Before the game, I wrote 5 keys the Patriots needed to follow to beat the Bills. Since the Patriots handled the Bills, let's review what happened.
1. Stop Fred Jackson. I thought that Jackson was going to run wild after the Bills' first drive. He gained 50 rushing yards on the opening drive for the Bills and he had me with my head in my hands, shaking my head. However, he had only 42 total yards (rushing, receiving) for rest of the game. I would say the Patriots did a pretty solid job of containing Jackson. I would also say that I was right on when saying the Patriots needed to stop him because his biggest set of downs (the opening drive) led to the Bills' only points of the game.
Oh, and I said that Jackson would get twice as many touches than C.J. Spiller (15-8). I was pretty close.
2. Track Steve Johnson.
That leaves #1 Steve Johnson to face off with Kyle Arrington and Brandon Meriweather. If Arrington can keep Johnson in front of him, then the Bills passing game will be slowed. The Bills receivers, other than Johnson, thrive on the big play and if the Patriots can corral Johnson, then the Bills won't have a passing game. Arrington needs to play his game against Johnson and deter Fitzpatrick from throwing to his favorite target.
Yep. Unfortunately, Johnson ran routes on both sides of the field, meaning that Johnson would match up against both Arrington and Devin McCourty. Johnson was limited to 5 receptions for 58 yards on 10 passes in his direction. It was clear that the Patriots were trying to limit Johnson's yards after the catch, which they did. However, I also said, "the Bills receivers thrive on the big play." Three receivers not named Steve Johnson had receptions of 30+ yards, which means that the Patriots might have been giving too much attention to the top threats of the Bills offense. However, Johnson was still limited, which is a win for the Patriots.
Read the rest of the review after the jump!
3. Block Kyle Williams. Did you hear his name? I didn't. Williams went sackless, tackle-for-lossless, pass-defendedless and was, generally, ineffective. Logan Mankins did a great job of slowing Williams and Dan Koppen did his part in helping out, but Mankins was unbelievable. He was able to match-up with Williams and not give up any ground. Mankins is earning his new contract as the most consistent guard in the league and is letting his performance on the field dictate his open market price. Williams was stopped all game and it's because of Mankins. If he apologizes (pleeeease apologize for your comments about the franchise!), I hope the Patriots reward him with a long term deal in the range of the top 2 or 3 guards in the league. He's playing better than the top 5 guards and deserves the pay.
4. Ride BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. 32 carries, 197 yards and a touchdown for nearly 6.2 yards/carry. I would say the Patriots used the running game and they exceeded my expectations. Yeah, it was against the worst running defense in the league, but they kept at it and had a fantastic game. Nothing more to say.
5. Win the turnover battle. +7. The Patriots had four fumble recoveries and three interceptions. They didn't turn the ball over. Think of it this way- the Patriots average starting position on their scoring drives was on the Bills own 48 yard line. They scored 21 points off of the first three turnovers and then took the pedal off of the gas in order to not run up the score. The Bills had been fumbling the ball and the defense definitely took advantage by giving the ball to the offense.
Looking at all five points, I'd have to say that the Patriots completed all five, or at least came close to it and they won handily.