Hello all. I know its been a while. Like a lot of Patriots' fans, I watched the game yesterday with angst and confusion. I'm glad to get a win. But I am not happy with the way the Patriots played yesterday. I still say that 5 days off is too long to have off for a football team. Its too much to ask of a team to crank it back up after sitting around for that long.
I'd like to give the Bills credit. Their backs ran hard. Fitzpatrick for the most part delivered the mail. And their defense played well enough to give them a chance to win. You can make an argument that the officiating helped us at a lot as well. I won't argue with that. But I can make an argument that the officiating also helped Buffalo. But more on that later.
I want to address the defense first by personnel. From the line to the secondary. And their play.
First the Defensive Line. I don't understand why Justin Francis didn't play MORE yesterday. He had a good pressure of Ryan Fitzpatrick on the Bills second drive. And I never saw him again in the game. Its a complete mystery to me as to why. Maybe I missed him when he was on the field. I don't know. But he deserves to be on the field more. Maybe lined up in the middle.
Kyle Love. Oh Kyle. Kyle Love is a big defensive tackle whom I'm waiting for the light to go with. If Vince is taking on the whole offensive line, Kyle should win his match up. Which often is a one on one block. And Kyle cannot allow himself to be blocked by one guard. There has been too many plays that I've seen Kyle disappear. No surge, no disruption. I'd like to see his name called more for helping out the defense. Rob Ninkovich has improved a lot. I was critical of his play early in the season. But he has stepped it up. He shouldn't have been in coverage against Spiller late in the game. But it didn't factor into the final outcome.
Chandler Jones is giving the Patriots what they really haven't had in a while. A threat off the edge. I thought he could have done more yesterday. But Cordy Glenn did such a good job of holding him, he didn't have as much impact on the game as could have.
The Linebackers. The Patriots have a group of big linebackers. Thumpers who hit and bring down the ball carrier. But for as big as they are, speed wise and agility wise, they can be exposed in coverage. And sometimes getting to the edge. I thought the Bills had a good game plan of attacking them across the middle. Namely D'onta Hightower. The Patriot linebackers need to be more active in coverage. I think that will come with experience. But they lost a 6'8 tight end in the end zone. And that is unacceptable. I was wondering how this group of linebackers would fare when I saw in preseason. And they have a C+ grade from me so far.
The Secondary. Overall the only player who really struggled was Alfonso Dennard. Off coverage isn't the Patriots strong point. They need to stop playing it so much. Dennard is a much better press man defender. But really the whole secondary is. When they play press coverage, they give the line a chance to attack. Kyle Arrington's name wasn't called that much yesterday. And I'm glad. When his name is called, its because someone roasted, grilled, and tattooed him for a catch. And no Patriots player has suffered a worst fall than Kyle Arrington has. Steve Gregory does not belong on the field for this defense. He's not aggressive in tackling. He blows his coverage, takes poor angles, and really seems to be in the wrong spot ALL THE TIME!!! What should have been a 7 yard catch for Steve Johnson turned into a 14 yard gain against double coverage. Gregory had outside containment on Johnson. He whiffed on the tackle.
I'd rather have Tavon Wilson out there. Let him take his bumps and bruises. He's given up two tds on stutter and go moves. But he's a rookie. What offense wouldn't target him until he proves that he can play? Devin McCourty saved the game for the Patriots. A lot of fans have been all over him for the way he has played. But I still back him 100%. I thought he would do well at safety when he was first drafted. And its up to him to justify the position that he's in now. But I think he will. Marquise Cole had a good break up at the end of the game. But his name wasn't called a lot either.
The Coaching. I won't get into the "Bill Coaching Genius" thing. I'll just say that if it works, why go away from it. There are players who should be on the field. And players who SHOULD NOT BE ON THE FIELD. The Patriots when they play press man, are giving themselves and the line a chance be aggressive. If you play defense, you need to have some aggression when you are out there. If not, you have little chance to win.
I thought the Buffalo receivers had too much space to work with. Fitzpatrick had too much time to throw it. And the backs had a field day. The reason the Bills were able to get back in the game was because of their running backs. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson ran hard. Caught the ball well. And had no one on them until they were almost 8 yards down the field. Like I said, I give the Bills credit. They played hard. They fought tooth and nail.
I'm treating this game like its its own entity. I'll see what the next game has to offer. I'm not really counting on Aqib Talib's presence right now. More than anything I still view this as young defense that is growing up. There are a lot of players trying to figure it out on the fly. So we'll see what the Colts have to offer.