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
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
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
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
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.
Gallery: Patriots 49 - Bills 21
Finishes As Top Passer In NFL History
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