Today, the New England Patriots closed out their regular season with a 17-9 home loss against the Buffalo Bills. The loss drops the Patriots to 12-4. However, this game had no bearing on the standings, as the Patriots had the number one seed locked up heading into today.
Because of this, the Patriots played this one much like a preseason game. The team sat stars Rob Gronkowski and Dont'a Hightower entirely. Players such as Brandon Browner and Julian Edelman sat when they very well might have been able to play had it been an important match-up. The team was very straight forward in their game plan. The majority of the starters that did suit up, such as quarterback Tom Brady and cornerback Darrelle Revis, only played a half of football.
That being said, if the goal of today's game was to create extra momentum for the divisional playoffs, the Patriots probably did not accomplish that. The offensive line struggled throughout - especially Josh Kline who once again started in place of Dan Connolly once again. Connolly had not been effective, but is clearly better than any other options the team has there.
Without Gronkowski or stable protection, neither Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo could produce anything consistent. Brady did get some things going with Brian Tyms, which was a nice sign for their chemistry. Both quarterbacks were able to get Brandon LaFell involved (he finished with four catches for 70 yards and hit his 900 receiving yard incentive).
Defensively, the Patriots allowed 17 first half points but pitched a second half shutout. Jamie Collins had a beautiful sack-strip-recovery trifecta in the first half - probably the play of the day for the Patriots. Akeem Ayers had an impressive sack of his own in the second half. Darrelle Revis barely missed a pass deflection on a 43 yard completion to Sammy Watkins on the opening drive, but bounced back with a beautiful breakup on a Watkins pass down the sideline in the end zone later in the half.
Overall, it was a relatively lackluster day for the Patriots, but that is perfectly okay. The two most important takeaways from today: some of the younger players on the roster got invaluable in-game reps against a good team, and the team did not appear to suffer any major injuries to key players. That's a win.
Up next: the playoffs. Let's go.