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Patriots vs. Bills: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 23-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots started off their three game road stretch in style with a convincing 23-3 victory that wasn’t pretty at times, but ultimately showed just how important halftime adjustments can be. A slow first half was met with an efficient third quarter, and the Patriots were able to walk away with a divisional win that leaves them in prime position to lock up the AFC East next week.

This was the second week in a row where the game wasn’t overly pretty, but the results were what the Patriots wanted. Divisional games are always weird, and it’s always great to walk away from Buffalo with a win.

  • I’m going to get the subject that’s on everybody’s minds - the Rob Gronkowski late hit - out of the way now so I can spend the rest of the article talking about the actual game. And the bottom line is that there is absolutely no excuse for that kind of behavior. It doesn’t do anybody any good, and it’s an absolutely terrible look for both the team and the player. While Gronk apologized for the act, and I feel like everybody can at least some degree sympathize with losing one’s cool in the moment, there’s no sense even trying to spin this as a positive and that should absolutely never happen.
  • Gronk is right; the refs simply don’t call defensive holding penalties when he’s involved. Defenders have been getting away with mauling him for years. But you know what? That’s the way professional sports works, and the way that it has always worked. There are just certain players, across all sports, to whom you apply the rules differently. Anybody who watched Shaquille O’Neal play during his prime with the Orlando Magic will remember watching refs look the other way as players Tanya Hardinged his legs and hacked at his arms like a couple of lumberjacks. There’s a reason that LeBron James is able to take 12-14 steps with the ball before he gets called for traveling, and a reason that Ronaldo can fall over with absolutely nobody around him and still draw a whistle. You may notice that refs are a little more flag happy than usual when Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees get hit by a defender after they throw. That’s just the way sports are. Of course it should be equal for everyone across the board, but that has never been the case and it never will be. If you’re one of the players who either gets a lot of calls or never gets any calls, it’s because you’re one of the best in the business and, due to your own dominance, you’ve earned it, either to your benefit or your detriment. Gronk should have accepted that he doesn’t get holding calls and they’re going to ping him for bogus OPI flags a long time ago. It isn’t going to change. He should never, under any circumstances, respond to a blown holding call like that.
  • If the NFL decides to suspend him, that’s fine. If the roles were reversed and some player on the Bills had done that to Kyle Van Noy, I would be fuming right now. We have to call balls and strikes and keep the inherent hypocisry that simply comes with being a sports fan to a minimum. So I won’t be upset over a one game suspension. But to those saying that Gronk is guilty of assault, that he deserves to be suspended for the remainder of the year, or that he is a habitually classless criminal who deserves to have his knee blown out the next time these two teams meet...come on. It’s that exact kind of unthinking, knee-jerk reaction that Gronk was guilty of, and more or the same isn’t the answer. Gronk isn’t a dirty player. He doesn’t have any kind of track record of this kind of behavior. He’s a meathead, sure...but he’s not a bad guy. He lost his cool for a moment, did something really stupid, and deserves to be fined/suspended for it. To call it anything other than that or to compare him to Vontaze Burfict or Aqib Talib or Ndamukong Suh is pretty reactionary. Football is a violent game, and sometimes we let our emotions take over. When it does, we should react accordingly, dole out punishment, and move on. I know it’s easy/enjoyable to pile on when it’s the Patriots, but that doesn’t do anybody any good,.
  • OK, rant over. On to the game.
  • 1 PM, Patriots defer. About damn time. When was the last time I got to write that?
  • Live look at Bill Belichick speaking to David Harris before Buffalo’s first play of the game.
  • Tyrod Taylor was able to play through a tweaked ankle, and hopefully he’s OK after aggravating his knee late. He also has the unique distinction of actually returning to the game after being subjected to The Blue Tent, so he’s likely a lot tougher than anyone gives him credit for.
  • I feel like the Buffalo Bills have more or less become the benchmark for whether or not you’re a playoff caliber team. If you are, you beat Buffalo. If you aren’t, Buffalo beats you. Of course, the Jets beat the Bills, so maybe that isn’t the best metric.
  • Let’s talk about the Jets for a second. At 5-7, they’re right back into the middle of the draft pack where they can continue to wallow in mediocrity. It’s looking like the entire AFC East other than New England is going to end up in the dreaded 6-10 to 9-7 range, which is just fine by me.
  • I have to say that, for the first half at least, the Bill did a pretty solid job of controlling the game. They opened up with a lot of stretch runs and tosses to the outside with the Bills offensive linemen running zone blocking schemes, which the Patriots had no answer for. Setting the edge has really been a problem for the Patriots all season. Come back, Nink!
  • Luckily, Tyrod Taylor decided to harness his inner Nathan Peterman in the end zone and forgot that Eric Lee wasn’t playing for the Bills anymore.
