Tom Szczerbowski - Getty Images
Notes, musings, and observations from New England's 52-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills
Yesterday's game between the Patriots and the Bills reminded me a lot of the time I was fighting for my life in an underground warehouse circuit. My girlfriend had been kidnapped, I was in deep with a bad crowd, and the only way out was to throw the fight and win some of the crime bosses a lot of money.
I still remember that fight very well. I spent the first three rounds just getting beaten to a pulp with a barrage of fists, elbows, and knees, to the point where I didn't even know which way was up. As I sat there in my corner, breathing heavy, ribs aching, and half-dead, I looked up into the cheering crowd. And there, amid a sea of stale cigarette smoke and greasy-haired gamblers, I saw the face of my girlfriend towards the back of the warehouse. Somehow, she had eluded her captors and made her way to the fight pit to let me know that I didn't have to throw this fight.I could still win. There was still plenty of pound left in these fists and that I was still the baddest mofo on the streets. Needless to say, I knocked Tong Po right out of the ring shortly thereafter and left the arena in a blaze of glory.
Now is that a total lie? Perhaps. Did I just regurgitate the final scene of Kickboxer and sub myself in for Jean Claude Van Damme in a feeble attempt to make myself seem tough? We'll never know for sure. But the message remains the same: it doesn't matter how much the bad guy slaps you around in the beginning. It's all about finding inspiration in a pretty face in the crowd and turning it on when your back is against the wall. And that's exactly what the Pats did yesterday - they decided that enough was enough, and it was time to lay the smack down to the tune of a 52-28 shellacking. In a game riddled with ups and downs, New England once again asserted its dominance over a team that spent its entire offseason - and most of its budget - trying to unseat the Patriots as the class of the AFC East.
- I don't like being nervous for Bills games. This is a very foreign feeling and one I'm none too pleased with.
- Did anyone else get the feeling that Ryan Fitzpatrick was just going to march down the field on Buffalo's opening drive and score in about 3 minutes? Kind of surprising that New England was the team that scored first.
- Rob Ninkovich is still overcommitting getting rendered completely ineffective too often.I still don't think that he's the best option at end. That said, though, Nink had his best game of the season yesterday, registering seven tackles and a strip sack. Hopefully it's a sign that he has turned the corner.
- First drive aside, the entire team just looked flat out there. Slow starts have plagued this team for some time now and they have to figure out what's going on.
- One thing you can't allow when playing Buffalo is for Ryan Fitzpatrick to find his rhythm. He's probably the most inconsistent quarterback in the AFC, but when he is playing with confidence, he's one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the league.
- It would seem that last year's bend but don't break defense has been replaced by a "stuff them consistently before giving up a big play to keep the opposing team in it" defense.
- The number of big plays this defense has given up this season is really troubling. Any team that can score on a big play is never out of the game.
- Nice little initiation for Daniel Fells today - put together a pretty solid game. Only had one catch, but had a great day as a blocking tight end.
- Tommy B kept the offense to a lot of quick release passes in order to keep him upright until the offensive line had time to settle. One of the things I'm most excited for about this offense is how many fronts they can show depending on what kind of defense they are facing
- What a catch by Gronk on that first long bomb. Big monstrous men aren't supposed to be able to make grabs like that.
- And what a throw by Tommy B there. If Gronk hadn't used a little stutter step just before he broke off the route, Brady would have dropped it right into his lap.
- I really wasn't feeling Bill Belichick's new hoodie. It's not even that is isn't the traditional grey one that he has become infamous for - that thing is just ugly. It looks like something my dad used to wear to home games in the 80s.
- I am digging his haircut, though. All business.
- C.J. Spiller isn't a small guy, and Dont'a Hightower isn't some kind of behemoth. But Hightower just tossed Spiller out of the way on his first blitz like he was made out of paper. The amount of raw ability in the Patriots' first round draft picks is staggering.
- Dan Dierdorf on Vince Wilfork's tip that led to Fitzpatrick's first interception: "He doesn't even jump more than an inch or two." How high do you think Wilfork can jump, Dierdorf? He may have set a personal high jump best on that play.
- I think my favorite aspect of Stevan Ridley's running is his first step. Just attacks the hole and turns on the burners.He isn't an incredibly fast back, but his second gear is legitimate.
- Remember those games where New England was up 21-3 in the first quarter?
- I wonder what Jermaine Cunningham did this offseason to make such a massive jump this year? The only logical explanation I can think of is that he was part of the original test group for Gronk Flakes.
- I don't like these forced passes to Brandon Lloyd. The Patriots have enough weapons so that they don't need to do that anymore.
- Quiet crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium yesterday, even when the Bills had all the momentum. When the two teams played there last year, I couldn't hear a damn thing Tommy B was trying to say.
- Thank God the real refs are back - the replacements might have ruled that first Devin McCourty pick a Buffalo touchdown.
- Dan Deirdorf on a Buffalo injury: "There's a Buffalo player still down...is that Marquice Cole?" No, Dan. Marquice plays defense for the Patriots. You just go back to your coloring book.
- I know that all NFL kickers miss field goals, and Stephen Gostkowski is allowed to miss every once in a while. But that won't stop me from immediately questioning his ability and asking how the hell you miss those kicks.
- I didn't think about the refs once during this game, and that's the way it should be.
