Patriots - Bills: Scout Report Card

<p> Report Card for the New England Patriots Victory over the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots won the game 29 - 6 in one of Drew Bledsoe's worst outings in Foxboro.</p>

PHOTO: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, passes under pressure from Buffalo Bills Chris Kelsay (90) and Pat Williams (93) in the third quarter Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004, in Foxboro, Mass. The Patriots won 26-6. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)


This was a solid, but unspectacular day for Tom Brady and the Patriots passing attack. For the third straight week, Brady didn't seem to be his sharp, accurate self, but he still made enough plays to move the offense in big chunks. He finished 19-for-35 for 233 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, the latter of which came when wideout Bethel Johnson fell down. He also completed passes to 10 different receivers led, not surprisingly, by David Givens' five catches for 66 yards. Brady used the whole field, throwing to his backs, tight ends and receivers while taking care of the football until the one turnover late in the game. He also completed six passes of 15 or more yards as the game plan called for him to attack vertically. He had trouble getting his team in the end zone, as the Patriots went 2-for-6 in the red zone, but he helped the offense convert 7-of-17 third downs with some clutch throws. One of Buffalo's two sacks came when Brady tripped on his guard dropping back on a third-and-goal from the 2 play.

Only the goal line offense prevented this from being an A-plus in what was an otherwise dominant performance. The Patriots ran for 200 yards for the first time in six years by rushing 45 times for 208 yards. Corey Dillon was terrific in carrying 25 times for 151 yards against a Bills defense that had now allowed a single 100-yard rusher this season. He ran up the middle and sprinted around the corner chewing up yards in big clumps while averaging 5.8 yards per carry against a defense that was allowing 3.5 yards per carry coming in. Dillon set the tone on the Patriots first possession, running five times for 42 yards and he controlled the game from there. Kevin Faulk chipped in with 13 runs for 61 yards. But the Patriots could not run it in from inside the 5-yard line with Dillon carrying four times for 5 yards from in close.

Drew Bledsoe never looked so bad. He completed only 8 of his 19 passes and that came after he completed all three of his throws on the game's opening possession. He threw for a woeful 76 yards with three interceptions, was sacked twice and never guided his team inside the Patriots red zone. He was inaccurate and made terrible decisions, throwing into coverage. His first interception was an ill-advised throw into double coverage and Eugene Wilson made a fine diving catch to pick the ball off at the 3-yard line. Tedy Bruschi intercepted him to set up what amounted to a game-clinching touchdown before the half, a score that gave New England a 20-0 lead at the break. Troy Brown also picked off his former quarterback when Bledsoe threw behind Eric Moulds. Despite playing without its top three cornerbacks, the Patriots defense dominated Buffalo. Tully Banta-Cain picked up 1.5 of the Patriots two sacks and also intercepted rookie quarterback J.P. Losman after Bledsoe went to the bench in the fourth quarter. The pass rush wasn't consistent, but Bledsoe didn't have open receivers, which is a credit to a reserve-filled secondary. This was just flat out impressive.

New England knew coming into the game that if it wanted to win, it had to stop Willis McGahee, who had given Buffalo some life with three 100-yard performances in three starts, all Buffalo wins. His heavy workload had taken some heat off the pass protection and allowed Buffalo to play a mistake-free brand of football. The Patriots disrupted that formula by bottling up McGahee, holding him to 37 yards on 14 carries. His longest run was an 11-yarder that came on a play where the Bills appeared to have a flea-flicker called, but when McGahee saw a defender rushing at Bledsoe, he held the ball and ran around the end for a rare double-digit gain. The Patriots front seven was superb, which allowed safety Rodney Harrison to remain in coverage. He finished with a season-low two tackles while linebackers Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi led the way with 6 apiece. Defensive end Ty Warren may have had his best game as a pro, finishing with five tackles, most of which came at the point of attack.

A 70-yard punt return for a touchdown and Buffalo's only points ruined an otherwise solid performance. Beyond that, Buffalo returned one punt for no yards while explosive kickoff returner Terrence McGee, who returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in the first meeting between the teams, was held in check. Josh Miller punted well in some windy conditions and Adam Vinatieri was a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals, connecting from 27, 24, 20, 45 and 37 yards. Kevin Faulk averaged 11.3 yards on three punt returns and Bethel Johnson returned his only kickoff 32 yards, although that return was mostly nullified by a holding penalty.

Bill Belichick has the Midas touch. Troy Brown with an interception? Everything he does seems to work. The coaches did a marvelous job preparing for the Bills and instituted a perfect game plan that was perfectly executed. The Patriots challenged Buffalo to run the ball against a seven-man front and then stopped it with those seven defenders, which forced Drew Bledsoe to throw into two-deep coverage, something he is ill equipped to do since he likes to throw down the field regularly. The coaches have to get credit for preparing fourth, fifth and sixth cornerbacks Randall Gay, Earthwind Moreland and Troy Brown to perform well, which they all did. New England scored first for the 17th straight game and 14th straight regular season game, a sign of strong preparation. The Patriots have survived injuries to their best wide receiver, Deion Branch, their starting right tackle, Tom Ashworth, and their top three corners, Ty Law, Tyrone Poole and Asante Samuel, yet they keep churning along. Belichick and his staff are innovative and unafraid to try new things and use personnel in new ways.

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