Quick question to Patriots Nation: who here was genuinely surprised by yesterday’s loss? Anyone? Bueller?
Now I’d be lying if I said I was expecting the Buffalo Bills to beat the New England Patriots. I really thought that the Pats would pull out this game in a close one. However, this loss doesn’t come as a massive shock to me at all. All the ingredients were in place for an upset, and at no point during this game was I ever truly comfortable with the way the Pats were playing and confident that the lead was big enough. I don’t know how to explain it, but sometimes you can just feel the loss coming regardless of the score or how well the team is playing. I got that feeling the second New England lost the coin toss and it never went away.
It isn’t so much the loss that irks me; it’s still early in the season and there is plenty of football left to play. What I don’t like is how many red flags were raised today, red flags that I’m not 100% sure the Patriots are able to fix. Game notes after the jump.
- I was never feeling great about this game – but I was feeling pretty good. Offense looked fairly solid, and the defense was doing just enough to let the offense maintain the lead. Then they went and flashed the statistic that the Bills have been outscored 35-3 in the first half so far this season. I feel like the media did everything they possibly could to jinx the Pats this past week. So thanks for that.
- Seriously - could they have mentioned that 15-game winning streak any more throughout this game?
- Three things I touched on last week: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. New England’s pass rush, New England’s rush defense vs. Fred Jackson, and the X factor. Let’s revisit one at a time.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. New England’s pass rush. There has to actually be a pass rush for this to be a discussion. I counted 1 blitz and almost zero pressure. I didn’t understand the defensive playcalling here for the life of me. What did they have to lose by blitzing more? Were they worried about giving up MORE big plays?
- Fred Jackson vs. New England’s rush defense. My concern last week was that New England was going to focus on the passing game and Jackson was going to run wild as a result. While he only rushed for 74 yards, he averaged an insane 6.2 yards per carry and hauled in 5 passes for 87 yards.Having Albert Haynesworth yesterday might have helped a little, but he’s only one player and New England should have been more stout. What I found most disturbing about the clinic that Jackson put on yesterday was the absolutely awful tackling. I lost count of how many times New England had Jackson wrapped up and then he managed to gain an extra 15 yards.
The X Factor. New England managed to take the crowd out of this one early, but quite generously managed to bring the crowd right back in it with 4 crucial turnovers on drives that could have easily put the game away. It’s hard to beat any team on the road when you turn it over 4 times; it’s nearly impossible when you turn it over 4 times to a team that is just waiting for a spark to turn things around.
- I was also confused by New England going so pass-heavy with a 3 score large lead. Stevan Ridley, when he was in, was running well and the Patriots clearly couldn’t stop Fitzpatrick; it seems they would switch to more of a clock-control offense.
- Who the hell is Julian Adelman? Nice calling, Marv.
- What was the last game the Patriots played where the opposing quarterback spent the whole time running for his life? Does last year at Pittsburgh count?
- Newest sign that I’m a horrible human being: during the Aaron Williams injury late in the 3rd quarter, all I could think about was how happy I was that the Bills had to burn a timeout, knowing that they would likely need it when they engineered their game-winning drive. Then they rolled out the stretcher and carted him off the field, which didn’t make me feel any better.
- They are going to crucify our secondary this week. I don't think it's entirely justified. You can’t be expected to cover receivers all day. The defensive line really needs to start pulling their massive weight.
- That said - I’m starting to worry about Devin McCourty. He is still playing well – rarely gets completely burned and is always in the right place, but he's having trouble finishing plays. Plus, quarterbacks are just relentlessly going after him, which isn’t going to help his confidence any. He needs to have a solid game and come up with a pick to get his head right.
- Three places you don’t want the ball to bounce if a pass is thrown your way: off your hands, off your numbers, and off your facemask. Chad Ochocinco managed to hit all three of them at once with that epic, epic drop.
- I think the clock has officially started ticking on Ocho. There’s still a fair amount of time on it, so no need to panic yet. But the timer is running.