- That touchdown following the Rob Gronkowski fumble was about as predetermined as a case of indigestion after a trip to Arby's. Just one of those things you can feel in the air.
- I hate to say it, but about halfway through the second quarter, I started to wonder whether this is just going to be one of those seasons where this team just doesn't get any breaks. We've had plenty of seasons where things did go our way, and very few where we simply didn't have any luck. Gronk doesn't fumble. He doesn't drop passes, either. Wes Welker doesn't fumble. Stephen Gostkowski doesn't miss kicks. It really made me wonder.
- I think that there mightbe a lot of talk this week about the offensive playcalling, in spite of the effectiveness of the offense. And to a degree, it's more than warranted. Several times throughout this game the Patriots were driving and the drive completely stalled as the team deviated from what was working to try some kind of long toss play or sideline go route. There's no need for variety just for variety's sake.
- How the hell did big Vince come away with that fumble at the goal line? I watched that replay several times and still can't figure out how Brandon Spikes got a helmet on the ball or how Wilfork managed to come up with it. One of the biggest plays of the game right there.
- I'm actually perfectly fine with the Patriots just running the clock out instead of trying to get some quick points. The way the offense was playing - and the way Gostkowski was kicking - the odds of them giving the ball back to Buffalo was more likely.
- Bob Kraft is the first NFL owner to receive the George Halas award. Yawn. Come back to me when there is a crisis threatening the league that needs solving.
- Tommy B unable to find his helmet at the start of the half pretty much summed up the game up until that point. The whole team just didn't have their heads in it and nobody was in synch.
- Tracy White in the lineup is never a good sign. Hopefully Hightower's injury isn't too serious.
- Dare I say that the weak link on this Patriots team is offensive inconsistency? Is that even possible?
- Early in the 3rd quarter, New England had the Bills pinned back at their own 12 on a 3rd and 15 with the chance to get the ball back with solid field position. Buffalo managed to pull out a 13 yard play for a 1st down. Sound familiar?
- Hey, weird! The defense gave up a big play, this time to the tune of a long Donald Jones touchdown!
- Tom's Brady's first TD pass of the day was vintage Tommy B. Took a few small steps up into the pocket, extended the play, and made the huge conversion.
- Once again Sterling Moore beats out Ras-I Dowling for meaningful snaps. To my knowledge, Dowling isn't injured, which means the coaching staff thought that Moore is simply the better option. The bust chant is warming up.
- I really, really miss games that were over by the start of the 4th quarter. None of this waiting until the middle of the 4th quarter before I can breathe again for me, thanks.
- Rules is rules, Kyle Williams. I don't like it any more than you do - but you just stay the hell away from my quarterback's knee.
- Bills receivers weren't just open yesterday. They were WIDE open. How does that happen?
- Rob Ninkovich's first meaningful play of the season: Week 4, late 3rd quarter. Nink doesn't overcommit, maintains his discipline, and brings the runner down for a big loss
- His second meaningful play came immediately after that one, oddly enough, coming up with a huge strip sack. Very solid day overall for the man.
- As he was for much of the day, Stevie Johnson was about as open as they come on that 3rd and 17; luckily for us, bad Ryan Fitzpatrick was there by that point and he overthrew it.
- Oh there you are, Gronk! I was wondering where you went.
- Not overly pleased with that spike, though, and I'd honestly say that he's averaging a C+ on spikes for the season.
- How about this running game, eh? 2 Patriots with 100+ yard days for the first time since 1982. Seeing as I was 1 year old the last time that happened, and based on how nervous I was yesterday, I feel comfortable making the assumption that there is a direct correlation between huge rushing games for New England and Alec Shane crapping his pants.
- You know who else crapped his pants yesterday? Donald Jones after Vince Wilfork completely rearranged his lower intestines.
- Why the hell did the Patriots even bother passing in the 4th quarter?
- How about that fierce Buffalo front four that was supposed to just wreaking havoc on this weak New England offensive line? How's Mario Williams treating you, Buffalo?
- Few things make me happier than a quarter-full, completely silent stadium.
- Latest sign that I'm a horrible person: how hard I laughed when that poor ballboy took a total digger ovber that barrier trying to retrieve Gostskowski's extra point. You see, it's OK to laugh at someone falling down as long as they don't get hurt. That's when you laugh at them in private. Nice job, ballboy.
- Everyone remember how the Patriots were phasing Wes Welker out of their offense? And how Welker was mad about his involvement with the playcalling? And how Tom Brady was a jackass for toeing the company line and not sticking up for his teammates? And remember how all of the people that thought that look like total morons now?
- Oops on Nate Ebner yesterday. That Brad Johnson TD was right in his lane.
- I have been talking about how much I like Donald Thomas since the preseason. In my opinion, he was hands down the best lineman on the field yesterday, offensive, and defensive, for both teams. Phenomenal pass protection, great run blocking, and some of the nicest pulls I've seen in a long time to spring the running backs.
- Vince Wilfork likes to garden? Can somebody please Photoshop a floral apron and garnder's hat on him?
- I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't heard about it yet, but check out the latest in the life of Patriots has-been Brandon Merriweather. The hits just keep on coming for that guy.
There's still a whole lot to dislike about this game - a whole lot- but there are a lot of positives as well. When you have a team that can run the ball well, with a quarterback like Tom Brady and a passing attack like New England's, good things are on the horizon.