Here are the position grades from the Bills' 24-12 loss to the Patriots, based on video review and on a scale of 1 to 5:
Running back (1.5): LeSean McCoy had 9 yards on six carries. Yes, he has been disappointing. No, he’s not worth the money. This game was not Shady’s fault. On running downs, the Pats played a heavy front with six men on the line of scrimmage, four big down linemen and two stand-up outside linebackers. Six of the first seven RB runs were against heavy fronts, and the Bills managed 8 yards total. The Bills’ passing game couldn’t convert on third downs, so there was no chance to get any rhythm in the run game. Shady played 31 snaps, Keith Ford 30.
Offensive line (1.5): The Pats love to dictate one-on-one matchups along the line with their heavy fronts. Defensive end Trey Flowers was a monster. He had five tackles, three pressures, drew a holding penalty and smothered a swing pass. He beat Logan Thomas twice at the point of attack in mismatch plays. The guards and center Ryan Groy had a tough assignment against Flowers, Malcolm Brown and Lawrence Guy and needed to be more stout in pass protection. On a key third-and-10 from the Pats’ 23, the Pats had seven DBs vs. three WRs in the pattern, with seven pass protecting. Allen needed time. But Flowers beat Groy to force a hurried throw. Wyatt Teller didn’t have a great first half. Rookie Ike Boettger got 28 snaps at guard in relief of both Teller (49) and John Miller (45). The tackles were OK in pass protection. Dion Dawkins tripped and fell on a key third-down read-option run in the first half.
Quarterback (2.5): Allen’s play was encouraging, despite mistakes. He needed to pull the trigger quicker and take some check-downs for McCoy. He made a good audible and throw on the deep drop by Robert Foster. Allen’s incompletion on the fourth-and-3 fade to Foster (against Stephon Gilmore) shows how much confidence the QB has in the young receiver (and the lack of other go-to weapons). Allen stood in the pocket and took hits on a couple third-quarter gains. He made a great sidestep in the pocket on the late TD pass.
Receivers (1.5): Foster’s play was encouraging, too, even though he only produced four catches for 52 yards. He blew by Gilmore on the deep ball foiled by the sun in his eyes. Gilmore had to give him cushion after that. In the second half, Gilmore manned up a bit more on Jones. Thomas couldn’t come up with a great catch at the goal line and struggles mightily blocking.
Defensive line (2.0): The Pats’ game plan was to work the edges, not pound between the tackles. The ends could have set the edge better against some of the jet sweeps. Mike Love (22 snaps) couldn’t hold the edge on two sweeps by Cordarrelle Patterson but he did set the edge on the goal-line stand. Love took time from Eddie Yarbrough (7). Jerry Hughes got muscled at the point of attack on the 4-yard TD run but created a sack.
Linebackers (1.5): The Bills missed Matt Milano. The Pats ran at rookie Corey Thompson repeatedly. He got caught inside two plays in a row on the third-quarter TD drive. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen were great as blockers. The speedy Thompson was good in space, however. He blanketed Gronk once and changed direction to chase down a flat pass. But it was trial by fire for the rookie. Lorenzo Alexander played a season-high 73 snaps. He had some tough moments, too, getting fooled on two jet sweeps and getting blocked up by the tight ends at times. He battled. He drew a hold, had a hurry and made a nifty interception.
Defensive backs (3.5): The Pats opted not to throw into the strength of the Bills’ defense. Tre White was barely tested. Jordan Poyer showed off his quick hands in picking off an off-target Brady pass that bounced off Rob Gronkowski’s hands.
Leslie Frazier, who blitzed only 2 of 48 drop-backs in the first meeting, blitzed 9 of 27 drop-backs (33 percent) this time. Brady was 4 of 8 for a mere 29 yards with a sack and an interception vs. the blitz.
The TD pass to Julian Edelman was a case of bad luck for Poyer and Rafael Bush, who didn’t fully get the receiver to the ground. The Pats ran wide on undersized corner Levi Wallace. He overran Patterson on a jet sweep (a tough play for him), missed a tackle on the back side on a big Sony Michel run and opted to cut a blocker rather than force Patterson inside on a toss sweep.
Special teams (1.0): It was an awful day for punter Matt Daar. He had three bad punts with hang times of 2.9, 3.6 and 4.13 that hurt field position. Then a punt was blocked. The Pats overloaded the right side of the Bills’ line, putting four rushers on three blockers, and the protector, Bush, didn’t shift over to pick up Matthew Slater, who deflected the kick. Then Daar had a bad hold on the extra point. Stephen Hauschka missed a 43-yard field goal try. One positive: The kickoff coverage was good. The Pats ranked second on kickoff returns but the Bills held them to an average drive start of the 13 on three kickoffs.