When you have an up-and-down game like the Patriots did on Sunday in their 23-21 win over the Buffalo Bills, you are bound to have some variance in players who were “winners” and “losers.” Here’s my take on who helped and who hurt themselves with their performances Sunday (feel free to add your own):
Winners (Players who helped themselves)
Shane Vereen, RB: Shane Vereen may have gained the most personally from Sunday’s game. Vereen played a career high in snaps following the benching of Stevan Ridley, and picked up 101 yards on 14 carries. He also had the key run to set up the Patriots’ game winning field goal, and caught seven balls as well. Vereen had played almost exclusively as the 3rd down/passing back in the preseason, but looked like a three down back against the Bills.
Marcus Cannon, T: With Will Svitek out, Cannon stepped into the LT spot in certain packages with Nate Solder becoming a 3rd tight end. Cannon performed well at first glance, and the added responsibility was a good sign in his development.
Julian Edelman, WR: Edelman stepped up for the Patriots, recording seven catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, playing from the outside and in the slot.
Danny Amendola, WR: His ten catches came on reduced snaps due to him aggravating his groin injury. His toughness was on display as he made two critical third down catches on the Patriots’ winning drive.
Kyle Arrington / Alfonzo Dennard, CB’s: Both cornerbacks stepped up for the Patriots. Dennard didn’t allow a completion and almost had an interception on a deep pass down the left sideline in the 1st half. Arrington was all over the field, forcing two fumbles, almost coming up with an interception, and helping out in run support. This duo’s solid play was a good first sign for the defensive backfield.
Stephen Gostkowski, K: Went 3-for-3, including the game winner from 35 yards out. He faced some criticism after missing some kicks in the preseason, but quieted the doubters yesterday.
Rob Gronkowski, TE: The Patriots need him yesterday. Tom Brady was consistently forced to go to Kenbrell Thompkins (14 targets) because he had no other bigger options (especially when Amendola and Edelman were well covered). Without Gronk, the Patriots tight ends combined for one receptions for five yards.
Losers (Players who hurt themselves)
Stevan Ridley, RB: Ridley ran well… when he held onto the football. After a near fumble in the first quarter, Ridley coughed up the ball a second time in the second, which led to a Bills return touchdown and a prompt benching. Hard to say what his role will be with the team at this point.
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR: The undrafted rookie caught just four of 14 balls thrown his way, including a drop that should have been an easy touchdown. He appeared frustrated at times, but that’s what can happen when adjusting to the pro game. His future is still very bright.
Ryan Allen, P: A down overall game from the rookie punter, who struggled with his hang time, placement, and velocity. His poor punting average (39.3) was strongly aided by a 65 yard punt that rolled a good 20 yards.
Zach Sudfeld, TE: Played about a fifth of the total snaps, and his drop directly led to a Bills interception which gave them great field position for their first score on offense. Without Rob Gronkowski, many expected Sudfeld to play a big role… but that expectation never materialized.
Ryan Wendell, C: Protection was shaky up the middle with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus both having big games for the Bills. It’s tough to blame him for the fumbled snap in the 3rd quarter, but he did have some low snaps from the shotgun in the first half.