  • Speaking of Eric Lee - how does Belichick find these guys? And how many asses has he chapped signing guys off other teams practice squads that go on to deliver? Lee now has two sacks and a pick through two games.
  • I can never tell if Brady running around in the pocket avoiding defenders is a slow-mo replay or not.
  • That last line came credit of Pulpiteer Chris, who came to Paddy’s of Park Slope with his son Paul to watch the game with me yesterday. Great guys who know their football and almost share my appreciation for free wings. Almost. Thanks for coming out, gentlemen.
  • Of course, not to be outdone by his dad, Paul showed me this picture that he thought of every time Gronk made a catch and defenders tried to take him down. Pretty damn accurate.
  • Poor Bernard Reedy. His career was over in New England before it even started. he joins Taylor Price, Chad Jackson, and Aaron Dobson in receivers cursed to wear #17. At least he didn’t muff his first punt.
  • Is Tom Brady the only player that ever gets into it with a member of a coaching staff on the sidelines? I feel like every time he yells at someone, folks make it out to be a massive deal and I’m not sure why.
  • Sean McDermott’s challenge on the Brady incompletion where he fell to one knee before landing the pass at the feet of Jacob Hollister is why the Patriots are the Patriots and the Bills are the Bills. I have zero clue what McDermott was hoping to overturn there. It was clear that nobody touched Brady and even more clear that Hollister was in the area. In the words of a certain QB we all know and love, learn the rule book.
  • Speaking of Buffalo head coaches: including interims, there have been 10 head coaches for Buffalo since Bill Belichick took over as head coach of the Patriots. So unless my math is off, for ever two head coaches Buffalo hires, Belichick wins one Super Bowl.
  • Enjoy your retirement, Jordan Poyer. Anyone who gets stiffarmed by Dion Lewis like that can never fully recover. Lewis says he’s 5’8”, but I don’t know if I buy it. Poyer is six feet.
  • Congrats to Jimmy G on his first start as a San Francisco 49er. He remains undefeated as an NFL starting QB. Just don’t win too many more games so that draft pick doesn’t get any less valuable.
  • You really have to give the Bills credit for the first half. I can’t think of many situations where everyone knew exactly what Buffalo was going to do, but they were able to do it despite Belichick’s best efforts. If they had a different QB and a receiver that could catch, they could make some noise.
  • Tommy B was only sacked three times, which is three more than you want to see, but not horrible overall. Two of those sacks were on my boy Joe Thuney, who spent a lot of the day getting pushed back. Cameron Fleming, however, drew a false start penalty and that’s pretty much all we heard from him.
  • Shaq Mason gets his own separate note, as he sprung both Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis for huge games pulling out to the sidelines. If he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl, something ain’t working right.
  • Almost 200 yards on the ground for the Patriots, with Lewis and Burkhead leading the way. I believe that, in a previous Fan Notes, I thought that Burkhead and Lewis would be a good name for a 70s folk duo, but now I see them more as a team of personal injury lawyers. Did you have an accident at work? Call Burkhead and Lewis!
  • Is Charles Clay on the squad of guys who does absolutely nothing for 14 weeks and then shows up against the Patriots? I think he might be. But he’s more like the last guy off the bench as opposed to the Scott Chandlers and Jeremy Kerleys of the world.
  • Brandin Cooks should have had a bigger day. Two receptions for 17 yards against a weak Bills secondary when Brady was shuffling around in the pocket well isn’t what we’re looking for. Yes, Tommy B should have hit him over the middle in the play that led to that lover’s spat between him and McDaniels, but I don’t know if he’s as of yet the kind of receiver that comes to the QB after the route has been run and the play is still going on.
  • Buffalo isn’t built to come back from a 20 point deficit - as evidenced by the way they came out after Burkhead’s 2nd TD of the day. A crash run from McCoy, a long huddle for a TE out route, a long bomb incomplete, punt.
  • You have to love LeSean McCoy. Belichick is world-famous for taking away your first weapon and forcing you to beat them with your auxilary weapons. McCoy’s day? 93 yards on 15 carries and a pair of grabs for nine yards. Nothing earth-shattering, but seeing as what number one weapons usually do against the Patriots, that’s pretty impressive.
  • Did Nathan Peterman actually look decent in relief of Taylor? Or is it just a lot easier to compliment the opponent when the Patriots are up big and the win is secure?
  • I want someone more motivated than me to go back through this season and see who has juked out more guys, Tommy B in the pocket, or Dion Lewis in the open field. I bet it’s closer than we all think.
  • I had more or less forgotten that Eric Rowe was on the team at this point. His one pass breakup in garbage time is something I’ll take as a sign for his imminnet return to dominance.

The Patriots, amazingly (and thankfully) only have one Monday Night Football game this year, and it’s in Miami next week. The Patriots will be able to clinch the division with a win or a Bills loss to the Colts the day before. new England usually does pretty well in hat and t-shirt games, so hopefully they can keep the distractions to a minimum.

After the Miami game, I have no clue who they play next.