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.
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.
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.
- 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)
- 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).