Pats’ D overcomes sloppy offensive performance to put away the Bills!

TEAM

1

2

3

4

T

BUF 0 3 7 0 10

NE

13 0 3 0 16

The Patriots’ defense came to play yesterday, as they were able to shake off a dreadful day by Tom Brady and the offense, en route to a 16-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills (3-1). This victory improved the Pats to 4-0 on the season, and moved them into first place in the AFC East.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s victory.

1. Another defensive masterpiece!

Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo have delivered a consistently dominant defense over the last month, and yesterday was no different, as the Pats limited Buffalo to 10 points, and had 4 interceptions (along with 2 forced fumbles). Even though the defense gave up their first touchdown of the season, they constantly befuddled second-year quarterback Josh Allen with their coverage, and forced him into throwing 2 interceptions in the first quarter. Allen eventually got settled in during the third quarter, as he led Buffalo down the field for a touchdown. But the Pats were able to dissipate his confidence when they intercepted him on another deep ball. Allen ultimately finished the game with 153 passing yards and 3 interceptions, and was neutralized as a rushing threat, as he mustered a mere 26 yards. However, Allen’s last play in the game was draped with controversy, as he got knocked in the head by Jonathan Jones while trying to break free from Duron Harmon. There’s no disputing the fact that it was a helmet-to-helmet hit, but Jones didn’t have any malicious intent, and replays even showed that Allen led with his head, which initiated the contact. At the end of the day, the NFL does need to protect its players, so Jones will likely receive a hefty fine, but his actions did not mandate an ejection, even though Buffalo’s players and coaches insisted that it did.

Here is an explanation of the ruling from the NFL’s VP of Officiating, Al Riveron.

After Allen’s exit, Matt Barkley took over for the Bills, and it appeared as if he could lead the Bills to victory, but the Pats defense had a crucial stop on the goal-line on one of Buffalo’s final drives, and forced him into a game-sealing interception with under 2 minutes to play.

Even though the defense was spectacular (with JC Jackson, Devin McCourty, and Kyle Van Noy especially shining), they do have some kinks to iron out, as they gave up over 100 rushing yards, and had several penalties in the second half which allowed Buffalo to extend drives.

dmac w419.jpg
(Adrian Kraus/AP)

2. The offense was absolutely dreadful

The Pats’ offense was very lucky to escape with a win yesterday, as they struggled to put together drives throughout the game. Other than their touchdown drive in the first quarter, Tom Brady was uncharacteristically off-rhythm, and struggled to connect with his receivers. Some of Brady’s struggles can be attributed to a putrid performance by the offensive line, which struggled to give Brady time to survey the field and find open receivers. Brady’s lack of mobility was evident yesterday, as his attempts to scramble out of the pocket did more harm than good, with his head-scratching interception at the goal line in the second quarter being a prime example. If not for James White, the Pats’s offense probably could have been held out of the end zone, as his 26-yard wheel route in the first quarter sparked their lone touchdown. White was Brady’s security blanket, and caught 8 of his 10 targets for 57 yards. Following three energizing performances, Phillip Dorsett struggled mightily, as he caught 2 of his 9 targets for 10 yards. Josh Gordon (3 receptions for 46 yards) and Julian Edelman (4 receptions for 30 yards) were clearly gimpy, and struggled to separate from Buffalo’s defenders.

The Pats’ ground game was slightly more effective, as they were able to gain 74 yards off of 23 carries, but the absence of James Develin clearly appears to be affecting the explosiveness of Sony Michel, who averaged 3.7 yards per carry.

The Pats’ offense should be eternally grateful for the dominance of their defense, as they were able to win despite the fact that Buffalo out-gained them by 150 yards and had 12 more first downs. Granted, their struggles can be attributed to the terrific game-plan by Sean McDermott and the Bills, but continuing to play like this will doom them against better opponents.

tb v bills w419.jpg
(Photo via NESN)

3. Another mixed bag for special teams

Stephen Gostkowski missed yet another extra point yesterday, bringing his total to 4 after four weeks of action. Gostkowksi’s job doesn’t appear to be in danger, but the team has to hope that he overcomes his slump soon, as they cannot afford a missed kick or two during an important game down the line (as evidenced by their loss during the 2016 AFC Championship Game in Denver).

