Here are our winners and losers from the Patriots 41-25 victory against the Bills.
Winner: QB Tom Brady
Brady was 22 of 33 (66.7%) for 315 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions for a rating of 137.0. He also chipped in a 15 yard scramble for a first down. This also felt like a fairly quiet day for him; that’s how dominant he’s been this year.
Brady leads the NFL in rating (133.9) and yards per attempt (9.8). He has averaged 330 passing yards and 3 touchdowns per game since his return from suspension. He is the MVP leader and it’s not even close.
Loser: LT Nate Solder
Brady would’ve been better if Solder didn’t experience some lapses in the middle of the game. He allowed three sacks on the day and he struggled to open up an rushing lanes against a defense that was obliterated by the Dolphins rushing attack a week prior. Solder had been playing at a far higher level this season than what he produced on Sunday.
Winner: TE Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski collected 5 receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. He was also a beast in the blocking game. While his dreammate Martellus Bennett was clearly limited by an ankle injury, Gronkowski showed why he is the most talented tight end in the history of the NFL and set the Patriots franchise record for touchdowns along the way.
Despite being inactive or limited for the first four games of the season, Gronkowski already ranks second of all tight ends in receiving yards with 484, behind only Panthers TE Greg Olsen with 621 receiving yards.
Winner: WR Chris Hogan
Hogan posted 4 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown against his former team and he didn’t just produce- he dusted the Bills defenders. Buffalo’s cornerbacks are talented and Hogan was wide open in the deep field with no one around on multiple occasions. He’s continuing to develop his rapport with Brady and it’s getting better every week.
The Patriots now have six players on offense with 350+ yards from scrimmage. This is an incredibly balanced offense- arguably the most balanced in the Bill Belichick era.
Winner: ED Trey Flowers
Flowers ranked second on the team with 5 tackles, which is a good sign for a defensive lineman, and added two sacks on the day. While Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long were relatively quiet due to the game plan of containing Bills QB Tyrod Taylor, Flowers showed up and collected the first sacks of his career.
Winner: LB Dont’a Hightower
Hightower led the team with 6 tackles and added a pair of quarterback hits. He made a tackle on TE Charles Clay after just 2 yards on 1st and 10. He picked up a stop in the run game against Bills RB Mike Gillislee. He spied and tackled QB Tyrod Taylor for just 2 yards on 2nd and 10. Hightower was asked to wear many hats this game and he excelled in all of them. As Hightower goes, so does the Patriots pass rush.
Loser: CB Eric Rowe
Rowe was asked to blanket Bills WR Justin Hunter and limited him to 1 receptions for 7 yards on 5 targets. That 7 yard reception came on 3rd and 2. Rowe was excellent in his coverage for much of the day, getting the start over CB Logan Ryan for the second straight game.
But the three worst plays on defense probably came at Rowe’s expense. Rowe was hit with two 29-yard defensive pass interference calls, both on 3rd and 12. Both of these flags extended drives that led to Bills touchdown runs.
The first penalty was eye-rolling but reasonable because you see a few of these plays go unflagged every week because Rowe was looking back at the ball and his hands were up.
The second penalty is inexcusable by the officiating crew. Watch Bills WR Robert Woods grab Rowe’s wrist- and Rowe gets flagged.
He was also flagged for illegal contact to negate an interception by FS Devin McCourty (although if Rowe hadn’t been flagged, S Patrick Chung had been flagged for holding). I actually think Rowe had a great day- he was just on the wrong side of some officiating.
Winner: CB Malcolm Butler
You know who you didn’t hear about the entire game, unless he was making a bone-crushing hit? The Patriots star cornerback. Butler had two stops against Bills running backs, wrapped up a receiver on 4th down shy of the marker, and then he did this:
Butler is a bad, bad man. He finished the day allowing just two catches for 15 yards on eight targets.
Loser: Punt coverage
The Patriots had the Bills on 4th and 15 from the Bills own 20 yard line. The Bills were preparing to punt. The Bills punter fumbled the snap, but Brandon Bolden was the only player on the Patriots that was still watching the punter.
Every other player was focused on their blocker because they just assumed the punter would get the ball off. You know how head coach Bill Belichick will find something to highlight after a blowout win in order to yell at the players? Yeah, this is that play.
The Bills punter scrambled for a first down after picking up the football.
Winner: K Stephen Gostkowski
Gostkowski connected on all five of his extra points and both of his field goals, including a 51-yarder right before the half. Four of his seven kickoffs were touchbacks, while the Bills brought his returned kicks to the 7- and 19-yard line (and the 40-yard line, but that was the fault of the coverage unit).
The Patriots were flagged 10 times for 116 yards, and had an 11th penalty declined. The Bills were flagged 12 times for 84 yards. There were some pretty blatant non-calls against both sides, including a couple late hits by some Patriots defenders and this pretty clear hands to the face on QB Tyrod Taylor’s touchdown run:
Little bit of holding on Jamie Collins' facemask here. pic.twitter.com/f3Jb2esgsq— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) October 30, 2016
And then half the time it felt like the officials were throwing flags at non-penalties just for the sake of inserting themselves into the game.