Report Cards: Patriots - Bills

The Patriots earned a first round bye after defeating the Buffalo Bills 49-21 in the season finalie. Here's how each team did broken down unit-by-unit.

PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. BILLS

   PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- The day did not get off to a great start for anyone, particularly Tom Brady, but the quarterback put together yet another dominant performance once it was all said and done. Brady finished with 338 passing yards and three touchdowns. Some of those passes wound up in the hands of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke the NFL single-season record for most receiving yards by a tight end. This team will live and die on Brady's arm, for better or worse.

   RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Surprisingly, the Patriots didn't completely abandon the run once they fell behind 21 points. Stevan Ridley earned the most carries and finished with 81 yards. Outside of losing a fumble, he did a solid job. No one else other than BenJarvus Green-Ellis factored into the running game, perhaps indicating the Patriots have found their rotation for the playoffs.

   PASS DEFENSE: B -- Much like every other facet of Sunday's game, the Patriots' pass defense got off to a poor start early, thanks to some untimely penalties and an inability to slow down Ryan Fitzpatrick. After switching up some players in their nickel coverage and giving rookie defensive back Sergio Moore a chance to play, the Patriots held Buffalo to just 61 passing yards in the second half and intercepted Fitzpatrick four times.

   RUSH DEFENSE: B -- C.J. Spiller had a decent performance with 60 yards, but the Bills' running game didn't make much of an impact. Ahead by 21, the Bills fell apart and never really tried to re-establish the run in an attempt to keep New England's offense off the field. The Patriots have been improving against the run in recent weeks, and they should be confident moving forward.

   SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The Patriots did a nice job, particularly in the coverage units, as they moved around a few players to create better matchups. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a pair of field goals, and Zoltan Mesko had a 51-yard punt. The less noise on special teams, the better -- particularly for the defense, which could use the help in field position.

   COACHING: A -- The Patriots came to win, but they also tried to experiment with their lineup. Changes on defense, such as playing Sergio Brown over Kyle Arrington and using Julian Edelman in the slot defensively on nickel coverage, paid dividends. This was the best of both worlds, as the Patriots proved they could rally from behind and answered a few questions they had with the lineup.



BILLS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS


   PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Ryan Fitzpatrick had the kind of game that has come to define him in the second half of the season: He threw for 307 mostly hollow yards and threw four second-half interceptions that led directly to 21 New England points. Fitzpatrick started great, leading the Bills to 21 first-quarter points. He threw TD passes to Steve Johnson and C.J. Spiller, but coach Chan Gailey benched Johnson after the receiver drew a penalty for excessive celebration, and soon after, the offense went ice cold. WR Derek Hagan made some plays in Johnson's place, catching seven passes for 89 yards, but the Bills just didn't have an ability to make big plays through the air when Johnson went out.

   RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- C.J. Spiller never really got a chance to get going, and he finished with just 60 yards on 13 carries. Early in the game, the Bills wanted to throw because New England's pass defense is so bad, but once the Patriots started rallying, the Bills needed to establish the ground game, and Gailey never got around to doing it, as he seemed to lose a grip on the flow of the game. Tashard Choice and Spiller each scored a TD, and the Bills averaged 5.3 yards per attempt, but they were forced to throw for most of the second half, leaving the running game as an afterthought.

   PASS DEFENSE: D -- Like most teams, the Bills had no answers for New England's dynamic tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Those two combined for 15 catches for 246 yards and three TDs. The Bills tried various personnel, and nothing worked, as both tight ends managed to get behind the overmatched defense. The Bills' defensive backs did not have a single pass breakup, as the only two were made by LB Nick Barnett, who also had the lone interception of Tom Brady. The Bills did a decent job on WR Wes Welker, who wasn't much of a factor with six catches for 51 yards after he caught 16 for 217 yards in the teams' first meeting this season. By the end of the day, Brady had 338 yards through the air.

   RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus
-- The Patriots almost never need to run, but against the Buffalo defense, it wasn't too hard to get things working. Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis scored two TDs on short, runs and Stevan Ridley rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries. The Bills got very little production from their front seven with the exception of Barnett, who was in on a game-high 11 tackles.

   SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- It was a pretty uneventful day for the kicking game. Brian Moorman averaged 41.3 yards on three punts, while new kicker Brandon Coutu missed his only field-goal attempt, a 45-yarder at the end of the first half, his first NFL try. The kick-return game was neutralized by the Patriots' deep-kicking Stephen Gostkowski, as Justin Rogers was only able to return two of nine kickoffs for 42 total yards. Leodis McKelvin, who broke an 80-yard punt return against Denver, had only one return for 5 yards.

   COACHING: C -- Chan Gailey's game plan looked brilliant early, but when the Patriots finally adjusted, the Bills didn't have any counterpunches. Buffalo was shut out the last three quarters by one of the softest defenses in the NFL. Gailey's benching of Johnson was his best move. Sure, it hurt the team, but he's a man of his word. That can't be held against him. Defensive coordinator George Edwards was fired Monday after the team gave up 42 points and 480 yards in the finale. In two games against the Bills this season, the Patriots gained 975 yards.


