Here are our key takeaways from the New England Patriots’ 37-16 win against the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots passing attack was quiet
Tom Brady had a mere 224 passing yards on the day as Rob Gronkowski (67 yards, 1 touchdown) was the only New England receiver with more than 30 receiving yards. Danny Amendola was second with 28 yards, while Dwayne Allen (26), Dion Lewis (24), and Phillip Dorsett (24) were all in the 20s.
This doesn’t include the 73 yards of defensive pass interference, though, so the passing game played a big part in the victory.
The New England rushing attack was incredible
Dion Lewis picked up 129 yards and a touchdown on the ground and gained a 153 yards from scrimmage and 2 total touchdowns on the day, all career-high marks. Mike Gillislee chipped in 43 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, too. While the Patriots would love to have Rex Burkhead and James White back in the lineup, Lewis is one of the best players on the roster and he delivered in the spotlight.
The Patriots picked up 193 yards rushing, the third time they cracked 190 rushing yards in 2017. The Patriots haven’t had three or more games with 190+ rushing yards in a single season since 1985.
The offensive line had a strong game despite obvious weaknesses
The Patriots could have pointed to back-up right tackle Cameron Fleming as a problem, or at left tackle Nate Solder coming down with an illness. It didn’t seem to matter too much since the offensive line delivered one of its best all-around games of the year. They gave up two negative plays in the run game and two sacks on the day. Hopefully they can play at this level for the rest of the year.
The third down defense finally figured itself out
One week after floundering against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots defense struggled at the start of the Bills game with four straight third down conversions on the opening drive. After that point, the Patriots allowed just 4 conversions on the Bills next 13 attempts, which is a pretty stellar rate.
The poor outing against the Steelers was likely a fluke since the Patriots defense is not typically that bad and it appears that New England is back on track.
The Bills offense did not score a touchdown against the Patriots in 2017
The Buffalo offense has led 19 drives against the Patriots in 2017 and they’ve scored just 12 points, all field goals. The Bills have more drives that have ended with turnovers on downs (5) than in points (4).
The Bills defense scored on a pick-six, which means that the Buffalo defense has spent more time in the end zone than their offense.
The Patriots defensive front really stepped up
Marquis Flowers had 2.5 sacks. Trey Flowers had 3 tackles for loss. Malcom Brown had a monster 15-yard sack. Deatrich Wise added 1.5 sacks and Lawrence Guy chipped in a tackle for loss. Elandon Roberts played under control the whole game. These are the contributions the Patriots need from each of their defensive front players in order to create stops.
Flowers is clearly the most athletic linebacker on the Patriots and should start with Kyle Van Noy for the rest of the year with Roberts moving back into his run-down specific role. Hopefully Alan Branch can boost the defensive tackles, although Ricky Jean-Francois has impressed in his limited snaps. But this unit has all the pieces it needs to thrive in the postseason.