Stephon Gilmore vs. Zay Jones
The former Buffalo Bills cornerback covered the Bills rookie receiver most of the game and gave up just two catches for 22 yards. The Bills targeted Jones seven times. Rookie Nathan Peterman threw in Jones' direction on three of four fourth-and-goal plays in the fourth quarter. All were incomplete. The first was a back-shoulder fade. Good throw, tight coverage. The second was a slant that was underthrown. Gilmore did a good job with inside leverage to make the throw difficult. Then on fourth down, Peterman threw incomplete on a fade to the back corner of the end zone. Gilmore was all over it. Jones could not get any quick separation.
"They threw it my way three or four times in the red zone," Gilmore said. "I'm like, 'They really trying to score a touchdown on me no matter how much they are down.' "
Bills DBs vs. Brandin Cooks
Credit the Bills with preventing New England's speed receiver from beating them deep. Cooks entered the game ranked sixth in the NFL in receiving yards with 869. He was held to two catches for 17 yards. The Bills' ability to not get beat deep downfield by Tom Brady is what kept the game competitive well into the third quarter.
Brady leads the league in passing yards on throws 20 or more yards downfield (108 a game), according to Pro Football Focus. He attempts seven 20-plus throws a game. But he was just 2 of 4 for 57 yards against the Bills on throws of 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage. The two big gainers were a 27-yarder to Danny Amendola in which Brady fit a tight throw into a Cover 2 zone window. The other was the 30-yard to Rob Gronkowski against Tre'Davious White.
New England DBs vs. Bills WRs
This was a complete mismatch, as expected, in favor of the Patriots. The Bills don't have the weapons to hurt defenses downfield, and the Patriots have an excellent secondary.
New England's defense wasn't excellent the first six games of the season. The Pats gave up 24 plays of 20-plus yards the first six weeks. But a bunch were on coverage mix-ups and man-to-man coverage busts. New England has cleaned up its defensive act the past six games. The Patriots have yielded only 15 20-plus plays over that stretch. The Bills got only one big-gainer, a 22-yard run by Joe Webb out of the Wildcat formation.
The Pats have veterans across the board in the secondary, with Gilmore, Malcolm Butler and Eric Rowe at cornerback and Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung at safety. As long as those five stay healthy, New England will be making offenses work for their scores.
Story topics: Stephon Gilmore