The good the bad and the ugly in Bills vs Patriots matchup
Well my semi annual migration to the Northland has been completed. The numbers have been crunched and the grades are in. A hard fought game in Orchard Park deserves a closer look to determine where the good, the bad, and the ugly exist within this matchup.
Buffalo Bills Report Card
Run Game: C
Fred Jackson put in a great performance in Buffalo given the circumstances. When evaluating Jacksons 9th best in the league ground performance it’s important to remember why he was even put in this position. CJ Spiller fumbled early, and Jackson became the hot running back. Jackson carried the rock 13 times for 67 yards, and Spiller went 17 for 41.
Passing Game: B
Rookie EJ Manuel made his first career start and turned in a respectable day of work for Buffalo fans. Manuel went 18 for 27 with 150 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Manuel demonstrated commendable pocket presence as he was not sacked once and rushed for 23 yards, most off of a single scramble.
Run Defense: C
In the beginning it appeared that the Bills had made a secret deal and were stuffing the run whenever it came up, forcing New England to punt. The Patriots fumbled twice, one an unforced error by New England RB Steven Ridley, another on the Bills 1 yard line as Brady mishandled a snap on what appeared to be a QB sneak setup (which statistics show it literally never fails). Perhaps the crowd noise messed up Brady’s understanding of the snap count. At the end of the day, the Bills run defense surrendered 101 yards on the ground to Shane Vareen, and another 46 yards to Ridley.
Pass Defense: B-
The Bills pass defense put up 2 sacks and 7 QB hits, against arguably the best QB protectors in the game. Additionally in what was most surprising, the Bills pass covering operatives came up with a crucial interception (Justin Rogers) which led to a touchdown right before halftime. Buffalo gets a B minus here as they were unable to stop the Patiots when it most counted, and partially because playing defense to a new offence that only goes 2-11 on 3rd down conversions and dwarfed by T.O.P., its hard to keep up. But holding one of the league’s most potent offenses to 2 for 5 in the red zone can come in handy down the road.
Special Teams: C
Quiet day for kicks. New England Kicker Stephen Gostowski booted 6 kickoffs for touchbacks, and Buffalo ended up with only one kickoff return opportunity, which should have been downed . Bills WR TJ Graham mishandled a deep kickoff picked up the ball and put up a return of 12 yards. No punts were returned and Bills rookie Shawn Powell did well, put up 9 punts with 3 inside the 20 and a long of 57 yds.
New England Patriot Report Card:
Run Game: C
As I hinted at the Bills being dwarfed by T.O.P. the Patriots backfield was a major reason why. The Patriots registered only 7 rushing first downs, but they ran 30 times for 162 yards averaging 5.4 ypc. They put up 3 runs of +20yds. New England had the ball for 37:43 and enjoyed 101 yards on the ground from Vareen and 46 from Ridley. C grade comes from coughing up 2 fumbles in rushing attempts, both seemingly unforced.
[dropcap][/dropcap]Pass Game: B-
They hit when it counted. Brady was hardly the stellar surgeon, dissecting lesser defenses with his field vision, but it seemed this was just as much an issue of pass catchers. Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins looked absolutely lost, spotlight courtesy of his 14 targets, which connected only 4 times. Brady turns in 25/38 for 246 yards 2 td’s, 2 sacks, 7 qb hits, and an interception. Most important stat? Brady hit 6/6 on the final drive in which they were down only 2 points.
Run Defense: B
Solid performance to quiet CJ Spiller. Patriots run stoppers let 30 carries go for only 108 yards which is a 3.6 ypc. But surprisingly, it didn’t appear the Bills challenged them much. For example, the Bills were in a 3rd and short situation 6 times- and ran only 2 times (Spiller went -1, Jackson got the 1st down). Overall, holding one of the league’s best running backs to a fumble and a few yards is commendable.
Pass Defense: C+
Facing a rookie quarterback, the New England Defense looked pedestrian. EJ Manuel posted a 105.5 passer rating (I won’t mention the QBR- its good but I don’t want to incite a baked bean fueled riot). The Patriots pass rushers failed to sack the rookie even once, and even gave up a 19 yard scramble. By my count, the pass defenders had only 3 pass defenses and a good effort to force a fumble by Goodwin in the 2nd quarter (although Bills fans will rightly argue whether or not this was a catch). The Pats pass defense failed to stop the Bills in the redzone (they went 2-2), but overall, I don’t think they were challenged all that much.
Special Teams: B+
Patriots kicker Gostowski went 3 for 3 including the game winner. Rookie punter Ryan Allen was unpredictable, booting one for 19yds from his own territory, and shanking another. Edleman was able to return only 3 punts, and averaged 10 yards per.
Week 2 Pick’em Schedule Up and Ready