The Buffalo Bills pummeled away on Tom Brady like tsunami waves on a fragile coast line. With every crash Brady seemed to lose more sand.
Passes from the New England Patriots’ quarterback eroded into impotent skips at his receivers’ feet when he came close, at other times into an open expanse of Gillette Stadium turf with nobody around.
Then, right before halftime, the waves stopped. The Bills’ pass rush had been ruthless. They hit Brady more times in the first 29 minutes than they did through 60 minutes in Week Two.
New England had 46 seconds left and three timeouts after Dan Carpenter’s 48-yard kick hit the right goal post.
Buffalo decided to rush only three defenders.
As you’d expect, Brady sandblasted the Bills’ passive defense. He moved the Patriots 62 yards on six plays, the last a 20-yard James White catch and run to give them a 10-3 lead. Granted, the Bills blitzed on the touchdown play, but by then Brady had found his rhythm.
The Bills tied the score in the third quarter, yet it didn’t feel like Brady or the Patriots were in any kind of trouble.
The Bills continued their trend of wasting timeouts and failing to play with any sense of urgency. Tyrod Taylor looked ordinary, something we haven’t really seen since he played the Patriots in Week Two, and finished the game with an injury. Gillette Stadium was a haunted house again for Leodis McKelvin, who coughed up a punt return to give the Patriots a gift field goal at the end of the third quarter.
The Bills performed better in the rematch than they did against the Patriots in September, but they were simply overmatched by a quarterback who’s not beaten even when it looks like you have him lolling around the ring and sagging into the ropes.
The Bills barely touched Brady when they played in Week Two. They sacked him twice and hit him only five times.
On Monday night, the Bills harried him early. ESPN said the Bills hit Brady seven times in the first half. The NFL’s stats credited the Bills with 10 for the game.
Manny Lawson with four minutes left in the second quarter recorded the lone sack. At that time, it appeared as though Brady was in for a grueling night. But the Bills wouldn’t sack him again.
New England was considered more vulnerable than usual with Brady’s binky blanket, Julian Edelman, out with a broken foot.
Not that Bill Belichick couldn’t come up with a solution eventually, but Edelman went down just one week ago. Could the Patriots’ offense really adjust that quickly?
Apparently, yes. Brady targeted Danny Amendola a game-high 12 times. Amendola caught nine of them for 117 yards despite not playing in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
Chris Hogan earned the nickname 7-Eleven for being “always open” while with the Miami Dolphins in 2012 training camp, documented by HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
On some underneath plays when the Bills needed a first down, Hogan looked more like Wilson Farms: out of business.
But Hogan made some the biggest plays for Buffalo’s offense. He finished with six catches for 95 yards, a career best by 21 yards.
Big if true
Taylor didn’t target Sammy Watkins until the third quarter, and Watkins didn’t make a grab until the fourth quarter.
Watkins finished with three catches for 39 yards.
For a change, New England tight ends coach Brian Daboll didn’t have much to brag about after a game against his hometown team. The St. Francis High grad didn’t get a lot of statistical output from his boys with Western New York ties.
Had you taken Rob Gronkowski’s career stats against the Bills entering Monday and calculated them over a season, he would have 88 catches for 1,312 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The Amherst native had one reception for a measly 10 yards at the start of the fourth quarter. He added one more catch, a fantastic 27-yard grab up the left sideline, but Brady threw an interception on the next play.
Former Bills tight end Scott Chandler didn’t pick up the slack, but wasn’t really asked to. Brady targeted Chandler twice for one catch and 3 yards.
The Bills’ struggles with time management continued, and that can’t be their fault. The White House must be behind all these wasted timeouts. There really is no other explanation.
The clock ran out on the Bills while they desperately tried to drive for a tying touchdown. They began their final drive at their own 16-yard line with 1:51 to play and one timeout.
What happened to the other two timeouts?
Well, the Bills called their first with 8:48 left in the third quarter to avoid a delay-of-game penalty on third and 3. They called their second timeout with 14:16 left in the game because they had only 10 men on the field after a change of possession.
Somehow these issues keep popping up as the snow begins to fall in Western New York.
I sense a conspiracy.
Penalties strangled Buffalo in the first quarter.
A holding call on safety Corey Graham wiped out a Bacarri Rambo interception and long return. A Stephon Gilmore pass interference on third and 9 extended New England’s opening field-goal drive.
Right tackle Seantrel Henderson was cited for not being on the line of scrimmage, an illegal formation that erased Taylor’s third-and-3 scramble for a first down. On the next snap, an incomplete pass forced Buffalo to punt.
We good here?
Taylor’s injury situation is crucial to answering this question.
Buffalo was a seven-point underdog Monday night. So losing the game certainly isn’t a stunner that would sidetrack their season with six games left.
But a significant injury to Taylor would re-insert EJ Manuel into Sunday’s lineup. Manuel warmed up on the sidelines, but the Bills obviously preferred a hurt Taylor to a healthy Manuel in the final minutes.
If Taylor can’t play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, then the Bills’ season would be in precarious shape. The Chiefs are surging in the wild-card race and are among the other three teams with the Bills’ 5-5 record.