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Patriots vs. Bills: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 37-22 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

So let me get this straight.

The Buffalo Bills were coming back home after pulling out a huge road win against the Detroit Lions to welcome in their new owner Terry Pegula, the man who made sure that Buffalo's beloved franchise wouldn't be ripped away from them and would be staying where it belonged for years to come. On top of that, they were hosting their most hated rivals, the New England Patriots, who have been experiencing a bit of an up and down season, were currently struggling with some injuries along the offensive line, and seemed primed to experience the wrath of one of the fiercest front fours in the NFL. Both teams sat at 3-2 with sole possession of control of the AFC East up for grabs. All of the pieces were in place for the Bills to make a statement game. To ride the momentum they have been building. To feed off the energy and crowd noise generated from the security of the team's future in Buffalo. If there was ever a time that the Bills were going to assert themselves within the division, this was it.

What happened instead was what has been the narrative ever since I stopped writing the numbers 1 and 9 in the date columns of my summonses to appear in traffic school. New England came into Buffalo and reminded the world who owns the AFC East to the tune of a 37-22 victory that saw the Patriots do what they do best: adjust, impose their will, and make big plays when they needed to make them. It's wins like these that make victory Monday that much sweeter.

  • A 1 PM game in which the Pats win the toss and defer. If I had my way, that's how it would be every single Sunday.
  • Eric Wood may be my favorite non-Patriots football player currently in the NFL. I mean, look at the guy.
  • Julian Edelman is one of the best punt returners in NFL history, statistically speaking. But that he consistently refuses to go for the fair catch even when he so very clearly should should knock him out of the running altogether. I admire the toughness, but I intensely dislike the stupidity.
  • Buffalo's defensive line is absolutely absurd. I started shaking just looking at their pictures, and I was home on the couch in my skivvies.
  • That New England punted on their first drive is a win in my book. I was fairly certain it was going to go sack, sack, strip sack, Brady gets airlifted to the nearest hospital. So I'll take it.
  • While I'm for sure going to give the nod to the Patriots defense, I do have to question Buffalo's playcalling to start the game, particularly in regard to the use of running backs. I guess an advantage of constantly swapping backs in and out of the lineup is that it makes it difficult for the defense to read the play pre-snap and keeps the runners fresh, but it also doesn't allow the offense to build any momentum or get any confidence for the RBs. With such talented guys back there, you'd figure using them as effectively as possible is a big priority. The Bills haven't been running consistently this season and I have no idea why.
  • For almost the entire first half, Buffalo did a great job of taking away the deep ball and the sideline, forcing Tommy B to check down a lot and audible to the more intermediate routes. I'm sure some of that was by design to ensure that the protection settled, but more than once Brady was looking to the sideline and had to come back over the middle.
  • Along those lines: overall, very good day for the offensive line. There was a stretch towards the end of the first half, after Dan Connolly went out, where they literally couldn't block anybody, but Brady was only sacked twice on the day and had the time to hit his receivers when it mattered. That would be an impressive stat line for anybody going up against this Bills front four, let alone a unit that has been struggling all year.
  • On the flipside, though, when the O-line was bad, it was BAD. I remember one play in particular in which Josh Kline got pushed back by Marcell Dareus to the point where it looked like he was making a guest appearance in my favorite after school program. It would have been unbelievably impressive if it was happening to anybody but my team.
  • One of the shoemakers in the Fox booth yesterday - I think it was Moose - offered up the following gem: "Tom Brady now, I don't think he gets credit for the constant force he has been in New England." Um - what?
  • No clue what drew that taunting call on Jerry Hughes to set up New England's first FG attempt of the day. No clue whatsoever. Maybe the refs went back to game tape of the Pats/Bengals game and felt like the owed us one.
  • Overall, pretty ticky tack day for the zebras. Threw a lot of flags they probably shouldn't have thrown and stalled any flow the game had. Obviously, blaming the refs for a loss is what whiny losers do, but it's always frustrating when garbage calls end up costing your team points. But it happens to all of us.
