It wasn’t easy early on, but the Patriots eventually found their rhythm, en route to a 37-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The win secured a first-round bye for the Pats, and keeps them in pursuit of home-field advantage for the playoffs.
Here are a few takeaways from Sunday’s game.
1. Dion Lewis is downright scary for opposing defenses
The Patriots entered Sunday with several injuries at the running back position, and Dion Lewis answered the call when the Patriots desperately needed him to. Lewis finished the game with 24 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown, to go along with 5 catches for 24 yards and a receiving touchdown. Despite his smaller stature, Lewis made life absolutely miserable for the Bills, by breaking tackles and leaving broken ankles in his wake. Lewis was the spark that propelled the Patriots to outscore the Bills 24-3 in the second half. If Lewis continues to play like this, it’s easy to imagine the Patriots advancing in the playoffs.
2. Gronk continues to dominate the Bills
Rob Gronkowski has constantly burnt his hometown Bills over the last few seasons, and Sunday was no exception. Gronk finished the game with 5 receptions for 67 yards, and a jaw-dropping one-handed touchdown grab over Micah Hyde in the second quarter. As always, Gronk was a steady safety blanket for Tom Brady, and also made his presence felt in the running game, as he was responsible for several key blocks. The Patriots will need to lean on Gronk to continue to play well down the stretch.
3. What’s wrong with TB12?
Tom Brady had an uneven performance against the Bills, as he had several instances where he made questionable decisions and inaccurate throws. Brady missed several open receivers, and also threw a pick-six when Bills safety Jordan Poyer jumped a route and ran 18 yards for a touchdown. This was Brady’s fifth straight game with an interception, which hasn’t happened since the 2002-03 season. Ironically, Brady followed the interception with a long touchdown drive which leveled the score at 10-10. Brady was bailed out by a dominant rushing attack led by Dion Lewis, but he won’t be so lucky in every game. For the Patriots to continue to win against dominant opponents, TB12 will need to be at his absolute best.
4. The defense still has areas to work on
The Patriots defense had an up-and-down performance against the Bills, with Buffalo easily advancing the ball down the field on several drives (although the Patriots did continue their bend-but-don’t-break strategy). The Patriots’ cornerback duo of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore got beaten on several long balls, allowing Buffalo to continue their drives. Also, the Patriots continued to struggle getting off the field on third down, enabling Buffalo to keep TB12 on the bench for long stretches. However, the Patriots did have several bright spots in the game. For example, the Bills did not score an offensive touchdown, and they limited LeSean McCoy to 71 yards. They also got after Tyrod Taylor and sacked him 6 times. Malcolm Brown was an unsung hero for the Patriots, recording 6 tackles (including 1 sack), and eating up blocks.