Patriots vs. Bills
As Belichick described it after yesterday's win, it was a bittersweet victory. The Patriots played very well on both sides of the ball at times during the game, but in the process they lost the QB on defense Jerod Mayo and workhorse RB Stevan Ridley for the season due to leg injuries. Outside of these two huge blows to the team, the Patriots really put together a nice game. The pass offense exploded for 360 yards and 37 points and the defense made timely stops and forced turnovers. Finally, we are seeing the Patriots that everyone expected out of the gates to open the season.
Out of the gate, we saw some struggles for the offense. The Pats tried to establish the run a little but the Bills weren't allowing any holes to open as Ridley was having a tough day. The offensive line was not opening up the holes and struggled to be consistent. We saw the revolving door back this week for them. Dan Connolly getting hurt really didn't help the situation either as Jordan Devey, who really shouldn't be out there, was forced to play. The Bills have one of the better front 7's in the NFL so the offensive line struggles were kind of expected. In the second half, we saw Ridley take a big blow to the knee and go down and from there the run game was pretty much given up on. Brandon Bolden came in to try and take the load, but he really didn't excel either. Filling the void of Ridley will be tough in my opinion, because he was running hard and really gave the offense some balance this season. I don't know if Bolden will be able to fill that role. Vereen certainly shouldn't be the lead back. He definitely will see more touches, but I don't want him running 10+ times between the tackles. The Patriots need to find a lead RB and they need to get the offensive line healthy again to get back on track. Maybe Jonas Gray gets promoted and we see a RB by committee approach with Bolden, Vereen, Gray and White all seeing looks? It will be very interesting to see what Bill does with that situation.
The pass offense really led the way Sunday. Most of the damage was done in the second half for Brady and Co. We saw Tyms for the first time and immediately he looked to be the missing deep threat. Tyms and Brady connected on a beautiful 43 yard bomb for a TD taking the top off the defense, something this offense has been missing for years. If Tyms can consistently bring that to the table for the offense, just one or two shots downfield a game, this offense now has a whole new look. Rob Gronkowski continues to get closer to bring 100%, making him a legit threat out there. LaFell also is carving out a nice niche here in New England having another good game with 2 TD catches. Tim Wright only had his TD catch, but still was on field some more Sunday. This grouping of LaFell, Edelman, Gronk and Wright looks to the favorite for the Patriots. If LaFell, Gronk and Wright can continue to grow in this offense alongside Edelman the pass offense will be a machine as it used to be, but obviously much of this falls on the O-Line to protect Brady and give him time to make the plays. Brady looks just fine when given a clean pocket. The offense is certainly trending up after another solid week.
Defensively we saw Revis Island yet again at it, and this time Sammy Watkins was its victim. Sammy wasn't even looked at by Orton until the second half. I think it's safe to say that Revis is exactly what we expected him to be, a shutdown corner. It's disappointing that Browner wasn't able to play Sunday and hopefully he gets out there Thursday so we know how he fits with this defense. It's interesting how Logan Ryan is almost non-existent for the defense now that Dennard is healthy again. Kyle Arrington continues to have a very modest season as well in coverage. The secondary really has turned into the group we expected them to be. Patrick Chung has been very good considering the expectations I placed on him. He hasn't made any egregious errors and has been solid in run support. The secondary has been great so far and I expect them to only get better with Browner soon returning.
Now time to look at the front 7. This group was looking just fine days ago, but the injury to Jerod Mayo pretty much leaves everything up here in question. The Pats LB depth was sketchy to begin with and Mayo’s injury leaves a dark cloud over the group. Who takes Mayo’s role? Last season we saw Hightower has some problems taking over Mayo’s spot as he was not in a position to succeed. Collins may be to raw to take over Mayo’s role and I also think he is suited to be on the outside making plays rather than in the middle. Skinner played decent Sunday vs. the Bills so he will definitely be sticking around now. I believe the Pats should maybe bring in Anderson again and just see what he has. Right now, the LB situation is shady at best and the Pats could use a LB badly. Nobody will be able to replace Mayo, since he was the defensive leader and communicator on defense. It sucks to see him go down for a second straight season. It’s really time to see what Collins and Hightower can do for the Pats. A big question mark hangs there. As for the D-Line: wow! Chandler Jones continues to make plays and be a game changer and Ninkovich really stepped up Sunday as well. The defensive line should only get better with Easley hopefully returning soon. Chandler is turning into the stud we all hoped he would be, as he made a huge play late in the first half to turn momentum. The front seven really took a hit losing Mayo Sunday, but the playmakers that are up front can make up for it, they just need to step up their play big time.
Overall, it was a big win for the Pats as they went into a tough road game vs. a divisional opponent and handled business. This team is completely different than the one we saw two weeks that took a thrashing at the hands of the Chiefs.