  • Holy jeez do I hate that FB dive play on 3rd and short. In an offense that has prided itself on versatility and unpredictability, that play is the equivalent of a "leaked" Kim Kardashian nude photo. Everyone knows it's coming, nobody wants to see it, and when it inevitably happens, nobody cares.
  • Who was surprised, right after that "20 consecutive FGs made" stat came up, that Gostkowski missed the attempt? In fairness, it was a bad snap, but that play was decided before Ghost even took the field.
  • It's nice to finally be able to write a note about Rob Ninkovich that doesn't involve him getting to the play exactly 1.75 seconds after he should have. Nice three sack day for Nink, of which only one was of the coverage variety. Here's hoping he finally got his rip move back.
  • One of my questions on my Google Hangout with Buffalo Rumblings this past week was why Scott Chandler wasn't showing up on the stat sheet, and then commenting on how he was another one of those players who eats New England's lunch every time they play. I think Chandler's performance yesterday was my fault. Sorry, everybody.
  • Another gem from the announcer booth after the Jamie Collins pick: "1st career interception for the 2nd year linebacker out of Southern Miss." Ummm, no.
  • I'm starting to wonder if Nate Solder is still feeling the effects of all those concussions. At least once a game, a defensive player blows by Solder completely unblocked and short-circuits the entire drive. When the offensive line is a revolving door that consists of two undrafted rookies and a guy playing out of position and hands down your biggest liability is your first round draft pick who is scheduled to make more money next year than the guy he is supposed to be protecting, something ain't right.
  • I have often spoken of my complete inability to tell you exactly what exactly constitutes Pass Interference in this day and age, and I still stand by that. However, I can say with absolute certainty that Duke Williams shoving Julian Edelman in the back without even trying to look for the ball is good for a flag. That was the most pass interferiest play I may have ever seen.
  • Things to like about New England's first touchdown of the day:
  • Tim Wright didn't even sell the down block on the play, meaning Buffalo respected the run game.
  • The fact that Tim Wright was the target on the play and not Gronk.
  • Brady with the quick release and great touch.
  • Things to dislike about New England's first touchdown of the day:
  • Wright's end zone dance. Very lame.
  • My decision to remove Ridley from my fantasy bench based on last week's performance.
  • I'm guessing that some folks will be down on Alfonzo Dennard today, but I think that he had a pretty solid game overall. He gave up some completions to Robert Woods, sure, but he also had some nice breakups and allowed very few YACs. Also had some great tackles to prevent 1st downs.
  • One thing I have seen as of late that I really, really don't like: New England takes a big sack on 1st down, runs two up the gut, then punts. I get playing conservative, but to basically just give up on a drive after one play straight up sucks.
  • As Patriots fans, I'd like to think that we have an exceptionally high tolerance for boring personalities. We have developed an ability to see charisma in even the most monotone version of "they do a lot of things well." We understand and appreciate the value of getting in front of a microphone and laying an egg. So when I say that new Bills owner Terry Pegula is one of the duddiest duds to dud up Dudville since Dudley Dudderson dudded the Dudville Duds out of teh Dud Bowl, I know what I'm talking about. Good Lord.
  • Among the things that are more lively than Pegula's in-booth interview from yesterday:
  • Funerals
  • Custody hearings
  • PBS telethons
  • Buying pants
  • Discussing the weather
  • Calling tech support
  • Waiting in line at the DMV
  • Welp...Mayo done for the year again. Thank goodness we have all that great LB depth.
  • I don't want to get too much into the Mayo injury here, as we may as well wait until the official prognosis. But I will say this:  I don't know what the exact ratio of getting carted off the field to ending up on IR is, but I bet it's pretty damn close to 1:1.
  • Somehow the Patriots managed to lose Mayo and Connelly on the same play. How is that possibe?
  • Chandler Jones's strip sack means that he now has two plays in the running for the Top 20 Most Memorable Patriots Moments of 2014. That guy is having himself a year.
  • Good Lord do I wish we had this defense in 2011.
  • Tom Brady threw into triple coverage to hit Brian Tyms for a 43 yard touchdown. I never thought I would ever write that.
