkowski that was feared before the game. Bills’ coach Sean McDermott had said that Buffalo was intent on playing for a playoff berth not seeking revenge and that’s exactly what they did. Buffalo played Gronkowski tough and physical but there were no cheap shots taken.
Curious Decision By McDermott Dooms Buffalo: One of the bigger head-scratchers of the day was by McDermott, who had been playing aggressively all day. Facing a 4th and 1 and down by seven points in the fourth quarter, McDermott opted for a 50-yard field goal, never a sure thing and Steven Hauschka pushed it wide right.
The Patriots responded by going on a 60-yard drive with Lewis putting the finishing touches on that drive and the game by putting the Patriots up by 14 with nine minutes to go. With LeSean McCoy in the backfield, it seemed like a no-brainer that the Bills would go for it and try to break their red zone frustrations against the Patriots.
The Bills were 0-4 on Sunday and 0-6 in the red zone against the Patriots this season. Buffalo’s offense this season against the Patriots defense managed four field goals in two games. Speaking of the defense…
Front Seven Do a Go Job of Limiting McCoy: Coming into this game, the concern was that the Patriots front seven would have a very hard time of slowing down McCoy in the running game where they’ve struggled. And this game was close for more than three quarters, so the scenario was perfect for McCoy to put his stamp on things. The bottom line was McCoy was good but not great and he never was able to consistently take over and finish drives for the Bills.
He had his moments, a nice 18-yard run and a scintillating 39-yard catch and run on a screen pass from McCoy. But overall the Patriots front seven did a pretty good job overall on him, limiting him to 71 yards on 17 carries (4.2-yard average). Overall the Bills running game averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, netting just 84 yards on 24 carries.
Kelvin Benjamin is a Beast: The Bills made a trade for Benjamin this season with Carolina and the big man has been hurt, playing on a bad MCL which will require surgery in the off-season. That has limited his downfield production but he was using his incredible size to his advantage all day against Stephon Gilmore.
Benjamin had a tremendous height advantage on the Patriots corner and was giving him fits all day, leaping for throws on the sidelines and using his 6’5, 243-pound body to use by boxing out Gilmore, who was competitive but couldn’t stop him. Benjamin ended up with five catches for 70 yards on seven targets.
More concerning than Gilmore was the struggles Malcolm Butler was having with Deonte Thompson. Thompson had four catches for 91 yards on five targets with Butler guessing wrong and being beaten on several occasions. Against a limited Bills passing offense, the secondary didn’t have its finest hour.
Tyrod Taylor had 281 yards thru the air but just 242 net after making some terrible decisions with the ball and taking a couple of awful sacks rather than just throwing the ball away. And the curious decision was time and again with the 32nd pass offense in the NFL, McDermott in third or fourth down in short yardage, decided to put the ball in Taylor’s hands rather than McCoy. And it cost them.
With the win, the Patriots move to 12-3 and a bye. They don’t need any outside help to secure the #1 seed in the AFC, with a win over the Jets next week, they’ll be home as long as they keep winning. Missing several key players, this was a big, and important win. Buffalo still has a shot at making the postseason, but they’ll need to beat Miami next week and get some help from the outside.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2017 Patriots Season Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Dion Lewis James White Malcolm Butler New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Trey Flowers