Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: F
The ugliest effort of the year. LeSean McCoy gained 12 yards out of the wildcat formation on the first play of the game. He gained 1 yard on his next 11 carries. Seriously. The question might not be should the Bills move McCoy by Tuesday’s trade deadline, but rather, would another team want him? The blocking and the play calling deserve some blame, too, but McCoy doesn’t look like the same player. Backup Chris Ivory went for 34 yards on six carries, but the team total was a pathetic 46 yards on 19 carries, an average of 2.4 yards per rush.
PASSING GAME: D-
Status quo for this unit. Derek Anderson piled up some yardage, finishing 22 of 39 for 290 yards. It never felt like the Bills were even in the game, though, despite the close margin. That’s because the passing attack just does not produce any confidence. Anderson made some nice throws, but again turned the ball over twice. His strip sack was caused by a blown block by left tackle Dion Dawkins. Zay Jones finished with six catches for 55 yards, a pedestrian performance in most NFL cities, but a cause for optimism here. Anderson’s late injury could mean we’re in for more of the Nathan Peterman Experience next week. Oh joy.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Matt Milano set the tone early with a great tackle for a 4-yard loss on New England’s first possession. The run defense was solid from there on out, with rookie Tremaine Edmunds making eight tackles before leaving with a concussion. He was replaced by Julian Stanford, who made a nice tackle for loss to set up a New England punt. The Bills weren’t fooled by the Patriots using different looks at running back.
PASS DEFENSE: B
It was a bend-but-don’t-break-performance. No. 1 cornerback Tre’Davious White largely locked down Josh Gordon. The Bills struggled dealing with James White out of the backfield, but they’re far from the only team to have that issue. Phillip Gaines made 10 tackles, which isn’t a good sign because it means teams were throwing at him. At the end of the day, holding Tom Brady without a passing touchdown is a win. Edmunds nearly had an interception in the first quarter, but slightly mistimed his jump. He stopped James White for a loss in the second quarter with some great closing speed.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Punter Corey Bojorquez struggled against his former team. His first punt went for a touchback, as did his second. He later bobbled a snap, which led to a 19-yard punt. Kick returner Marcus Murphy originally fumbled a kickoff, but a replay review correctly overturned the call. An illegal block by Logan Thomas on the second-half kickoff cost the team 13 yards of field position. Stephen Hauschka’s 51-yard field goal was his 10th of 50-plus since joining the team last year.
The Bills had to use two timeouts less than 12 minutes into the first quarter, one on defense and one on offense. It was frustrating to see the offense continually throw well short of the sticks on third down to tightly covered receivers. At some point, they need to take a few more shots down the field. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier did a nice job mixing coverages to get Brady uncomfortable. Sean McDermott made an ill-advised challenge of a New England completion in the second half.
Grading the Patriots
RUNNING GAME: D
The Pats missed first-round pick Sony Michel. New England used wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson mostly at running back, but it wasn’t very effective, as he finished with 10 carries for 38 yards. White rushed eight times for 15 yards, but did punch in a 1-yard touchdown. Brady managed to get 8 yards and a first down on a scramble.
PASSING GAME: C
By Brady’s best-ever standards, this was a thoroughly average game. He went 29 of 45 for 324 yards, and did not pass for a touchdown or throw an interception. His leading receiver was White, with 10 catches for 79 yards. He’s a matchup nightmare for teams. Brady was sacked twice by Lorenzo Alexander, but looked uncomfortable on plenty of other occasions.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Keionta Davis, listed as a third stringer, made a 3-yard tackle for loss against McCoy in first quarter. That was the start of a dominant performance. Trey Flowers also has a 3-yard tackle for loss against McCoy in the first quarter, then did a nice job pursuing McCoy to the sideline in the second quarter. Flowers, who had two tackles for loss, was tough against the run all game.
PASS DEFENSE: A
Old friend Stephon Gilmore led New England with a pair of passes defensed. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy was beaten for a 24-yard gain by McCoy in coverage, but did register a pair of sacks of Anderson, including one that forced a fumble. Devin McCourty’s 84-yard pick-six sealed the victory. McCourty turned on the jets to reach the end zone. Adrian Clayborn also got a sack of Anderson.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
The game started with a poor 34-yard punt by Ryan Allen in the first quarter. Stephen Gostkowski made three first-half field goals, from 25, 40 and 38 yards, but missed from 50 yards right before halftime. Gostkowski added a fourth field goal in the second half. It looked to be a dirty play by punt returner Julian Edelman in the third quarter, when he made helmet-to-helmet contact against Bills gunner Lafayette Pitts. That drew a well-deserved penalty flag. Patterson, a dangerous punt returner, was held to 21 yards on his one attempt.
Like with Brady, Bill Belichick is held to best-of-all-time standards, so this was an average effort at best. It was odd to see the Patriots take an illegal formation penalty on a kickoff, given Belichick’s attention to detail and love of special teams. Note to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels: Stop calling plays that require Brady to block, like he did in the first quarter. Overall, the Patriots had five penalties for just 33 yards against, the sign of a disciplined team.
Story topics: Chris Ivory/ Corey Bojorquez/ Derek Anderson/ Dion Dawkins/ LeSean McCoy/ Leslie Frazier/ Logna Thomas/ Marcus Murphy/ Nathan Peterman/ Phillip Gaines/ Sean McDermott/ Stephen Hauschka/ Tre'davious White/ Tremaine Edmunds/ Zay Jones