  • Tyms now has two of the best catches of the NFL season. His first came in the preseason against the Resdskins on that long bomb from Jimmy G, and now on that bomb in which he was 100% covered and showed tremendous poise, concentration, and strength to fight through the reception. Is he a legit deep threat? Probably not. But both of his targets yesterday were deep balls.
  • Dobson, meanwhile, once again had one catch for nine yards. I really, really want to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that his lack of use is gameplan-specific, but he's running out of free passes.
  • I also never thought I'd be relieved to see a false start - but I'd much rather take the extra point after that Tyms TD.
  • Seriously - why does Scott Chandler hate us so much? That guy is more or less a ghost except for two times a year. He was one of the guys I was really hoping New England would pursue in the offseason, and he could have come relatively cheap as well.
  • Duke Williams had 2 PI calls yesterday, both of which were huge momentum swings. The first was about as blatant as it gets. The 2nd one was called because he didn't get his head around and just stuck his hand out blind. In these parts, that call is known as "The McCourty."
  • Honestly, I don't think that all of these New England injuries can no be attributed to the nature of the game or bad karma or anything like that. There is something definitive that the coaching staff is not doing to ensure their players are physically prepared each week. The injury bug has been hitting the Patriots hard for the past few seasons, and I hope this is a call for a reexamination of what goes on on off days.
  • If you ever want to know the textbook definition of "coverage sack." look no further than what Deontae Skinner did to Kyle Orton in the 3rd.
  • Of course, the Bills were still able to convert the first. If that was New England taking that sack, the next play would have been a RB dive for no gain followed by a RB draw for 6 yards. But since it was Buffalo, they went to  - who else? - Scott Chandler and were able to convert without much of a problem.
  • Bills have a 3rd and 20 as the 3rd period winds down, and they throw a screen to C.J. Spiller that went for 21. What a shocker.
  • Sorry - reflex. I was so used to that happening I just wrote it without paying attention. It was actually a Rob Ninkovich sack. Note to Nink: if you can make my new reflex note be "Rob Ninkovich sack," nobody is going to complain.
  • Tommy B is 93 of 99 in his career converting the short yardage QB sneak for a 1st down. But by all means, let's keep doing that FB dive play.
  • The drive that put New England up 30-14 was vintage Patriots football. Great mix of run and pass, made the play when they needed to, and maximized the mismatch versatility of their skill players. Even when the Gronk TD got called back, the Patriots stayed disciplined. It's drives like that that can define a season.
  • What a great playcall by Buffalo on that 4th down conversion. Dennard was playing press, got diverted by a pick play (something the Patriots are going to need to work on), and Woods got behind him. Easy to point the finger at Dennard there, but that's just good playcalling.
  • After Buffalo was able to pull within 8, I remember saying to myself that if the Bills can hold New England to a 3 and out here and get the ball back, they are going to tie the game. You could just feel it in the air. The Patriots were pinned back on their own 7. The crowd was back in it. The offense looked solid on their last scoring drive, and the Wheels of Fate seemed to be turning. Luckily for us, the Bills didn't get the ball back until the Patriots had driven 93 yards on 7 plays, accentuated by a 56 yard strike to Brandon LaFell to ice the game. 
  • So much to love about this win. There were a few moments overall where things were looking extremely bleak, particularly in the O-Line department, but the coaches got back to doing what they do best and halftime adjusted themselves into 5 straight scoring possessions in the 2nd half on the way to sole possession of the AFC East.
  • But you know what the best part is? Now everyone can stop saying that Kyle Orton is undefeated against Tom Brady.
  • The downside, obviously, is the injury situation. A lot of key guys are likely to miss extended time, with Mayo likely out for the year again.
  • How about the Brady chant making it's way to Buffalo? Tommy B had 274 for 3 in the 2nd half alone. What an old, washed up, disgruntled, unhappy, declining has-been. PATS ARE DONE!
  • Did Matt Patricia get carried off the field? I couldn't see.
  • As always, we don't want to overreact to this win. Buffalo was sloppy, shot themselves in the foot with penalties and weren't able to find their groove on offense.  But to not credit the Patriots for helping to generate those penalties and ensure that that offensive sychronisity never took place is a mistake as well. This is a good football team. We all knew that from the start (well, most of us did), and now it's starting to show.