Winner: RB Dion Lewis
Dion Lewis rushed for 89 yards on 10 carries in the second and third quarters as the Patriots extended their lead over the Bills. While Lewis didn’t field a single target (which should probably change moving forward), he was outstanding for the Patriots as a rusher between the tackles.
A fourth quarter where Lewis gained 3 yards on 3 carries to drain the clock impacted his yards per carry on the day, but he was electric and gave New England a big play whenever they needed one.
Winner: RB Rex Burkhead
Burkhead totaled 103 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns against the Bills, including 78 rushing yards on 12 carries and some excellent tackle-breaking moves down by the goal line. He was effective in the red zone, where the Patriots have needed a runner to emerge, and Burkhead certainly appears up to the task.
Loser: RB Mike Gillislee
The consistency from Lewis and Burkhead on early downs and James White on third downs means that Gillislee probably won’t be active on game day moving forward. That’s a tough break.
Loser: LG Joe Thuney
The Patriots offensive line did a good job for much of the day, but Thuney was responsible for giving up 2 sacks to the Bills defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Adolphus Washington. It certainly wasn’t his best performance of the year and it will give him plenty to work on.
Winner: RG Shaq Mason
For all of Thuney’s struggles, Mason was outstanding for the day. Whenever the commentators take the time to create a highlight reel for an offensive lineman, it means that player is having a terrific day on the field. Mason has been the Patriots most dependable offensive lineman this year and he’s delivering every week.
Winner: TE Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski didn’t have a catch in the first quarter, but picked up 9 grabs for 147 yards over the final three brackets. The Bills had no response for him in the middle of the field and he picked up chunk play after chunk play after chunk play.
This was Gronkowski’s second 100+ yard game of the season and he now has 55 catches for 849 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, reaching the first tier of his new incentive structure that he signed this past offseason, good for $1.5 million. H
e’s on pace to reach the second tier through receptions (he needs 70) and playing time (80% of the snaps), which would be good for another $2 million. He will likely need to earn First Team All Pro to reach the final tier and an additional $2 million.
Loser: TE Rob Gronkowski
What the hell are you doing, Gronk? pic.twitter.com/mZTgJA62eU— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 3, 2017
Feel free to debate whether or not this warrants a suspension, but this late hit is inexcusable. He let the Bills defender get under his skin and now the guy he hit is in the concussion protocol as a result of the hit to the head.
Just for a second: what if Tom Brady was on the ground, out of bounds, and then an opposing defender hits him in the back of the head with his entire weight, forcing him into the concussion protocol and putting his availability next week in jeopardy? Switch the jerseys. Zero Patriots fans would defend it as the result of playing a contact sport.
Just because Tre’Davious White is a cornerback and not a quarterback doesn’t mean this doesn’t matter as much. This is the health of his brain and his head and his livelihood. Gronk’s a big loser for laying this hit.
Gronkowski was also penalized three other times for 25 yards.
Winner: CB Stephon Gilmore
Stephon Gilmore had a homecoming game in Buffalo and was lights out for most of the game (he went to the sideline with a helmet malfunction for a short period). He was targeted six times, giving up 2 passes for 22 yards with two pass break-ups.
Gilmore was arguably the best defender on the Patriots and he’s certainly playing at a level that warrants the mega-millions deal his signed over the offseason. He’s played at a high level for enough weeks in a row where we can call this the “norm” and not “a surprise.”
Winner: EDGE Eric Lee
On the opposite end of the compensation spectrum, and what should be considered an excellent surprise, is recent acquisition Eric Lee, who stepped into a major role with Trey Flowers sidelined with a rib injury.
Lee racked up 1.5 sacks, a quarterback hit, a tackle for loss, an interception, and a pass defended, along with 4 tackles as he fit right in to the top unit of the New England defense. He’s earned his time on the field, and then some, as he’s showing no signs of needing an adjustment period.
Winner: K Stephen Gostkowski
Let’s give the kicker some props. Gostkowski hit 50-, 39-, and 31-yard field goals and two extra points, and the Bills started their drives from kickoffs on the 23.8-yard line, on average.
Gostkowski is now 29 of 32 on field goals this year, including all four attempts from 50+, and 35 of 36 on extra points. He ranks second in the NFL in points and is on pace to be Second Team All Pro behind Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein.