Pre-game Skirmish

Week 4: Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots Recap

Tyrod Taylor
Tyrod Taylor in action from Sunday, October 2nd.

Final: Buffalo 16, New England 0

A gloomy Sunday in Foxboro turned even uglier for Patriots fans as the team suffered its first shutout loss at Gillette Stadium ever falling to the Bills at home.  Buffalo came in with a solid game plan and executed it very well while New England could not get out of their own way or find any kind of identity or continuity on offense.  Overall, it was a dominant effort by the road team.

The offensive game plan was excellent, installed by newly appointed coordinator Anthony Lynn.  The former running backs coach in Buffalo had the team clicking dialing up a plethora of different plays.  The entire plan predicated on protecting Tyrod Taylor from himself as there were a lot of short, safe throws for him.  He was accurate on them, for the most part, connecting on 27 out of his 39 passes.  Tyrod only attempted passes of 15+ yards five times (officially) in the game and was able to find his outlet receivers quickly behind some very admirable blocking from his offensive line.  He escaped pressure on a couple of different occasions and found his men down field to convert some key third down situations.  As far as the rest of the offense went, there was a lot of outside runs.  LeSean McCoy was dancing around tacklers in this game making a handful of defenders miss.  Buffalo broke out the wildcat for the second straight week and once again saw some success using it.  The run blocking was fair by the Bills O-line but the 134 yards rushing was more due to a combination of shifty moves by the backs and poor tackling from the Pats.

Robert Woods
Robert Woods getting tackled by Logan Ryan.

Defensively for Buffalo there was some decent coverage by the secondary to go along with one of the most impressive single-game efforts seen this season.  Zach Brown was everywhere in this contest showcasing his elite speed at linebacker, racking up 18 total tackles (13 solo).  He sacked Jacoby Brissett once and forced two fumbles, one of which was recovered by the Bills.  Showing great sideline prowess, he was able to knock Patriots players out of bounds on a couple of separate occasions without drawing an unnecessary penalty flag.  Kyle Williams continued his good start to the year with some excellent line play as well as providing big help, as usual, in stopping the run.  Jerry Hughes picked up his fourth sack in as many games this year when he dumped Jacoby Brissett for a 14 yard loss at the end of the first half.  Aaron Williams, safety, flashed in coverage and was able to make some plays around the line of scrimmage as well.  One interesting thing here is that Buffalo did not rush the passer with one down lineman hardly at all in this game like they did last week against Arizona.  The defensive game plan was much simpler given their opponent was a rookie quarterback in his second start.  The Bills manned up across the line and played physical with the wide receivers.  The only gaff to speak of in this game was erased by a holding penalty on the very first play of the game when Julian Edelman broke loose for what would have been a 90 yard reception.  Otherwise, Buffalo was very sound and tackled well.  Their only trouble came in defending Martellus Bennett, one of the better tight ends in the league.  He was strong at the point of attack and at one point out-maneuvered Zach Brown for an impressive 58 yard catch and run.

On the defensive side for New England, there was not a ton to rave about.  The team only gave up 16 points, which in today’s NFL should be good enough to win a game.  This would lead someone who did not watch this game to believe that the D played well while the offense was a no-show.  While the ladder part of that statement is true, the former is not.  The Patriots missed a ton of tackles in this contest.  LeSean McCoy dodged Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower on a couple of different occasions.  Tyrod Taylor juked Hightower out as well.  The defensive line from New England was pushed around when Buffalo dropped back to pass.  Chris Long did not generate much pressure and Jabaal Sheard over-pursued on quite a few plays.  The secondary for the Pats was not atrocious by any means but they were unable to hang with Buffalo’s receiver on the very few times that a play broke down and Taylor had to scramble.  Logan Ryan’s stats look pretty as he finished the game with a whopping 14 solo tackles, along with three assists but he was often too soft in his coverage.  New England as a team played a ton of zone which is uncharacteristic of them for the most part.  This is likely because the Bills were without Sammy Watkins, one of the only dynamic playmakers that they have.  The Patriots’ conservative play was something that would have worked better had they not missed so many tackles in the open field.  This was combined with the fact that they had a couple of boneheaded penalties that extended drives for Buffalo.

Jacoby Brissett
Jacoby Brissett threw just three passes in the first half of this game.

Jacoby Brissett did not look awful in this game, but much of that is due to the equally conservative offensive game plan cooked up by Josh McDaniels.  Brissett, like Tyrod Taylor, kept most of his throws around the line of scrimmage.  The Patriots ran a lot of shallow crossing routes and drags in front of the NC State product.  These throws were easy to complete and he did not make any bad decisions throwing the ball.  His big error came in the second quarter when his team was down by 13 and were moving the ball deep into Buffalo territory.  On a 3rd and 11 he had chose to scramble and got popped by Zach Brown, fumbling the ball.  This play was a perfect example of a rookie quarterback trying to do too much.  There were three Bills defenders in front of him and he had about four yards to go before picking up a first down.  The smart play would have been to get down, protect the ball and himself, and pick up three points but instead he took an unnecessary shot and turned the ball back over to Buffalo.  The Patriots only had three official pass plays in the first half and were unsuccessful when trying to get the running game going.  The Bills controlled the clock and did not let the Pats get a rhythm established.  The offensive line was not all that bad, however.  They were firing off their blocks and giving Brissett a clean pocket to throw from for a majority of the afternoon.  Rob Gronkowski saw very limited action again this week, but was able to pick up his first catch of the year on the Patriots lone third down conversion in this game.  They were a dreadful 1/12 in that category while the Bills were 7/15 on the day, largely contributing to the 36:11/23:19 gap in time of possession.

Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski made his first catch of the year on Sunday versus Buffalo.

To be frank, this was a lousy effort by the Patriots on the first Sunday in October.  They know they get Tom Brady back next week, so there was not a whole lot for them to lose in this game.  On top of an uninspired outing by the team, they made a ton of mistakes along the way.  Lots of sloppy penalties hampered New England on the afternoon and everybody witnessed what they thought they were going to see for a lot of the first four games this year.  Buffalo outplayed them on this day and that will reflect well for them perhaps later down the road.  The Bills defense played exceptionally for the second straight week and the offense has actually managed to look better ever since Anthony Lynn took over as offensive coordinator before Week 3.  The Bills will hit the road to take on the surprising 3-1 Rams while the Patriots head to Cleveland to face the 0-4 Browns with Tom Brady returning under center.  It was an ugly loss for New England, but not an alarming one.  This team is still in good shape, it was simply a frustrating afternoon with a lack of execution and a boatload of uncharacteristic mistakes.

LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy getting tackled on Sunday.

The Skinny:

  • The Bills converted 7/15 times in third down situations while the Patriots were only 1/12 leaving a huge gap in the time of possession.
  • The conservative defense for Buffalo paid off as the Bills rarely came after Brissett and also made most of their tackles in the open field.  The back seven gave a strong effort here.
  • LeSean McCoy is looking good and is juking and jiving his way across and up the field much like he did in 2013.  Opposing defenses beware.
  • Jacoby Brissett was limited to what he could do in this game.  He did make most of his throws but also made a bad error attempting to take on three Bill defenders and fumbling the ball away deep in Buffalo territory instead of sliding and settling for three points.
  • The Patriots missed many tackles and did not look sound defensively.  There was a lot of zone defense going on and players were not making the plays that were in front of them.  The sloppiness started on offense when a 90 yard reception by Julian Edelman was called back on a hold on the first play of the game.  He only had one catch in this game.
  • New England was shut out for the first time ever in Gillette Stadium and lost in October for the first time since 2013 and at home to an AFC opponent in tenth month for the first time since 2005.
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