The Buffalo Bills did plenty of good things on Monday Night Football. They hit Tom Brady throughout the night and held the quarterback to 277 yards and a touchdown on 51 percent passing. Buffalo promised to take Rob Gronkowski out of the game and Gronk finished with two catches for 37 yards. The run game was also shut down by Buffalo. The New England Patriots run game was held to 85 yards on 22 carries. The defensive game plan overall was pretty strong on Monday night but the same could not be said for the offense and special teams.
Buffalo's offense and special teams deserve their fair share of blame for Monday's loss. Tyrod Taylor had a rough evening. He was inaccurate for stretches throughout the game and, even on completions, he underthrew the ball. An underthrown ball cost Chris Hogan a touchdown in the first half. Taylor had Hogan wide open for a touchdown but the ball hung in the air. The same thing happened on deep throws to Sammy Watkins throughout the evening.
The Bills QB wasn't the only player who deserves blame for the loss. Taylor had the opportunity to connect with LeSean McCoy for a touchdown pass late in the first half but the running back couldn't haul the pass in. The drop shifted momentum in the game. McCoy's drop led to a field goal attempt late in the half that Dan Carpenter missed. It gave Brady and the Patriots time to move the ball down the field and score a touchdown late. Buffalo could have entered halftime with a lead, but the offense couldn't finish and Carpenter's kick proved costly.
Carpenter wasn't the only special teams player who failed to deliver on Monday night. Leodis McKelvin was put on punt return duty and his first two fair catches were forward lunges that made Bills fans nervous. Then, when he finally had room to catch a ball, McKelvin carried the ball loosely away from his body. Unsurprisingly, McKelvin was stripped and the Patriots recovered the ball in Bills territory. It led to a field goal and a two score lead for the Patriots. You'd think McKelvin would be pulled after the fumble but he stayed in the game and bobbled another punt return late in the game. It's hard to believe that the Bills don't have any better options.
Credit the Patriots on the win. Short-handed, the Patriots did enough to beat the Bills. The defense was sharp and took Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay out of the game. New England didn't steamroll the Bills by any means on Monday night, but they once again proved why they run the AFC East.
As for the Bills, the team is still in the Wild Card hunt. Their next two games are against the Chiefs and Texans, teams who also sit at 5-5. If Buffalo can defeat both of these teams, they'll be setting themselves up for a playoff run. That said, defeating either team will be difficult without a healthy Tyrod Taylor. At the end of Monday's game, the quarterback was in noticeable pain and holding his shoulder. If he suffered an injury and has to miss any time, it's hard to have much confidence in an EJ Manuel led Bills team. Monday's loss was already tough for the Bills but it could be even worse if they lose their starting quarterback for any span of time.