FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Here are how my five takes before the Buffalo Bills' 37-16 loss against the New England Patriots worked out:
1. Do not seek revenge against Gronk. Check.
This game didn't have a long list of things the Bills did right, but here's one: They did not seek any revenge for the cheap shot Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski delivered to the back of the head of cornerback Tre'Davious White when the teams met Dec. 3 at New Era Field. They played a smart, clean game, tackling Gronk with solid football technique rather than incorporating any extra curricular stuff.
Despite fans and other outsiders demanding payback, the approach made perfect sense because the Bills could not afford to risk losing anyone to a potential suspension that could have taken effect for next Sunday's game at Miami. And that AFC East showdown against the Dolphins is more important to the Bills' chances of snapping their 17-year playoff drought than the game they Sunday.
2. This time, play a full four quarters of solid defense. Not quite.
For the second time in two meetings with the Patriots, the Bills came out with a decent game plan that mostly stifled and confused Tom Brady early on. Befuddled by Bills coverage combinations that took away his second, third and even fourth reads, Brady often had to reload in the pocket because he couldn't find anyone open.
He forced a couple of throws that were way off-target. Brady also was fooled by a coverage disguise that caused him to throw a ball right to safety Jordan Poyer that the safety returned for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Bills a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. It was Poyer's first career pick-six. It also was Brady's first pick-six since Super Bowl LI and first in the regular season since 2015.
However, it was all fell apart from there, especially in the fourth quarter as the Patriots simply wore down Buffalo's defenders, who were just on the field too long.
3. This time, have a more sustained rushing attack. Semi-check.
The Bills stayed persistent and somewhat effective with their rushing attack as long as they could. It served them well until the bottom fell out late in the third quarter. LeSean McCoy finished with 71 yards on 17 carries for an average of 4.2 yards per rush.
4. Tyrod Taylor doesn't allow himself to be confused or stifled by the Patriots' pass defense. Semi-check.
Taylor didn't have a great game, completing 21 of 38 passes for 281 yards and finishing with a passer rating of 78.9 However, the Patriots' scheming wasn't the main cause. In fact, the Bills had a decent offensive game plan through the first half. They moved the ball with a nice mix of runs and passes. They did a particularly good job with play-action that caused the Patriots' D to be out of position or off-balance.
The biggest problem with Taylor's performance was execution. He misfired on third-and-2 from the Patriots' 6, then followed that up by failing to convert a fourth-and-2 with an ugly looking under-handed toss out of bounds.
5. Find a way to avoid being trampled on the ground. Nope.
Once again, the Patriots had their way on the ground, although much of that production came late. The Bills allowed 193 rushing yards, two more than they gave up on Dec. 3. Dion Lewis had 129 yards on 24 carries, an average of 5.4 yards per rush, and a touchdown. Former Bill Mike Gillislee also ran for a touchdown.