Bad Post Bye Week Woes Continue
We here always tend to look for positives. But there were scant positives to be had for what transpired on the field in all blue at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. After embarrassing the Bills a few weeks ago on their home turf in terrible weather conditions, the Bills paid them back in kind on Sunday.
I know a lot of fans were upset with the officials …and they should be. On two plays that Mac Jones was hit (out of bounds, horse collared, and late), the Patriots ended up with more penalty yards than the Bills. How does that happen? Unfortunately, it does every week in the NFL because the officials only get worse. But that is a subject for another time and place.
But that didn’t cause the team to lose. The Patriots lost because Buffalo’s offense shredded them from start to finish. The only time Buffalo didn’t score was a dropped the down pass in the end zone and then was at the end of the half and the end of the game where they took a knee. The fact that the Bills never had to punt was actually historical. This was the first time that a Bill Belichick-coached team didn’t force a punt in 474 games.
The coaching staff deserves a lion’s share of the stink of this one. They had their post-bye blues a week ago. This was in essence the division championship game and to come out as flat and unphysical as they did is inexcusable. The Bills won the toss and deferred. The Patriots went three and out. No gain, incomplete, and a sack.
The Bills took over and Allen took advantage of the Patriots linebackers in coverage. They were dropping deep and he just threw short underneath and ate them up. That was the way the team started this week. Buffalo was more motivated, played with more passion, and made plays. They were the far better team
So, here are our positional grades this week for the Patriots-Bills game. “Spare the rod, spoil the child?” This was U-G-L-Y and the team has to look in the mirror and ask how they could face, in essence, a playoff game and perform like that.
Mac Jones had a bad game, his worst as a pro in the opinion here. And Buffalo’s defense and secondary can do that to a lot of teams. Buffalo made it clear that their game plan was to put the game in Jones’ hands. Their run defense didn’t do it but their offense did.
But the Bills’ pass defense was very good and they made life tough on Jones all day long and contested everything. Jones finished just 14-32 for 145 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs for a passer rating of 32.1. They made him look like the rookie that he is.
On the first interception, linebacker A.J. Klein got a hand on it and the trajectory changed. N’Keal Harry got a perfunctory wave at it and then the ball changed trajectory again, straight up in the air where it was an easy interception for Micah Hyde.
There were some nice throws mixed in, but when going through his progressions, his accuracy was off and his only two deep balls were both poorly thrown. He tried to hit Harry on a deep post but it was way overthrown and should have been picked off. His second one, a desperation heave at the end of the game was picked off by Hyde to close it out.
Jones had uncharacteristic issues with throwing to Hunter Henry and Brandon Bolden, two of his favorite targets. He was just 3-11 for 29 yards when targeting those two. He did have a couple of decent runs, including a scramble for a 1st down in the second half.
Running Backs: B+
Rhamondre Stevenson missed the game with COVID, but the team got back Damien Harris who had been nursing a bad hamstring since the first Buffalo game. Harris was the bright spot for the offense and the team overall. He rushed 18 times for 103 yards and all three New England touchdowns. He was breaking tackles on all three.
Overall, Buffalo really didn’t stop the Patriots’ ground game, they rushed for 149 yards on 27 carries, a 5.5-yard average. But their offense took them out of running more. Brandon Bolden didn’t have much impact, just two carries, and two receptions, but again, in his five targets, other than one drop, Jones was off the mark. Jakob Johnson did a good job lead blocking and chipped in with a nine-yard reception.
Wide Receivers: D
Jakobi Meyers (again) led the way with 6 catches for 59 yards on 8 targets. With Nelson Agholor out with a concussion, they lacked the speed option on the perimeter. Rather than using Kristian Wilkerson, they put Harry on the outside and he could only manage two catches for 15 yards on six targets. Harry, who is an excellent run blocker was placed out of position most of the game.
Instead of out of the slot, they split him out wide and most of the time ran to the other side. It seems like they outsmarted themselves there. Harry did provide a great block on one of Harris’ touchdowns.
Kendrick Bourne missed all of practice last week due to COVID and wasn’t targeted until the 3rd quarter. He made 2 catches for 33 yards. Do the math, on a day where the Patriots needed to throw the ball, their wide receivers chipped in a total of 107 yards. While a good chunk of that is on Jones, it is also on the WRs, which Meyers said after the game.
