You'd figure that since the NFL is so hell-bent on expanding their empire overseas and broadening their international audience, they would have figured out a way to make it easier to watch the games when you aren't in the country.
When the girlfriend and I decided to take a trip down to the sunny Dominican Republic over New Years, I figured it wouldn't be too hard to find a place to watch the Patriots vs. Bills matchup, and so I didn't really give it all that much thought. Of course, at the time, I also kind of figured that that particular game wouldn't carry too much weight and there wouldn't be anything to play for at that point, so if I did happen to miss it it wouldn't be that big a deal. Neither of those things were true, however, and so yesterday I found myself scouring the depths of Spanish television and venturing into the deepest, darkest corners of the internet in hopes of finding somewhere, anywhere, with a game feed. I was even willing to pay for it if necessary, but international ruling prevented most of my options from airing football. So what I ended up getting was a choppy, grainy, inconsistent string of live footage accompanied by an internet radio broadcast that left me woefully unprepared for these notes.
And plus, if I'm being honest, I was a little hydrated yesterday from all of the delicious tropical drinks that it's only acceptable to wolf down while on vacation, so I wasn't exactly operating at full capacity. Hell, I'm still a little hydrated now, so I better get to it before I say something I'll really regret.
- If there was an overall theme to this game, I'd have to say it was "meh." New England didn't play particularly poorly, but they didn't exactly light up Gillette Stadium either. I honestly think that a lot of that performance has to do with the weather, which was nothing short of a torrential downpour, but against a practice squad quarterback and a clearly inferior Bills squad, it would have been nice to have seen them impose their will a little bit more and generate a little more momentum heading into the playoffs.
- That said - what a day for the running game. Obviously, LeGarrette Blount gets my game ball, as the man was absolutely unstoppable all day, but the entire rushing offense had its best game of the season. Every running back that got a carry ran well, the offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, and Buffalo seemed completely unable to stop the run. Tommy B didn't have his best day by any stretch, but when the weather is lousy and you're gaining yards on the ground, it doesn't really matter.
- I don't know exactly what Logan Mankins is made out of, but forged steel is my first guess. That man has played with a concussion, a broken arm, a cracked sternum, a torn ACL, and now an ankle injury in his tenure with the Patriots. Whatever he eats for breakfast, it would have been nice if he'd shared it with his teammates this season.
- I'm a bit worried that Aaron Dobson is done for the year. He pulled up on a long ball in which he had his man beat with what looked like an injury to the same foot that has has kept him out these past few weeks. Maybe he'll have time to heal in the off week, but usually when you re-aggravate an injury your first game back, that's the end of that.
- Towards the middle of the third quarter, I realized that pretty much the only Patriot who was even remotely a threat in the passing game was Julian Edelman. With nine more receptions to his name in this game, he has more than earned the contract he's going to get in the offseason. And that contract better damn well be from the Patriots.
- That's also a fairly big cause for concern. Granted, when you are running the ball as well as New England ran it yesterday, having receiving options is more of a luxury than a necessity, and if the Pats run it in the playoffs the way they ran it yesterday, they are going to be making a very deep run. But you can't lean exclusively on the run every game and this team needs some healthy bodies that can catch passes ASAP.
- I wonder if Austen Collie has been speaking with Ross Ventrone about the best way to handle getting bounced on and off the team like a fat kid playing dodgeball in gym class.
- I have to go back to Blount for a bit here, as the man pretty much singlehandedly won this game for the Patriots. Not only did he have close to 200 yards on the ground, but he finally hit his stride in the return game and set New England up with great field position on several kickoffs. When we all look back at some of the All-Time Patriots trade scroogies that worked out in our favor, I don't know if people will immediately turn to the Blount for Jeff Demps move in their list- but it has to be up there. To my knowledge, Demps spent yesterday working on his baton handoffs as Blount was running into the end zone twice.
- More accuracy issues for Tommy B yesterday. I'm more than willing to blame the weather for balls sailing short and into the dirt, but when Thad Lewis is keeping the streak of receivers making huge sideline catches while keeping their feet in bounds streak alive as Brady drops another one off the mark, you have to scratch your head a littel.
- The stat line won't show it, but Lewis had himself a decent game yesterday. He made some good throws, was careful with the ball, and used his legs to extend the play. His receivers didn't help him out any with some huge drops, and horrendous playcalling on that 4th and 1 stalled a drive, but overall Lewis played well. I don't want to put him into the category of scrubs turned All-Stars against this secondary, but the defense made him look more competent than I would have liked.
- What exactly is it about Fred Jackson that makes him always, always, ALWAYS light the Patriots up? I can't remember the last time he was rendered completely ineffective against this team, and yesterday was no exception. Barrelling runs. One handed grabs. Huge receptions for tons of yards. Usually Jackson is good for a fumble or two, but yesterday he held onto the ball and more or less had his way with the defense.
- You know what the best part about a bye week is? Nobody can get hurt this Sunday.
- And lastly- on the off chance that there are any Pulpiteers vacationing at the Secrets Resort in Punta Cana, but if you are, come find me at the swim up bar and I'll buy you a drink. That this resort is all-inclusive is irrelevant; it's the thought that counts.