On the other hand, Matthew Slater scored his first career touchdown, following a blocked punt by JC Jackson, which gave the Pats a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.

slater w419.jpg
(Photo via USA Today)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 18/39 for 150 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 17 carries for 63 yards
  • Receiving: James White – 8 receptions for 57 yards
  • Defensive: Kyle Van Noy – 8 tackles (including 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles)

Bills

  • Passing: Josh Allen – 13/28 for 153 passing yards, and 3 interceptions
  • Rushing: Frank Gore – 17 carries for 109 yards
  • Receiving: Cole Beasley – 7 receptions for 75 yards
  • Defensive: Tremaine Edmunds – 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head down to Washington D.C. to take on the winless Redskins (0-4), who still haven’t named their starting quarterback for the game (they could be led by Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, or their first round pick, Dwayne Haskins).

Heading up North!: Will the Pats knock off the undefeated Bills?

It’s not too often that the Patriots are tied with another team in the AFC East after three weeks of action, which is why tomorrow’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills (3-0) is extremely intriguing, as the victorious team will take first place in the division. The Pats haven’t lost in Buffalo since the 2011 season, which ironically also occurred in Week 4, with both teams being undefeated at the time.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 4 contest.

1. What will the offense look like?

The Patriots’ offense has changed dramatically over the last few weeks, due to the addition and subsequent release of Antonio Brown, and the injuries sustained by offensive linemen Marcus Cannon & Isaiah Wynn, and fullback James Develin. In addition, Week 3’s game against the Jets tested the limits and versatility of the Pats’ receiving corps, with Julian Edelman getting knocked out of the game with a chest injury. Luckily for the Pats, Edelman was able to make the trip to Buffalo, and is expected to play. As this is only Week 4, having Edelman sit out wouldn’t be the worst idea, as another injury could jeopardize the team’s chances of contending down the line. If Edelman does play, I’d still expect the Pats to be cautious with his number of snaps, which would likely expand the importance of Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett in the offense.

Another important focus for the Pats should be ensuring the success of Sony Michel and the ground game. Michel hasn’t had the greatest start to the season, and the absence of Develin wasn’t exactly helpful for him against the Jets. If the Pats are able to sustain their running game, they can take pressure off of Tom Brady, and keep the Bills off balance with a well-balanced offensive attack.

The Bills’ defense has been stingy thus far, which means the Patriots will need to have a great offensive performance to emerge victorious tomorrow.

jules v bills w4p19.jpg
(Photo via USA Today)

2. Can the defense contain Josh Allen?

Josh Allen is one of the most perplexing quarterbacks in the NFL, as he has flashed brilliance with his ability to throw and run, while also displaying a great deal of recklessness with the football. Looking at Allen’s highlights so far, it’s fair to say that one of his greatest assets is his ability to run the ball, as it forces opposing defenses to keep an eye on him at all times. I believe that the Patriots’ key to victory will be bottling up the Bills’ running game, and putting the ball in Josh Allen’s hands. Allen has struggled with accuracy down the field, which plays right into the Pats’ hands, due to their excellent secondary. In addition, forcing Allen to throw a lot would enable Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo to dial up the pass rush on the young quarterback. If Allen becomes rattled, he may throw some ill-advised throws, which could lead to takeaways for the defense.

Getting after Josh Allen would go a long way in ensuring another successful outing for the Patriots’ defense.

josh allen v pats d w4p.jpg
(Photo via the Democrat & Chronicle)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Michael Bennett (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Nate Ebner (groin) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Marshall Newhouse (illness) – Questionable
  • Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable

Bills

  • Tyler Kraft (ankle) – Out
  • Corey Thompson (ankle) – Out
  • Maurice Alexander (knee) – Questionable
  • Jon Feliciano (neck) – Questionable
  • Robert Foster (groin) – Questionable
  • Taron Johnson (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Spencer Long (ankle) – Questionable
  • Isaiah McKenzie (ankle) – Questionable
  • Devin Singletary (hamstring) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 4 games (excluding Thursday Night Football).

Last week: 10-5

Redskins at Giants: Giants

Chiefs at Lions: Chiefs

Titans at Falcons: Falcons

Browns at Ravens: Ravens

Raiders at Colts: Colts

Panthers at Texans: Texans

Chargers at Dolphins: Chargers

Buccaneers at Rams: Rams

Seahawks at Cardinals: Seahawks

Vikings at Bears: Bears

Jaguars at Broncos: Jaguars

Cowboys at Saints: Cowboys

Bengals at Steelers: Steelers