Tight Ends: D
Where were the tight ends on Sunday? They were rendered to the milk carton by the Bills’ secondary. They were invisible in the passing game. Hunter Henry and Jones had their worst chemistry of the season. On one well-designed play, Jones had Henry open but Henry flattened out the route and Jones threw a deep corner pass. It was that kind of day. Henry had one (1) catch for 9 yards on six targets.
Jonnu Smith is quickly rivaling Harry as the favorite whipping target for the fan base. He wasn’t targeted in the passing game but on a Jones flip to Bolden that went for about 20 yards, Smith was flagged for a pretty lame holding penalty. He did have a nice block along with Harry on a touchdown run by Harris.
But with the WRs already thin in this game, the tight ends needed to step up. They didn’t.
Offensive Line: C
The offensive line did a pretty good job of pass protection, but once the score got to where it was, the Bills were pinning their ears back, as most teams would do. They only gave up the single sack from the opening drive and four QB hits.
But overlooked is the running game which once again averaged 5.5 yards per rush and totaled 149 yards, which is a good day’s work. If the defense had done their job the running game would have had more opportunities for asserting their will. The Patriots were 4-4 on fourth downs which is a testament to their play.
Defensive Line: C-
The defensive line did a good job of Buffalo’s limited running game when they faced the running backs. Devin Singletary averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. But they suffered when Allen ran and struggled with their gap integrity, something we pointed out was a big key to the game.
The pass rush was okay early in the game, but they got nothing against Allen later. They finished with 0 sacks and 4 QB hits and it seemed like Allen had all day to throw, which doesn’t help the secondary.
Christian Barmore had a couple of nice QB pressures but jumped offside on a 4th and 7. Buffalo converted and then scored…not good.
The linebackers were a big disappointment in this game. The Bills had a makeshift offensive line and the linebackers didn’t get a single sack. Early in the game, the linebackers were taking deep drops in the passing lanes and Allen easily carved them up.
Kyle Van Noy was the bright spot here. He drew a holding penalty and later put the heat on Allen forcing him to unload the ball away. There was precious little of that. Matthew Judon seems to get held a lot but he was quiet with the exception of one QB hit, tipped pass that was close to being a strip-sack but Allen’s arm was definitely moving forward. But the Bills offensive line (mostly Dawkins) kept Judon quiet on the day.
The secondary play was hurt by the lack of pass rush, and when the QB has all day to throw, WRs will get open, where a lot of Stefon Diggs production came from. But the Patriots had no answer and didn’t offer any adjustment on Isaiah McKenzie who absolutely torched them all game long. McKenzie was targeted 12 times and had 11 catches for 125 yards and a score. Most of them were crossers where he was frequently wide open.
Myles Bryant, who had such a strong game in Buffalo, holding Cole Beasley to just one catch was victimized time and again on Sunday. But the coaches off and on the field offered him no help. Devin McCourty said he could have made some in-game adjustments…indeed.
J.C. Jackson had the chance to two picks, the second one could have been a potential game-changer. After the team had narrowed Buffalo’s lead to just five points at 26-21, Allen overthrew Diggs and Jackson was right in the lane. Granted, it wasn’t an easy catch, but great players rise to the occasion in big moments. And he let that one slip away. Jackson was credited with just one pass defensed, but I could swear that he knocked down three passes including the two dropped picks…but it is what it is.
Special Teams: D
The Patriots’ Special Teams have had two stinkers in a row. Gunner Olszewski muffed a kickoff and returned it just 2 yards. His other kickoff return went for just 17. The coverage units allowed a kickoff return of 31 yards and a punt return of 15.
Nick Folk hit all three extra points but attempted no field goals. Jake Bailey averaged 52.7 yards on his three punts, helped out by a 63-yarder. But their efforts were overshadowed by the other gaffes.
The Patriots’ coaching staff was outcoached, had the team unprepared, and didn’t make adjustments that were needed for a divisional championship game. One has to wonder what the coaching staff was thinking as McKenzie beat them time after time and made no adjustment to fix it. They never stopped the Bills or forced them to punt.
Offensively, there were plays on the field to be had, but they just seemed out of sync in the passing game. The team for the second week in a row came out with a total lack of energy and urgency. That’s on the staff.
The path to the division is no longer in their hands and is, in truth has a very low probability of happening. A Wild Card playoff berth is still in play.
We’re on the 2-13 Jaguars and the home finale at Gillette.
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Buffalo Bills Damien Harris Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Isaiah McKenzie J.C. Jackson Jamie Collins Josh Allen Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones Micah Hyde N'Keal Harry New England Patriots Stefon Diggs