- How about that blitz on 3rd and 8 in the 4th quarter that forced a Bills punt? That seemed to work out OK.
- I know that it was technically the right call on the Rob Ninkovich roughing the passer penalty and the Jairus Byrd hit on Wes Welker – but come on, fellas! Let’s play some contact football here.
- You know what wasn't the right call? That Kyle Love Roughing the Passer penalty. This is getting absurd. I would absolutely love it if a (non-Patriots) defensive player came in on a blitz and just went Marty Janetty on a QB, dropkicking him right in the face and maybe finishing him off with a Randy Savage elbow drop. Then he can stand up and yell to the ref, "Now THAT'S roughing the passer!"
- Brian Waters is wearing Tedy Bruschi’s old number 54? I don’t think I’ve ever seen an O-Lineman with a number in the 50s. Not that I pay all that much attention.
- Nothing takes the wind out of a stadium like a dominant opening drive.
- Nothing puts the wind back in a stadium than allowing a team to pass at will.
- I don’t like this pattern of one big play to Gronk getting called back per game.
- Chan, what in God's name do you give your team at half time in the locker room? Can I have some? Please?
- Deion Branch had zero catches today, and it’s my fault. I started him on my fantasy team, which has apparently become a guaranteed curse as of late. I may also be responsible for Aaron Hernandez's injury. Sorry, everyone. It won’t happen again.
- Remember when Gary Guyton was good?
- I think it’s easy to be known as a defense that makes a lot of tackles when you are on the field all the time and opposing receivers are always catching the ball.
- I need to invent some kind of new drinking game that centers around New England stopping teams on 3rd down.
- Is it bad that I was really, really surprised when the Bills didn’t convert on that 4th and 14?
- Maybe I’m missing something…but I don’t think this vanilla 4 man pass rush is working.
- Or maybe…this defense knows exactly what it’s doing – it lures teams into a false sense of security by giving them all day to pass and making sure there are always open receivers. Then, right when the time is right: Bam! Turnover. That’s a pretty solid defensive scheme right there. Yeah, that’s what it is.
- One thing that the analysts were discussing all this past week: can this team deliver when Tom Brady doesn’t have his best game? The answer to this question is obviously no. We can’t rely on Tommy B to be perfect every single game; that’s what the Colts have been doing and we all know where it got them.
- Hey, you know what’s fun? When your offense gets you right back in it and then the defense immediately gives up three massive plays in about 5 seconds flat to cost you the game. It’s like handing us a bright, shiny balloon and then letting go of it right as we’re about to grab it.
- GROOOOOOOONK! Absoliutely filthy. If he and Aaron Hernandez can stay healthy, all will be well.
- 387 yards, 4 TDs, and 4 picks counts as a really bad day for Brady - but that’s still a pretty damn good outing. Two of those picks came off crazy bounces, which happens sometimes.
- 3rd and 19 – Tom Brady hits Gronkowski for a quick gain to set up a field position-changing punt. It’s plays like that that don’t get very much attention, but are a true testament to what a great quarterback Tommy B is.
- Here comes Stevan Ridley. Look for him to get involved with this offense a little more.
- Despite all the turnovers and points left on the field, New England still could have won this game if the defense had just made a few plays. We can take some comfort in knowing that this defense only needs to stop 1 or 2 extra scoring drives per game and New England will likely come away with the win. This D may not be totally fixable, but it should be able to get better at stopping 2 drives per game.
I know this is an annoying loss – you never want to lose to a divisional opponent, especially a divisional opponent that you’re supposed to beat. But let’s look at it from another angle: obviously Buffalo is a pretty legit squad, which means New England isn’t the only team that they are going to give trouble. Plus, we all knew that Buffalo would get a win sooner or later. At the end of the day, taking this loss isn’t the end of the world. We’re still 2-1 and in good shape. We’re going to get healthy again, fix our problems, and start playing better football down the road when it matters.
And plus, remember what happened the last time that Buffalo beat us?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head to the basement.