MORE:
Bills News
Patriots Daily Wire
Photo Gallery: Patriots 49 - Bills 21
Brees Finishes As Top Passer In NFL History Premium Story

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\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" -- The day did not get off to a great start for anyone, particularly Tom Brady, but the quarterback put together yet another dominant performance once it was all said and done. Brady finished with 338 passing yards and three touchdowns. Some of those passes wound up in the hands of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke the NFL single-season record for most receiving yards by a tight end. This team will live and die on Brady's arm, for better or worse. -- Surprisingly, the Patriots didn't completely abandon the run once they fell behind 21 points. Stevan Ridley earned the most carries and finished with 81 yards. Outside of losing a fumble, he did a solid job. No one else other than BenJarvus Green-Ellis factored into the running game, perhaps indicating the Patriots have found their rotation for the playoffs. -- Much like every other facet of Sunday's game, the Patriots' pass defense got off to a poor start early, thanks to some untimely penalties and an inability to slow down Ryan Fitzpatrick. After switching up some players in their nickel coverage and giving rookie defensive back Sergio Moore a chance to play, the Patriots held Buffalo to just 61 passing yards in the second half and intercepted Fitzpatrick four times. -- C.J. Spiller had a decent performance with 60 yards, but the Bills' running game didn't make much of an impact. Ahead by 21, the Bills fell apart and never really tried to re-establish the run in an attempt to keep New England's offense off the field. The Patriots have been improving against the run in recent weeks, and they should be confident moving forward. -- The Patriots did a nice job, particularly in the coverage units, as they moved around a few players to create better matchups. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a pair of field goals, and Zoltan Mesko had a 51-yard punt. The less noise on special teams, the better -- particularly for the defense, which could use the help in field position. -- The Patriots came to win, but they also tried to experiment with their lineup. Changes on defense, such as playing Sergio Brown over Kyle Arrington and using Julian Edelman in the slot defensively on nickel coverage, paid dividends. This was the best of both worlds, as the Patriots proved they could rally from behind and answered a few questions they had with the lineup. -- Ryan Fitzpatrick had the kind of game that has come to define him in the second half of the season: He threw for 307 mostly hollow yards and threw four second-half interceptions that led directly to 21 New England points. Fitzpatrick started great, leading the Bills to 21 first-quarter points. He threw TD passes to Steve Johnson and C.J. Spiller, but coach Chan Gailey benched Johnson after the receiver drew a penalty for excessive celebration, and soon after, the offense went ice cold. WR Derek Hagan made some plays in Johnson's place, catching seven passes for 89 yards, but the Bills just didn't have an ability to make big plays through the air when Johnson went out. -- C.J. Spiller never really got a chance to get going, and he finished with just 60 yards on 13 carries. Early in the game, the Bills wanted to throw because New England's pass defense is so bad, but once the Patriots started rallying, the Bills needed to establish the ground game, and Gailey never got around to doing it, as he seemed to lose a grip on the flow of the game. Tashard Choice and Spiller each scored a TD, and the Bills averaged 5.3 yards per attempt, but they were forced to throw for most of the second half, leaving the running game as an afterthought. -- Like most teams, the Bills had no answers for New England's dynamic tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Those two combined for 15 catches for 246 yards and three TDs. The Bills tried various personnel, and nothing worked, as both tight ends managed to get behind the overmatched defense. The Bills' defensive backs did not have a single pass breakup, as the only two were made by LB Nick Barnett, who also had the lone interception of Tom Brady. The Bills did a decent job on WR Wes Welker, who wasn't much of a factor with six catches for 51 yards after he caught 16 for 217 yards in the teams' first meeting this season. By the end of the day, Brady had 338 yards through the air. -- The Patriots almost never need to run, but against the Buffalo defense, it wasn't too hard to get things working. Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis scored two TDs on short, runs and Stevan Ridley rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries. The Bills got very little production from their front seven with the exception of Barnett, who was in on a game-high 11 tackles. -- It was a pretty uneventful day for the kicking game. Brian Moorman averaged 41.3 yards on three punts, while new kicker Brandon Coutu missed his only field-goal attempt, a 45-yarder at the end of the first half, his first NFL try. The kick-return game was neutralized by the Patriots' deep-kicking Stephen Gostkowski, as Justin Rogers was only able to return two of nine kickoffs for 42 total yards. Leodis McKelvin, who broke an 80-yard punt return against Denver, had only one return for 5 yards. -- Chan Gailey's game plan looked brilliant early, but when the Patriots finally adjusted, the Bills didn't have any counterpunches. Buffalo was shut out the last three quarters by one of the softest defenses in the NFL. Gailey's benching of Johnson was his best move. Sure, it hurt the team, but he's a man of his word. That can't be held against him. Defensive coordinator George Edwards was fired Monday after the team gave up 42 points and 480 yards in the finale. In two games against the Bills this season, the Patriots gained 975 yards. 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