Patriots - Bills: Report Cards Week 7

The Buffalo Bills turned in a mistake-filled, turnover-laden performance on Sunday against the New England Patriots. While part of the outcome can be attributed to New England's ability to capitalize when given an opportunity, an equal amount of blame deserves to be doled out for miscues. Week 7 report cards for both teams.


PASSING OFFENSE: C -- QB J.P. Losman's shocking downward spiral continued with one interception and two lost fumbles on plays that started off as passing plays. While his numbers were better than in recent weeks (16 of 25, 193 yards), he could not produce a touchdown and hooked up with his leading receiver, Lee Evans, just once for 11 yards. Evans had just three catches for 36 yards in the two New England games. While Peerless Price and Josh Reed tried to pick up the slack with nine catches, they averaged just 9.5 yards per reception. Losman's longest pass was credited to RB Willis McGahee, who took a shovel pass and scampered 56 yards with some nice moves and a good block from rookie OG Aaron Merz. Also on a positive note, TE Robert Royal caught a season-high four balls for 36 yards, including a twisting 21-yard gain. Unfortunately for Buffalo, what few big plays it had in the passing game did not lead to any TDs.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- McGahee failed to top 100 yards for a fourth consecutive game, managing just 59 on 20 carries. He had only eight carries in the second half for a 2.67 average per carry. The Bills picked up just four rushing first downs and could not get enough consistent push against New England's rugged front seven.

Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee (21) finds an opening on the line to get past New England Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin (59) during the first half of a NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y. on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006. Patriots won 28-6. (AP Photo/Don Heupel)

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Patriots QB Tom Brady moved his all-time record to 11-1 against Buffalo with a typically efficient 195-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception day with a sparkling 112.4 rating. With two sacks and two QB hits, DE Aaron Schobel led a strong pass rush that notched four sacks, but none was game-changing, and Brady still had time to calmly toss TD passes of 35 yards to rookie Chad Jackson against Terrence McGee and 5 yards to veteran Doug Gabriel against a half-dozen Bills surrounding Gabriel in the end zone. DE Chris Kelsay had a damaging roughing-the-passer penalty.

RUSH DEFENSE: D-plus -- After giving up 183 yards on the ground in a 19-17 loss to the Patriots last month, holding them to 94 yards was a moral victory. Still, Corey Dillon gashed Buffalo's overmatched defensive line and poor-tackling linebackers for TD runs of 8 and 12 yards. The 8-yarder was right up the middle when several Bills were blown out of the way.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- McGee had a 47-yard kickoff return in the second half, but it didn't lead to any points. K Rian Lindell nailed two more field goals of 40 yards or longer (he's 6-for-7 on the year). Coverage was weakened with the loss of Josh Stamer (IR-knee) and then Sam Aiken (hamstring) during the game. Laurence Maroney had a 74-yard kickoff return up the left sideline after newcomer Anthony Hargrove missed a tackle, leading to New England's second TD and a 14-3 lead. There were also four penalties on special teams, the result of sloppy play.

COACHING: D -- Penalties, turnovers and a general lackluster effort doomed the Bills to their third consecutive loss and their 12th loss in the last 13 games against chief nemesis New England. Dick Jauron went 0-2 against the team he's got to learn to beat if he plans on staying on the job longer than predecessors Gregg Williams and Mike Mularkey. The shovel pass to McGahee was a nice call, and the Bills defense got pressure on Brady, but not enough moves were made to make a difference. The Bills staff got another replay challenge wrong. In terms of talent and poise, these clubs are the length of the New York State Thruway apart. With a 2-5 record at the bye week, Bills are on course for another top-10 draft pick.



PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- With Buffalo loading up to stop the run, New England went to the short passing game early on, and it worked. Tom Brady was 18-for-27 for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Ben Watson and Reche Caldwell each caught five passes, while Doug Gabriel and Chad Jackson found the end zone. The Bills defense was able to apply a lot of pressure, registering four sacks. However, even with Aaron Schobel having another stellar day against the Patriots, Buffalo couldn't stop Brady and Co. from moving the ball through the air and making big plays at crucial moments in the game. The New England passing game wasn't spectacular, but it was very efficient.

Laurence Maroney #39 of the New England Patriots runs against the Buffalo Bills on October 22, 2006 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The Patriots defeated the Bills, 28 to 6. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Bills came into this game not being able to stop anyone on the ground, although they did a solid job against the Patriots. Corey Dillon scored two touchdowns, but New England was only able to manage 94 yards on 27 carries. Anytime a rush defense as leaky as the Bills' can hold a good team to under 100 yards on the ground, it did its job. Laurence Maroney only had eight carries for 29 yards, and both he and Dillon averaged less than a 4.0 yards per carry. The Bills linebackers were very active near the line of scrimmage, and Buffalo also brought up an extra safety in the box to defend against the run. After a strong start to the season, the Patriots running game has been inconsistent in recent weeks.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Patriots were all over J.P Losman. They sacked him twice, forced two fumbles and came away with an interception by Asante Samuel. Lee Evans -- who caught just two passes for 25 yards in the first meeting -- was held to only one reception this time around. Losman threw for 193 yards, but he was constantly under pressure, and when he did have time, the young quarterback missed some open receivers. The Patriots defensive coaching staff and secondary deserve kudos for keeping Evans -- the Bills' most dangerous receiver -- under wraps for the second game in a row.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Willis McGahee finished the afternoon with just 59 yards on 20 carries, and the Bills only ran for 75 yards as a team. The Patriots defensive front continues to dominate, and the linebackers had a strong game as well. Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau combined for 16 tackles. Even when a hole did open up, a Patriots defender closed it in a hurry. Rodney Harrison also had a strong game defending the run as he becomes more active every week. The veteran finished with six tackles and looks to be almost fully recovered from his knee injury.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- Buffalo gets the respect as being one of the NFL's top special teams units, but it was the Patriots special teams that stole the show Sunday. Maroney's 74-yard kickoff return after the Bills cut the lead to 7-3 in the first quarter was a huge momentum swing for the Patriots. Terrence McGee had a nice kickoff return as well, but it didn't result in any points. Stephen Gostkowski only had to worry about making extra points, and after two subpar games, Josh Miller was back to his old self, averaging 47.5 yards on six punts. Other than the 47-yard return by McGee, this was one of the Patriots' best overall games on special teams this season.

COACHING: A -- As usual, the Patriots were well prepared coming off a bye week. The defense continued to dominate, the special teams made some big plays, and for the first time all year, the offense was able to move the ball despite the running game being shut down. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels opened up the game with a great game plan. He knew the Bills would be primed to stop the run, so he loosened them up and got the passing game on track early with a bunch of short, effective passes. The offense set up Buffalo for a pump and go in the first quarter, but Brady overthrew a wide-open Reche Caldwell. Coach Bill Belichick once again had his team mentally prepared for an inferior opponent, and that's the reason why you don't see the Patriots losing very many games they're supposed to win.



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