Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: B
The final numbers look great – 26 carries, 167 yards, three touchdowns. It’s not even fair to say that it was all garbage time, either, as the team had 91 yards in the first half. Once the Bills got down by three possessions after halftime, however, the running game became an afterthought. Mike Gillislee getting just three carries in the second half is evidence of that. Speaking of Gillislee, he did a nice job filling in for LeSean McCoy, gaining 85 yards on 12 carries and scoring a touchdown.
PASSING GAME: Incomplete
Seriously, what’s the point of trying to grade quarterback Tyrod Taylor when the team is practically bringing fans down from the stands to play receiver? He finished 19 of 38 for 183 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. He wasn’t the reason the Bills lost, but doesn’t inspire much confidence that he will soon be the reason they win, either. General Manager Doug Whaley should be on the horn before Tuesday’s trade deadline trying to get this team a wide receiver. Dropped passes were certainly an issue, but coach Rex Ryan sounds awfully defensive about his quarterback when he says Taylor needs better protection after a game in which he was sacked just twice.
RUN DEFENSE: B
Ryan said after the game he “knew” the Bills would be able to stop New England’s rushing attack, and that was pretty much on the money. The missed tackles from last week against Miami seemed to be cleared up. Zach Brown finished with 11 tackles, while Marcell Dareus made a nice play early to drop LeGarrette Blount for a 1-yard loss on New England’s second possession. Of course, there was little reason for the Patriots to run the ball because …
PASS DEFENSE: F
The Bills stunk here. Plain and simple. All that miscommunication that we saw last season and was supposed to be cleared up looked like as big of a problem as ever. Stephon Gilmore took three holding penalties and got beat for a 53-yard touchdown by Chris Hogan, then started screaming at his teammate. It’s been a miserable season so far for Gilmore, who is in the final year of his contract. The absence of Aaron Williams at safety figured to hurt, and it did.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Things got off to a bad start when Reggie Bush made a bad decision to bring out the kickoff after New England’s first touchdown and Lerentee McCray took a holding penalty, backing the Bills up at their 7-yard line. Dan Carpenter’s missed field goal in the second quarter was a huge swing. It could have made the score 21-13 New England, but the Patriots used the good field position to get a field goal of their own for a 24-10 halftime lead. The second half started with the Bills giving up a 73-yard kickoff return by Danny Amendola, which led to a short field and touchdown. Colton Schmidt dropped a snap, but turned it into a positive by running for a first down.
Shoutout to Ryan for trying the bold strategy of going with 12 defenders on the field on multiple occasions. Sure, it’s illegal, but hey, nothing else was working. Those miscommunication issues can be hung on the coaching staff getting calls in late to players. There was the obligatory blown timeout in the first half, as well as a weak call to punt on fourth and 1, willingly giving the ball to an offense the Bills’ defense couldn’t stop.
Grading the Patriots
RUNNING GAME: C-
Average is just about the perfect description for New England’s day on the ground. Blount made fantasy owners happy with a 1-yard touchdown run in the second half, but on the day had just 43 yards on 18 carries. Take out Tom Brady’s improbable 15-yard scramble and New England had just 57 yards from its running backs.
PASSING GAME: A+
It might be time to relax the Hall of Fame rules and just let Brady in now. Seriously, the guy is that great. Bills fans can hate on him all they want for his shot at Buffalo hotels or his Uggs commercials, but 30 years from now they’ll be telling their kids they saw him play. His arsenal of receivers is impressive, too. Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski are both matchup nightmares, and Chris Hogan is a nice player who, when dropped into New England’s system, can put up great numbers.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Linebacker Don’t’a Hightower had the hit of the game when he blasted Gillislee after a 3-yard gain on the Bills’ first possession. That was it for highlights from this unit, though. New England was lucky the Bills were in the situation where they had to abandon the run, because the Patriots weren’t stopping it. New England had a tough time bringing down Taylor – as most teams do – allowing him to scramble for 48 yards.
PASS DEFENSE: B
Keeping in mind that they were covering the Cardinal O’Hara varsity, the Patriots did fine in this regard. Safety Devin McCourty had the Patriots’ only pass defensed. The New England pass rush isn’t overwhelming, but the Patriots were able to start blitzing a little more freely with the lead. McCourty had an interception that was wiped out because of a penalty. New England held the Bills to 4 of 13 on third down (31 percent).
SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Stephen Gostkowski was 2 for 2 on field goals. Ryan Allen averaged 44 net yards on three punts. The coverage units gave up just 2 yards on one punt return and 68 yards on three kickoff returns. Amendola’s kick return set up a quick touchdown, and Edelman averaged 9.5 yards on two punt returns. Basically, it was a flawless game here, save for a fumble on a kickoff return that the Patriots were able to recover.
He might have the personality of a goal post, but Bill Belichick can absolutely coach circles around most of his peers, Ryan included. The 10 penalties for 116 yards probably isn’t the “Patriot Way” Belichick wanted, but it didn’t hurt New England. Credit Belichick for not doing too much – last year it seemed like he wanted to stick it to Ryan and left Brady and Co. in the game too long. There was no such repeat of that Sunday.