Here are how my five takes before the Buffalo Bills' 23-3 loss against the New England Patriots worked out:
1. Sean McDermott comes up with another masterful defensive game plan. Semi-check here.
Calling it masterful would be an overstatement, but it was pretty solid. And pretty solid against Tom Brady and the rest of the NFL's top-ranked offense is impressive.
The Bills held Brady to 258 passing yards, no touchdowns, and intercepted him once. He was so upset with the fact the Patriots had to settle for a field goal on their first possession, he was seen screaming at offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on the sidelines.
Brady sort of acknowledged after the game that the Bills defense he faced for the first time Sunday presented different challenges than he had seen from previous editions, because of McDermott and other new coaches and several new players.
Of course, whatever the Bills did by mixing up and disguising coverages to cause Brady to hold the ball — contributing to some of the pressure that led to his being sacked three times — wasn't enough to overcome the Patriots' offense as a whole.
2. The offense must take advantage of a banged-up defensive line. Yes and no.
Yes, the Bills ran well. They rushed for 183 yards and averaged a healthy seven yards per carry. LeSean McCoy finished with a game-high 93 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per rush.
But that's where the Bills' offensive success ended.
The Patriots sacked Tyrod Taylor three times and also sacked Nathan Peterman once after Taylor left the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. In all, the Pats were credited with nine quarterback hits.
3. The defense must take advantage of a banged-up offensive line. Semi-check here.
The Bills' pass rush bothered Brady, who had a third-string right tackle (Cameron Flemming) in front of him. Beyond being sacked three times, he also was made to feel uncomfortable on multiple occasions. That affected his accuracy and decision-making at times.
However, the Bills' defensive front came up small when it came to the Patriots' rushing attack.
This game felt similar to the New Orleans Saints' pounding of the Bills on Nov. 12 in the sense that the Patriots were able to effectively lean on their rushing attack. They ran 35 times (compared to 30 passes) for 191 yards and two touchdowns (by Rex Burkhead), and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
Dion Lewis led the way with 92 yards and a 6.1-yards-per-carry average, while Burkhead had 78 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per rush.
4. Don't get Gronked. Big fail here.
Rob Gronkowski was typically dominant against the team he grew up watching. He led all receivers with nine catches for 147 yards, averaging 16.3 yards per catch.
But Gronk's day did not end well. Most of the conversation about him dealt with the ugliness of his launching himself onto the back of Tre'Davious White, as he was face-down on the ground after intercepting a pass intended for the big tight end, and hammering the rookie cornerback in the back of the helmet. That resulted in White suffering a concussion.
Gronkowski no doubt is going to receive a hefty fine, along with at least a one-game suspension, even though he made a point of apologizing to White while speaking with reporters after the game. He chalked up what he did to being frustrated, although nothing about his or the Patriots' day to that point should have warranted that level of frustration.
5. Tyrod can be Tyrod … but this would be a good time to do a bit more. Not even close.
Taylor was awful. Perhaps playing most of the game with the knee injury he suffered on the game's first play from scrimmage was a factor, but he didn't do much right.
And the fact is, after sustaining the injury, he still had an 18-yard run as part of the 32 yards he had on three carries.
As a passer, Taylor was terrible, completing only nine of 18 passes for 65 yards. He had an interception and his second-worst passer rating of the season and his career at 35.6.