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Patriots 49 Bills 21: Grading the Defense

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Grading the Patriots' defensive performance from the team's 49-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Passing Defense

Much like the team's performance against the Miami Dolphins last week, the Patriots pass defense was a mixed bag against the Bills on Sunday. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went 29/46 for 307 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions.

While the yardage and completion numbers look good initially, lets take a look at Fitzpatrick 1st half - 2nd half comparison:

1st Half: 20-28, 246 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 122.0 rating

2nd Half: 9-18, 61 yards, 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 18.3 rating

Football is more about how you close out games than it is how you start them. The Patriots pass defense was terrific in the second half of the game Sunday, and considering all of the adjustments that the secondary made coming into the game and during it (Devin McCourty at safety, Antwaun Molden at LCB, Sterling Moore replaces Arrington and Nate Jones at RCB and SCB), Julian Edelman replaces Jones at SCB, Patrick Chung's return), I can excuse the growing pains.

The Patriots also got some good pressure on Fitzpatrick. The Patriots defensive linemen drew a couple of holding penalties. Mark Anderson and Kyle Love each picked up sacks. And Fitzpatrick seemed to be constantly getting flushed out of the pocket.

Still, the pass defense has its grade lowered due to that horrendous start (seriously, what team can let up over 200 yards passing and be down 21-0 after one quarter and still come back to win?)

Grade: B-

Rushing Defense

The Patriots weren't really challenge much on the ground Sunday against the Bills. The team let up 106 rushing yards on a 5.3 YPC average. The average isn't good, but the longest run the Patriots gave up all day was on a 16 yard Ryan Fitzpatrick sneak on a designed pass. CJ Spiller, who ran for 60 yards on 13 carries, didn't have a run longer than 12 yards during the game. The Patriots struggled to set the edge a bit in the second half, but then again, didn't allow a single point during that time.

Grade: C

Overall Defensive Grade: B

The yardage numbers weren't great, but ultimately, the Patriots defense played three quarters of shutout football on Sunday. They held the Bills without a point on the team's final nine possessions, picked up a couple of sacks, didn't allow a play over 29 yards, and really had their first two defensive stops "ruined" by unconventional 4th down play calls, since the Bills had nothing to lose. Most importantly, the Patriots held the Bills to a 14% third down conversion rate, and intercepted four Ryan Fitzpatrick passes. Tough start, but this unit really turned it around, with the Patriots rattling off 49 unanswered in the blowout victory.