Yesterday was pretty much what we expected in Foxboro as the Bills squeaked by the Patriots backups in a game that was meaningless for New England but not for Buffalo. The Patriots had six starters on the inactive list and also pulled Tom Brady, Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, and Devin McCourty at halftime, but don’t tell the Bills players and fans that because all they care about is the win. Jimmy Garoppolo made some good plays with an undermanned offense, but not enough to get New England the win. Let’s review what went right and wrong on Sunday afternoon.
When the Patriots Passed :
It was an ugly day for the Patriots passing game. Tom Brady played the entire first half but had trouble getting into rhythm because he was running for his life the whole half. Brady finished 8/16 for 80 yards, but he did drive the team down the field twice, resulting in two Stephen Gostkowski field goals. Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer and Dan Connolly were all held out, so Brady wasn’t playing with his normal arsenal. Jimmy Garoppolo went 10/17 for 90 yards and also ran four times for 16 yards. Garoppolo did a great job improvising when the relentless Bills pass rush got to him, but he also couldn’t get the Patriots into the end zone. Jerry Hughes had a strong game for the Bills; Nate Solder struggled again and came out of the game in the second quarter.
When the Patriots Ran :
Jonas Gray was out, so the bulk of the carries went to LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. Blount carried the ball ten times for 62 yards and showed burst that isn’t expected for a guy with his size. Bolden carried it five times for 15 yards, which isn’t much but he looked quick on his few attempts. Yesterday would have been a good day to commit to the run, but instead they threw it 33 times and only ran 21 times (LaFell had 2 carries, as did Shane Vereen. I don’t count the quarterback scrambles as runs.) Garoppolo and Brady scrambled out of the pocket four times, but those were designed passes; New England called 37 passing plays and 21 runs and that just isn’t good enough balance, especially against a team that had 50 sacks coming into the game. If that number was reversed, there is a good chance New England wins, even with the backups.
When the Bills Passed :
Kyle Orton came out hot, going 3/3 for 65 yards and leading the Bills down the field for a quick touchdown. After that, things tightened up for Buffalo and points didn’t come easy. Orton finished the game 16/23 for 176 yards, which means he threw for just over 100 yards the remainder of the game. Sammy Watkins did beat Darrelle Revis for a big completion that led to the Bills first touchdown, but he only had two more catches the rest of the way. Scott Chandler, a player that has killed the Patriots over the last few seasons, was kept in check, only picking up one catch for 20 yards. Overall, the Bills passing game had an average day, but the plays they made in the first half helped them pick up the win.
When the Bills Ran :
Fred Jackson led the way, gaining 58 yards on 18 carries. Overall, the Bills rushed 33 times for 104 yards and one touchdown. Anthony Dixon contributed 27 yards on seven carries and C.J. Spiller had five carries for 17 yards. From a yards per carry average (3.2 ypc) it was not a stellar day for the Buffalo running game, but like the passing game, they made plays when they needed to. If Buffalo can ever find a way to get their offense to match their stellar defense, they will be finishing a heck of a lot better than 9-7.
Stephen Gostkowski had a good day, going 3/3 on field goal attempts, which were the Patriots only scores of the day. Ryan Allen had an off day with four punts for 174 yards (43.5 avg) which is beneath his standards for the season. Marcus Thigpen had two kick returns for 73 yards, so the Patriots need to clean that up as they head into the playoffs. Overall, the special teams units had an average day.
It’s tough to gauge who won this matchup because the Patriots treated yesterday like a glorified preseason game. Considering the Bills won the game, Doug Marrone gets the nod in the head to head battle with Bill Belichick. There have been reports that Marrone could possibly be fired, but that would be a huge mistake by the Buffalo ownership. Continuity leads to consistency, and the Bills have the makings of a great team; stay the course. Belichick was dealing with an intestinal issue the entire game, so he gets props for toughing it out. He also held out six starters and benched four others at the half; he played it smart and ensured his team remained healthy for the real games in two weeks.
Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com