If there is a Kryptonite that can take down Tom Brady, the Buffalo Bills sure never have discovered it.
Take away his best receiver, his best offensive lineman and his best running back, and Brady still does enough to beat the Bills.
The Bills’ defense blitzed Brady on only five pass plays all game Monday night, by unofficial count. He only hurt the Bills on two of them. But that was enough to engineer a 20-13 victory.
1. Seven’s not enough. The key play of the game was a 41-yard catch and run by Danny Amendola to the Buffalo 6-yard line in the third quarter. The Pats scored the go-ahead touchdown on the next play.
The Bills rushed seven men and knocked Brady down, but not before he unloaded over the middle to Amendola at the Buffalo 45. Duke Williams was in coverage and had faked a blitz, then ran backward to his coverage spot. There was simply too much space for him to come up and get a body on Amendola. Brady beat the scheme more than Amendola beat Williams.
2. Missed tackle. Bills safety Corey Graham missed the tackle on the 20-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to James White in the final seconds of the first half. To be fair, it was a tough play for Graham to make, because he had a lot of ground to cover to get to the sideline. What a shame that a great half of football by the Bills’ defense was marred by the Pats’ last play from scrimmage.
Brady got the best of Bills defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman on this one, too. The Bills rushed four, with cornerback Nickell Robey coming on a zone blitz. But Brady knew it was coming and never hesitated in going to the perfect spot with the ball, the area of the field vacated by Robey. It didn’t look like Mario Williams was supposed to chuck White coming out of the backfield. Williams never hesitated for a second on his rush upfield.
3. Power sweep. It was a Greg Roman special that broke LeSean McCoy free for the 27-yard touchdown run that tied the game 10-10 in the third quarter. Power football. The Bills outnumbered the Pats at the point of attack. There was just one wide receiver on the field. Tight ends Charles Clay and Chris Gragg lined up off right tackle, Kraig Urbik pulled and wiped out cornerback Logan Ryan. McCoy followed Karlos Williams up the alley and burst down the sideline.
4. Inadvertent whistle. Bills fans may complain, but Buffalo actually was fortunate on the crazy pass play on which the officials blew an inadvertent whistle in the third quarter. Amendola had a step on Bills cornerback Ronald Darby after catching a 14-yard pass. That’s when the whistle was blown. No whistle, and Amendola eludes the tackle and runs for maybe 30 more yards.
The Pats got an extra 15 yards when Rex Ryan was called for getting in the way of the side judge, a dubious call. Yes, Ryan was on the white boundary and may have blocked the view of the side judge, but all the head coaches stand there. The refs were covering their butts for blowing the whistle. It did not lead to points for the Pats.
5. Say it ain’t so, Leo. Bills punt returner Leodis McKelvin was holding the ball too carelessly when he fumbled on a punt return late in the third quarter. The Pats got the ball at the Buffalo 30, and it cost Buffalo a field goal.
6. Amendola again. The other big play against a blitz was an 18-yard pass to Amendola with 35 seconds left in the half that helped set up the White TD. The Bills rushed five, and Stephon Gilmore missed the tackle 2 yards downfield. It wasn’t an easy play for Gilmore, either.
7. Carpenter’s miss. We hate to pick on Dan Carpenter for missing the 48-yarder late in the half but it was a killer, because it set up the Pats for their TD drive. Carpenter was an exceptional 17 of 22 from 48 yards and longer for the Bills before that kick.
8. McCourty breakup. Right before Carpenter’s miss, Pats safety Devin McCourty knocked the ball out of McCoy’s hands in the end zone to thwart what would have been a 30-yard touchdown pass down the sideline. The pass from Taylor was on target, and McCoy was open. But McCourty recovered just in time.
9. Lawson sack. Manny Lawson played an outstanding first half, and stopped a Pats second-quarter drive with a 6-yard sack of Brady. Lawson bull-rushed Sebastian Vollmer into Brady’s lap.
10. INT wiped out. An interception by Bacarri Rambo that was returned to the Patriots’ 24 on New England’s first drive was wiped out by offsetting penalties. It was a good call. Graham had good coverage on Rob Gronkowski but pulled on his shirt before the pass arrived and caromed into Rambo’s hands.